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March 16, 2014 8:09 PM   Subscribe

Personal productivity has been discussed a lot on MetaFilter. Getting to Done? I never got anything done. 43 Folders? That's so ten years ago. Instead, why don't you Gamify Your Life?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering (59 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite

Because I still have a shred of self-respect and I'd like to keep it.
posted by angerbot at 8:13 PM on March 16, 2014 [39 favorites]

Well, I mean, okay that's probably a good reason yes.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:17 PM on March 16, 2014 [14 favorites]

I'm really down on gamification. I don't find it terribly motivating and it's also part and parcel of this TED Talkish movement that thinks making games out of everything is totally awesome.

As someone who has a lot invested in playing games, good games, fun games, all I see in these kind of things is another way to make games suck, ala Farmville and Candy Crush Saga.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:17 PM on March 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sweet, now I can take "make FPP about HabitRPG" off my HabitRPG to do list.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:19 PM on March 16, 2014 [8 favorites]

I don't gamify games, so I don't see why I would gamify my life.

But that said, modern games are based on solid psychology of rewards and addiction, so applying that to good behaviors should produce results.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:21 PM on March 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Jerked off to internet porn in the dark on a Saturday night? 1500 EXP! with Extra Bonus: "Whateva!! I'll do what I want!!" 1000 EXP!
posted by ReeMonster at 8:23 PM on March 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't get the hate on this.... The framing's pretty specific, but this granular approach to getting things done is very similar to Flylady.
posted by mochapickle at 8:29 PM on March 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I went to the page, plugged in my fake facebook account details, watched the tutorial, made a task: stop procrastinating, hit '+' 85 times then closed the tab.

posted by Sebmojo at 8:39 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Played video games for 8 straight hours" - LEVEL UP!

It's wheels within wheels!

(Really enjoying Infested Planet at the moment.)
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:39 PM on March 16, 2014

Haters gonna hate, but as someone who struggles with that "I want to get everything done, so I get nothing done" kind of procrastination, HabitRPG has changed my life.
posted by northernish at 8:40 PM on March 16, 2014 [14 favorites]

For some people (i.e. me) HabitRPG can actually be pretty motivating, especially if you're playing with friends or family as a "party" or if you join a guild based around your professional or personal interests. It's not perfect, and it's not for everyone, and it's not a magic bullet by any means, but it can be a fun way to make getting your shit together a little more entertaining.

If you decide to get more into the game, definitely watch these four short video tutorials: Tasks, Pets & Mounts, Groups & Challenges, and Settings & Third Party Apps. Also, there's an extensive wiki for the game, which is super-useful when you first start playing. It's really concise, and I recommend you refer to it anytime you hit something you don't understand. You can also send me a MeFi Mail or hit me up on Twitter.

I just created a Metafilter guild on HabitRPG.
I don't see a way to link directly to it, but if you click here and search for "metafilter", it should come up. I hope you would be fun to play along with fellow MeFites.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:52 PM on March 16, 2014 [13 favorites]

I've just actually created a profile, Ian, and joined the Mefi group.

The thing I can't seem to figure out is whether your own tasks are visible to others, and/or can be.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:22 PM on March 16, 2014

Your tasks aren't visible to others, don't worry. There are challenges and quests that essentially shared tasks, and of course you'd know that other people have those almost by default. So if I create a challenge to the guild that's like "I challenge Metafilter to go to the gym three days in a row!" or whatever, then the people who accept the challenge get that task assigned to them. Those are the only sorts of tasks you'll know that other people have. Otherwise it's all private.
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:32 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh cool that's perfect then!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:36 PM on March 16, 2014

2008 is gonna be a great year.
posted by chasing at 9:38 PM on March 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've been been writing out lists of what I need to get done and giving myself a reward at the end of the week if I accomplish my goals for a year now and it has been enormously helpful. I signed up to this and it is exactly what I was doing, but with an avatar.

I'm not getting the hate either. Maybe you can tell me how to be a self-starter without having to organize and reward myself instead of sneering at this.

