Tag Archives: resolutions

Habitica has changed my life.

I am pretty fascinated with productivity, data analysis, and habit building. That puts me in very good company.  In fact, I’m feeling like I should be more successful, what with all my habits.  Original post:


It makes no sense.

Habitica is a productivity website/app for organizing based on role playing game software.  Instead of a paper list of things to do which you cross off, with Habitica you create your to-do lists online, and when you click to check items off, you are rewarded with “points”.  These points build up until you achieve the next “level”.  Also, as you meet your real-life goals, you collect “money”, “pets”, and “food” to feed your pets.  Feeding the pets is not mandatory, like a Tamagotchi (thankfully).  The money buys accessories to jazz up your avatar.

My first mount, back when I was just a level 23Let me be clear – the points, levels, pets, and food are all completely virtual.  Imaginary.  Very low-fi pixellated graphics, at that.  The to-do lists you create are real – your own real life.

Totally meaningless “points” and pixellated tiny “pets”, yet somehow this is meaningful enough affirmative feedback to make a difference?  Yes. Yes it is.

It makes no sense, but it works.

I got into Habitica hesitantly; an Icelandic blogger mentioned it, and I thought “why not”.  Coincidentally, I then read the popular and amazing book by Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit.  The insights about how our brains, memory, and reward mechanisms function explain to me why Habitica works, so damn well.

The Power of Habit explains why Habitica works

There’s limited satisfaction in checking off or crossing off a to-do list item on paper.  One “should” feel satisfaction and accomplishment for having moved one step further towards the life one wants to live, right?  Our brains don’t work like that though.  The future big payoff is meaningless.  The very small incremental difference of checking off the same thing on Habitica, for an imaginary and slightly ludicrous reward? Well, that makes the brain sing.  Sometimes you’re tired, and you just can’t summon up the big picture in the context of which your tiny accomplishment today is in service of.  Click for points?  Satisfaction.  I’ll do it again tomorrow, and all the other tomorrows, until it’s a habit.  Automatic.

The key is there is a reward. Something just external enough to go beyond your own mental pat on the back, and it doesn’t matter that the “reward” is completely imaginary.

There is so much in The Powscreen-shot-2016-12-31-at-1-01-04-pmer of Habit, possibly the best book I read in 2016, that if you care about self-improvement and want to become more effective, just read it.  Forming habits takes work, willpower, and requires reward.  The brain wants to form habits all the time, because once an act is habitual, it takes less mental effort.  The hard part is directing the show, to form the habits that you want to have, that will lead to a more successful, fulfilling life.  The point is to automate the actions that you wish to repeat.  Habits that you want to have won’t form without intentionality.  Enter Habitica, intentionality in three columns.

Habitica’s basic format (the Tasks page) is well-designed and adaptable.  The three columns are: Habits (that you wish to build to increase points, or bad habits that will reduce your points- who would put those?), Dailies (if you fail to complete, your “life force” suffers), and To-Dos (projects and one-offs to tick off).  You can organize your lists with tags and headers, indicate the difficulty of each item, and set schedules or deadlines.  You can break tasks down to checklists, fiddle with the font size and categories (tags). Continue reading Habitica has changed my life.

Rules, Adages, or Guidelines for Happiness

Ok, maybe there is a place for “Rules, Adages, or Guidelines” (Read my last post first).

Some from the book that I like:
Buy anything you want at the grocery store; cooking is always cheaper than eating out.
Start where you are (an essential part of the Law of Attraction).
Talk to strangers.
Be polite and fair.
By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished, and What you do every day matters more than what you do once in awhile.
First things first.  Definitely.  It’s all about getting priorities straight.  Drinking enough water is critical to having enough energy to finish the project you blaze into, and eating before you blood sugar dives is crucial to having a mood that permits politeness and forgiveness.  Similarly, like “the cook eats first”, one has to take care of oneself before being capable of going out in the world and giving.  You must be replete to be generous (therefore taking care to “fill the tank” is essentially unselfish).
If it takes less than a minute to put away, or do it right, do it now.  My corollary:  If it’s almost as fast to do it as it is to write it on a list, just do it.
Things that make you happy don’t always feel happy.  Damn skippy.  Challenging and threatening things that make you feel nauseous in the doing can the most rewarding to have done.  To wit:  marathons.

Here’s a few all my own:
If a system doesn’t function, change the system.  My husband gives me fantastic feedback on whether a system works (like, where things belong).  If it works, he puts things back where they “go”, because that’s the easiest, obvious place to put them.  If the system doesn’t work, he finds someplace else to drop them that displeases me, and I know my so-clever system isn’t functional and needs to be adapted.  You can’t force people to fit a system; only the system can be changed.  Whole design industries have grown out of this.

