Habitica, previously HabitRPG, is a productivity app/site that “gamifies” your life, assigning XP to daily tasks and giving virtual rewards in the form of equipment etc. for your character. Habitica pretty much runs my life now, and I promised in my post on writing approaches that I’d explain how I use it. It took a good while to set this site up the way I wanted, and it takes some tweaking if there’s ever a life change like starting grad school, but malleability is one of its great strengths. Built-in rewards, a social aspect, and the existential pleasure of checking things off lists are other perks. I’m highly motivated by checking off things on lists…
When you log in, you have four columns: Habits, Dailies, To-Dos, and Rewards. You can add your own rewards if you like, but your main activity areas are the first three columns.
My “Habits” column is where I put anything I want to do on a regular basis. You have the option of positive (a reward each time you click it), negative (a penalty), or a combo of both on one item, like the food options I have listed above. I also keep a few levels of writing goals in that column, and you can select how difficult each habit is, so there’s more of a reward for hitting a higher goal.
The second column is a self-renewing daily checklist. You get rewards for doing these things, and a penalty at the end of the day for any you didn’t accomplish. (I should note that the penalties are just a few health points, it’s nothing dramatic). The next day, the list renews to blank again. This is AWESOME, because in every other system I’ve tried, I’d have to do these lists manually and re-write the same things over and over. Most of the stuff on my daily list is “eat,” “work,” etc., but it sort of helps keep my place in the day, and then I also have some things like my daily Star Trek episode, daily exercise, etc. One more awesome feature is that you can set tasks to appear on specific days of the week, so you can still use the auto-renewing feature for something you do “twice a week” or whatever.
Most of the action happens in my To-Do column. These items, once checked, reward you and disappear, they don’t renew unless you add another one. I have one-time to-do tasks for all the stuff I want to get done — books to read, a load of dishes to wash, etc. I will literally forget what I WANTED to do otherwise, let alone what I OUGHT to do. I used to keep lists like this in a text document, and I still have that document to feed into Habitica so my list isn’t too huge at any one time, but Habitica’s features are awesome. (Turning tasks increasingly red the longer they’ve been sitting there, dragging to re-order, etc.) Plus this is a great anxiety thing, because I can take a few minutes to reorder the list for my immediate needs and then just look at what’s next. I don’t have to struggle with old paper lists that don’t accurately present EXACTLY what’s most urgent.
Right now I’m using the To-Do column as a kind of dayplanner, too — I have a one-time task for every day, made several days in advance, with a sub-checklist covering the things I want to do that day. This has been super helpful in controlling overbooking, when I think I can do ALL THE THINGS in one day, because I can literally see how much I’ve gotten done. I do the same with monthly lists. This also works beautifully for me because I just don’t function on a single-day cycle. If I do something once, I’m not mentally ready to do it again for a while. I might come back to it over a few days until it’s done, or I might want to do it once and then again some time later. With Habitica, I can get a balance of a one-time daily checklist with a general list of stuff to do at some point.
So, as mentioned in that writing post, I need to incorporate writing goals in a realistic way. I’d tried just having “write” pop up in my weekly renewing checklist, a better step than daily, but still the wrong approach for me. I’ve now changed “write” to a positive Habit, and the next step is to design my chunks so they pop up at a steady rate along with my various other tasks. I also believe I need a more conceptual to-do list, and I think that can go here — things like “Figure out what Wams is up to,” not just “write scene 87.” That way things appear along with all my typical tasks, so A) I’ll remember to actually do them, and B) I don’t psych myself out thinking writing has to be super separate.
Verdict: I love, love, love Habitica. If you try it out, let me know! I’d love to see other people’s strategies!