Anyway, thanks fffm. I was starting to get self concious that someone would find my lists (succeeding at getting out of bed before noon isn't as brag worthy to others as it can be to me) and this solves that. And I know it's ridiculous, but I'll still get a real sense of accomplishment when my avatar is a solid tacky rainbow.
posted by Dynex at 9:56 PM on March 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Honestly, I'd like HabitRPG better if it shed the game-y stuff, which seems kind of distracting, and stuck to just being the one place I can find that can actually handle to-do items, daily/periodic items, and good/bad habits in the same place without having to set up weird repeating tasks for everything.
posted by Sequence at 10:11 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have also joined, thanks Ian A.T.
posted by andraste at 10:22 PM on March 16, 2014

I joined too. I'm not into Habit RPG too much; my girlfriend got me into it and it's really been great for helping her do some lifestyle changes, but I don't respond to these kinds of extrinsic rewards quite as much as her. But it gets me to exercise daily, which I'm pretty sure I'd never do on my own. I think maybe having her ask me about my progress helps too, as an accountability thing. Overall I think things like this are great. Sometimes you just need that extra little push of a number going up to get you to do something.

The people in here sneering at this (and, worse, sneering at the people who benefit from it) really bum me out.
posted by valrus at 10:33 PM on March 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

Health Month, which is less elaborate and less D&D/videogame-oriented, has a strong and supportive Mefite community. I'm not interested in changing sites but the game approach (win points by working on goals) has really worked for me over the last couple of years on Health Month. If something happened to Health Month ($DEITY forbid), I'd look into Habit RPG.
posted by immlass at 10:36 PM on March 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I feel like elaborating, since I'm awake yet: I think my only real complaint with the game-y stuff is that it's quite hard to figure out how to price one's own rewards because of the way things have diminishing returns, and similarly difficult to figure out how hard to make things, or how granular, to feel like one is actually making progress without it being too easy. So I've started largely ignoring all of that and just paying attention to whether I'm keeping my health up and keeping my dailies from going red, but it's still been helpful, although it's all been paused as I've been fighting off the flu from hell. (I'm very grateful for the ability to do that.)
posted by Sequence at 10:39 PM on March 16, 2014

There was an interesting (but rather long) article about procrastination with various crudely-drawn images I saw about a month ago. This article pointed out that when you've got a large project in front of you, you're more inclined to ignore it ... but at a certain point (say, 90% finished) you'll pick it up and start hustling to complete it.

The author suggested a few ways to use this information. Maybe this was in the article, but what I've been doing lately that has been working is lying to myself. Lying that my target projects are almost done even when I'm just starting them.

"It's almost done! Put some more coal in this puppy and ram it home!" Etc. It's almost done. New mantra.
posted by user92371 at 10:45 PM on March 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I get the hate. These sorts of tools can come across as crutches for the weak-willed, or opportunities for "productivity procrastination," i.e. dicking around with a "system" rather than just getting shit done. I don't share the hate, though; I love this kind of thing. If that makes me weak, so be it. This is how I cope with my weakness.

I created a shared spreadsheet to help develop a daily writing habit, with points for hitting your quota, and levels and a leaderboard. It's a pretty straightforward expansion of Jerry Seinfeld's don't-break-the-chain scheme. And for a lot of folks, it just doesn't work. They come, they try it out, enter their word counts for a few days or weeks, then move on. But for others it works very, very well, and we've got an increasing number of folks who have written every day for over a year. Again, not everybody needs that kind of help, but if you do, and it works for you, why turn up your nose at it?
posted by zanni at 11:36 PM on March 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

HabitRPG immediately rewards you with experience points and gold.

I tried it out and it's neither is true.
posted by mattoxic at 12:54 AM on March 17, 2014

I like the notion. I can not tolerate the way it is presented on the website. I will simply continue my usual course: Procrastination followed by fires built, lovingly, under my butt. This has been working extremely well lately, without burning down any houses or forests. Mind, the reward is prolonged life!

I would enjoy finding a productivity app that works the way I want. Hate to spend the time creating it. Repeating tasks that go from gray (done recently) to yellow (worth doing) to red (past due! Do it NOW!). Categories of tasks. That kind of thing. (Using ListOmni for groceries, it's less good for tasks, for my desired functionality).