Continue reading Rules, Adages, or Guidelines for Happiness

My Happiness Project

Bluebird image from Gretchen Rubin's Happiness ProjectI’ve started a Happiness Project.  This has nothing to do with the new year, by the way, although it might have something to do with winter.   I’ve had a stretch of a scary bad time, so I figured it was time to recruit my natural list-making and determination selves for some change.

I pulled out Gretchen Rubin’s popular The Happiness Project for reference, and ended up reading it again.  It seemed more enlightening this time, and I found useful things that I didn’t remember seeing the first time.  For one thing, I’m married now, which makes a lot of her tips and experience in her marriage more relevant.

My husband has this amazing facility for change.  It seems that all it takes for him to make lasting behavioural changes is to notice and decide he wants to change it.  Much later I’ll notice that he doesn’t do that thing anymore.  He doesn’t write down intentions, make daily review sheets or success charts.  This amazes me, because I can’t imagine doing such a thing without paperwork.  This is where The Happiness Project really sings to me.  The whole plan is detailed and ultra-specific, she values the organization of physical environment to support goals, and everything revolves around a list.

That’s no exaggeration.   The book is really a riot of lists upon lists nested in lists, a perfect comfort for a certain type of person who’s into that, like me.  For example:  Resolutions (for example Sing in the Morning, Pursue a Passion), 12 Commandments (like Identify the Problem and Enjoy the Process), Secrets of Adulthood (like People actually prefer that you buy wedding gifts off their registry,  and If you can’t find something, clean up), True Rules (such as Whenever possible, choose vegetables), and Four Splendid Truths (The days are long, but the years are short).  Since they’re all sort of rules, intentions, or resolutions, they get confusing, barring the Splendid Truths, which are more philosophic Principles of happiness.  In fact, now there are 8 Splendid Truths.

Also, as she discovers over her year, the most important key to success was her Daily Resolution Chart.  I’ve known that for a while.  Reminding oneself of the goal, and some act of acknowledging when you succeed (like checking off a list, or writing down “celebrations”) tells a deeper part of your mind that that is what you want; that is the direction you want to change.  Then your sub-mind can easily create more of it.

I found that during the project design phase, I found that the things I wanted to do sifted into two categories:  vague intentions, such as to be nicer, say no less, and be healthy; and completable goals, like write a book.   In the second category, you know when you’ve done it.  Continue reading My Happiness Project

2012 in review: Ok. We’re all still here.

Screen shot 2012-12-30 at 6.49.47 PM

I love the WordPress annual report.  Here’s mine, although it’s pretty torturous to watch, at least on my browser.  The world’s slowest, meekest fireworks.  If I waited outside for a show like this, I’d be pissed.

Although I eschew resolutions (I make those every New Week or less), it is a nice time to review.

So besides that the world didn’t suddenly end…

2012 on the whole was pretty damn rough.  It started out fine, but when my husband was unexpectedly denied entry to Canada, I moved all I own in two weeks, abandoned my garden, we left the lovely cozy barn we just finished, lived in a tent until we got the camper habitable, and proceeded to make a long-term habit of roaming around like itinerant snails with our camper.

I should have learned by now that it’s best to tell the whole truth at the time, but I hate that.  Continue reading 2012 in review: Ok. We’re all still here.

Here’s to No Resolutions!

I’m not on the NY’s Resolution train.  I’m irresolute.

I’ve never been very excited about new years as meaningful points for resolutions.  Maybe the switch from one four-digit number to another isn’t consequential enough to me to provoke any self-reflection.  Maybe I’m just damn satisfied with my life (my life is pretty awesome).  It probably helps to have collective momentum along when one makes big new changes, but January 1 doesn’t appeal to me as a significant threshold to start on.  I just think of the February gym attendance fall-off I’ve witnessed, and all the new non-smokers cranky together at the same time.

Definitely, I have my moments when I get all excited about change.  I make copious lists, wall charts, schedules, and game plans.  It tends to go well.  Not all of the new habit institutions stick, but most do, especially after repeated attempts.   I call these attacks “overhaul projects”, and they could strike any day of any month, although a string of lazy, unproductive or frustrating days could provoke an onset.  At any rate, January 1 doesn’t do it for me.

I asked H.W. if he had any resolutions.  He didn’t, and I didn’t, but he helpfully offered “If you want to make one, we could probably think of one.”  Ha!  Exactly the kind of passion and intensity needed to really be successful.

It sure is nice to have nothing to resolve.