Recently, I've even experimented with hand-written lists, on _paper_! How weird is that? it's strange how completely nostalgic it feels to use pen on paper, something I rarely do these days. I do love the satisfaction that comes from inscribing a big 'D' (for done) on several tasks at once! However, it has always annoyed me that I'm always writing the same tasks out, so an app is superior.
posted by Goofyy at 1:07 AM on March 17, 2014

zanni: " crutches for the weak-willed"

What's wrong with crutches for the weak-willed, though? I'm weak-willed. I'd gladly use anything that makes my life easier without ruining the world in some way (and no, others' sense of aesthetics don't count).
posted by vanar sena at 1:11 AM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

I might have to check this out, gamifying my life has been successful to me in some ways. I've been dieting and exercising for about a year and a half now, and I credit a lot of my 95 pound weight loss (and significant increase in muscle mass, overall health, and wellness) to Fitocracy and their gamification of exercise. I work out every weekday, and have only missed a handful of times, mostly due to valid reasons like being out of the country or having to study for finals.

The desire to get to the next level in Fitocracy, to not miss a day, and to achieve a quest and earn some extra points are all things that have gotten me to the gym when I might otherwise not have. Including today.
posted by X-Himy at 4:10 AM on March 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Does the HabitRPG Metafilter guild have a challenge to spend less time on
posted by asok at 4:37 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

crutches for the weak-willed

In all honesty, I gave up any real hope of becoming a Green Lantern a while ago.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:07 AM on March 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

The iOS interface is rendering really poorly for me. Like unusably poorly. Is that cuz the website is getting hammered? Or is it just always shoddy?
posted by grobstein at 5:16 AM on March 17, 2014

I was a kickstarter backer of habitrpg, and I initially found it very helpful. I essentially used it to create an exchange rate between daily activities like housekeeping and exercise and hobby/recreation spending.

Unfortunately, the continued RPG-ifying of the website has broken that: now in addition to doing tasks, I can "backstab" them. "backstab" gives between 50x and 500x the "gold" reward of doing any single task, completely breaking the relationship between doing all my tasks everyday and purchasing a real-world reward.

Of course, I'm too dumb to just not click "backstab". I guess I should write a greasemonkey script to remove the elements from the habitrpg UI I don't want; that would actually fix it.
posted by jepler at 6:06 AM on March 17, 2014

I'm going to look into this. I am often on the fence about "gamifying" (which to me sounds like another way to "lifehack", IMO) but I also realize I am a terrible terrible procrastinator in many things and sometimes making shit I need to do or keep putting off into something interesting and rewarding for my brain tends to work for me. I really liked being on the MeFi Health Month team, I use an app on my phone that makes remembering to keep myself hydrated fun, and the fitness app I use holds me accountable for keeping my exercise in check. So basically anything that can make me productive and produce results is something I am all for.
posted by Kitteh at 6:15 AM on March 17, 2014

I was a Health Month adherent for a while, but found the fiddly overwhelmed the benefits for me; my "gamified" 2014 thus far has consisted solely of Don't Break The Chain!, which was very effective for stopping drinking for a bit (73 days, broken by a break from the break for my birthday this weekend) and exercise, which got a bit derailed due to a health issue but that I'm looking forward to getting back into.

Don't Break The Chain! is stupidly effective for me if I make it my home screen in Chrome, keep it to one or two chains, and if I can just push hard to get to five days on something. Once I have 5+ days in the chain, the psychological thing of seeing it when I turn on my computer in the morning actually turns into a pretty strong motivator. I was seriously proud of my exercise and sobriety chains; I'm actually looking forward to rebooting the sobriety chain today and seeing if I can beat that 75-day record.
posted by Shepherd at 6:21 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been using this for about a week now and it's been really good for getting me to complete all those smaller tasks which have some intrinsic value but which I wouldn't really justify deserving more than a pat on the back besides, i.e. tidying the house, reading, going outside. Maybe I'm just not very good at setting rewards for myself, but it's been motivating to have the buildup of all these smaller successes reflected in this way.

I've also been using this app called "Rare Candy," which helps me keep track of the time I spend practicing various skills (I'm still only an apprentice writer, but I'm getting there!). I can keep track of this myself, of course, and indeed everything else I accomplish, but these programs make those numbers more meaningful to me than they otherwise would be.
posted by onwords at 7:17 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Because I still have a shred of self-respect and I'd like to keep it.

There's your problem
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:57 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I still like Epic Win, even though it hasn't really been updated in 3 years. It's still available though, and some of the treasure you can win is hilarious. It seems more thought out than HabitRPG.
posted by phoebus at 8:50 AM on March 17, 2014

feckless fecal fear mongering: "Instead, why don't you Gamify Your Life?"

Ah, but you're missing the true productivity booster: put all the videogames to play, movies to watch and books to read on a todo list. Because the surest fire way to make sure you don't do something is to put it on a todo list.
posted by pwnguin at 9:15 AM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

ooo clever
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:16 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gamifying absolutely works for me in learning contexts---Duolingo was a revelation, so was Codecademy, which beautifully goes around the "must have project to effectively learn programming language" problem by replacing it with "just beat this stage with the correct solution!" Even some Coursera courses---programming-based ones with multiple tries allowed---managed to tap into that.

So I'm pretty sure HabitRPG would work for me once I set the things I'd like XP for. At the moment I don't feel the need to adopt it for my work, but music practice? Exercise? Hmmm. I think I'll go set it up and check out the MeFi guild.

The comments about this being against self-respect are right from one point of view---aren't we all adults? Can't we all do adult things without being rewarded for them? But no. The bit where we've defined adulthood as responsibility for the sake of responsibility was an error, I believe, and the good we must do for goodness' sake and no reward is stuff like helping those in need and doing the right thing morally even when no one is watching. Putting a checkmark somewhere and getting imaginary cookie points because I didn't skip my 45 seconds of plank pose today doesn't make me any less an adult, thank you very much. Because that plank is an abs exercise, not a moral action, and I'd rather not the society equated, say, a six pack with moral character.
posted by seyirci at 9:18 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hm, well, I really need more to manage to-dos. I need nesting projects and long-term goals and due dates and so on. Some of this is available in HabitRPG but it's clunky.

I use OmniFocus and it does a lot for me (though obviously not perfect). HabitRPG could add something useful to this, but if I have to keep double-entry to-do lists This Is Not Gonna Work Out.
posted by grobstein at 9:31 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like the idea of gamify-ing those tasks that I tend to procrastinate about, or put off doing because there's no consequence to not doing them (like learning new skills), but what about cheating? With tools like HabitRPG, there's nothing stopping me from just claiming that I did stuff.

Tools like Fitbit that integrate some kind of rewards system with a physical device that actually tracks your activity without your intervention seems a lot more promising. As pointed out, things like CodeAcademy and Khan Academy use these tools, but I'd like a Visual Studio plug-in that rewards me based on lines of code written, or an Outlook plug-in that monitors tasks and appointments.
posted by nerdler at 9:34 AM on March 17, 2014

Gamification doesn't work on me. I actually had a couple of sessions with my therapist about it. gamification triggers my sense of being manipulated, which, when activated, just adds a healthy dose of "Fuck you" to my procrastination. Even when I'm the one manipulating myself, I get indignant and try to break the game.

This makes it super hard to build healthy habits, even habits I'd like to have.
posted by gauche at 10:04 AM on March 17, 2014

Sounds like you need someone else doling out the rewards, maybe?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:29 AM on March 17, 2014

No, it's the fact of someone, anyone, trying to motivate me that just gets under my skin.
posted by gauche at 10:51 AM on March 17, 2014

Ah. Wish I could offer a better suggestion, man :/
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:54 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

My partner and I like to high-five each other whenever we do adult things, like the laundry or cook dinner.

So, yeah, gamification works on me.
posted by inertia at 11:36 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was ready to snark on this but then I actually clicked the link. That app looks awesome!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:10 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love this! I've joined up over there. Thanks for this post!

....aaaaaand I just completed a habit 'Make Mefi Nicer!'
posted by lazaruslong at 12:28 PM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

"Played video games for 8 straight hours" - LEVEL UP!

It's wheels within wheels!

Shit. I just lost The Game. Had a really good run going too.
posted by The Bellman at 12:29 PM on March 17, 2014

The root of the problem is that we fail to value of the things that we do on a day-to-day basis. Some of us have a bigger problem with this than others, which I think is why gamification is so baffling to some.

When you play a video game, you have external validation for your actions. The alchemist thanks you for bringing her that rare ingredient. You get a little merit badge for surviving a difficult level. Your NPC follower tells you, "Nice shot!" Whatever.

In real life, we do things all the time that we should be proud of. You got up and went to work on a shitty Monday morning. Good job! You did the dishes before watching television. Way to go! We should be doling out little pats on the back for ourselves for doing this stuff, but for whatever reason, we don't.

Absent any kind of reward - even just thinking, "I did a chore, that's nice" - it's easy to just lapse into apathy. Imagine playing a video game where you never actually got awarded anything in exchange for performing tasks.

I have gotten a lot better about appreciating the work that I do, but it's not something that comes easily to me. I have used gamification tactics in the past, and it's a great bridge between effective and ineffective life strategies.

I know a lot of it sounds cheesy on the face of it, but sometimes you need brightly-colored gold stars and baby steps when you're starting to try and improve your life.
posted by ErikaB at 12:42 PM on March 17, 2014 [16 favorites]

Oh, wow, I am really really hopeful about this. I've been in this kind of inertia-rut lately, and it's been super hard to get motivated to do anything. Frankly, every little bit helps. So thank you for this.
posted by dogheart at 1:18 PM on March 17, 2014

I think people should start life-ifying their games. Every time you do something fun in a game, you have to follow it up with 8 hours of grinding boredom.

Oh wait I think I just described most video games.
posted by nushustu at 1:43 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I absolutely dig this. I signed up a week ago, and I have absolutely gotten things done which I otherwise wouldn't have. I even felt compelled to donate money, which I rarely do. I tried Health Month numerous times, but couldn't really get into it. But I'm loving this for whatever reason.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 5:12 PM on March 17, 2014

"When you play a video game, you have external validation for your actions. The alchemist thanks you for bringing her that rare ingredient. You get a little merit badge for surviving a difficult level. Your NPC follower tells you, "Nice shot!" Whatever.
In real life, we do things all the time that we should be proud of. You got up and went to work on a shitty Monday morning. Good job! You did the dishes before watching television. Way to go! We should be doling out little pats on the back for ourselves for doing this stuff, but for whatever reason, we don't.
Absent any kind of reward - even just thinking, "I did a chore, that's nice" - it's easy to just lapse into apathy. Imagine playing a video game where you never actually got awarded anything in exchange for performing tasks. "

I'm conflicted on gamification. I think the idea sounds awesome because real life is fucking BORING, and Jane McGonigal makes a good point that real life isn't nearly rewarding enough. I love the idea of gaming up your life. I'd have a lot more motivation in my career (picking one example) if it was like leveling up in a game and if you did enough quests, you'd be guaranteed to get something, and if there was a predictable, identifiable way to progress instead of "apply for job, wait for a month, don't get called, repeat, interview, don't get job, whatever" for years.

On the other hand: (a) I'm not that much of a gamer, I'm pretty intermittent/short attention span about things, and (b) doing stuff to earn a reward as a boring adult is just....well, it's like, "I don't have to wait until I've cleaned my entire apartment to reward myself with a book, I can just go fucking BUY IT WHENEVER I WANNA BECAUSE I HAVE A CAR AND MONEY." And some things are easier than others to set up game-style. And then there's my innate urge to just freaking REBEL against "daily habit" crap after awhile because I hate that daily chore shit. I do and I end up having to donate money periodically to not break my streak* because sometimes I just don't bloody wanna do my daily chore. Somehow making it a game or leveling up or getting badges on the Internet or whatever it is just doesn't do it for me after awhile, at least not on this level. Which is sad, really.

* paying customers are allowed to put themselves on vacation status, or at least the old school ones are.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:09 PM on March 17, 2014

Well, I was just setting up my Habit Judo again, but it looks like I'll try this instead.

I'm Errand Choremeister, at your service!
posted by FJT at 10:45 PM on March 17, 2014

I signed up to it yesterday and told myself I'd put in some habits and to dos today. Today I procrastinated on doing that.

I think this may not be going to work so well for me.
posted by lollusc at 12:29 AM on March 18, 2014

I signed up a couple of days ago, and man, I'm actually getting stuff done! So -- for me it works :) I've been starting up my own business and all the paperwork and marketing materials I have to get together, none of which is my core competency, has been really triggering my procrastination tendencies. With the realization that I wouldn't hire myself for this job because I can't seem to get things done, I've been trying different apps and tricks to get myself out of this rut. Something about seeing my todos change colors to red as they sit undone, and getting a little boost each time I complete one, is actually motivating.
posted by antinomia at 7:57 AM on March 19, 2014

Update: I died.

posted by Dynex at 3:09 PM on April 6, 2014

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