What is gamification?
Gamification is the act of incorporating common elements of game play into other areas of life, typically to make those activities more appealing and rewarding. If you gamify your productivity, it feels a little more fun and a little less like work, making it easier for you get started and keep moving.
By adding points systems, rewards, or other elements of gaming to your tasks, you can create motivation where it may not have existed previously—although, long term, it’s important to find intrinsic motivation to keep you moving forward. Think of all those apps that encourage you to keep a streak; that’s gamification.
There are plenty of people out there trying to attract you to their products and services using gamification. Don’t you think it’s about time you tried intentionally applying those same tactics to your life to push yourself toward your goals?
To get you started, here are five ways that you can gamify your life to get more done and have a little fun doing it.
This one is fairly self explanatory. Make a list of twenty-four things that you need to do. Put those things on the twenty-four spaces of a bingo board. Add something fun into the free space. As you complete tasks, cross off that box on the board.
If you want, you can create rewards that correspond with the different types of bingos that you can get. Maybe completing a horizontal line earns you a twenty minute Instagram break, and finishing a diagonal gets you a snack.
If you intend to complete the entire bingo card in one day, keep in mind that twenty-four things is a lot. Assuming you have to take breaks to eat and relax (and yes, you do have to eat and relax), that’s roughly one thing every thirty minutes all day. In this case, you’ll need to keep some of the tasks small so they take only a few minutes to complete. Things like meditating and taking out the trash would be good candidates for a daily bingo.
Longer tasks could be spread out over a weekend-long, or even week long bingo board. Keep your rewards proportional to your tasks. Ten minutes on Reddit is an awfully small reward for writing a six page paper, but may be too big for something like clearing the kitchen table after dinner.
There’s a whole subreddit for the x-effect that can explain it better than I ever could, plus provide inspiration and encouragement if you need it, but the basic idea is that you’re creating a new habit and keeping track of how many days in a row you complete that habit. The aim is to do it for 49 days in a row to fill your card, and hopefully come out the other end with a solidified habit.
Some of the best advice that I’ve ever seen when it comes to the x-effect is that not only should you aim to maximize the number of days in a row that you complete your habit, but you should also aim to see how quickly you can get back on track with your habit after breaking the streak.
So, for instance, if you start a new habit and do it for ten days in a row, but then fall off the wagon and don’t do it for three days before starting again, next time you break your streak, aim to get back on the wagon in two days or less.
Eventually, you’ll get down to only ever being able to take one day off from your habit. In my experience, this is ideal. Missing a habit for one day isn’t too hard to recover from. After two days off, though, you start to risk being unable to get back on track.
Because of this, I have a personal rule against ever missing more than one day at the gym. If I take one day off, it’s easy to go again the next day. More than that, especially if it's unintentional, makes it hard to get back to the gym.
Recently, I took two days off because I stayed up late for a concert. That two days turned into an impromptu four days away from the gym because it’s more difficult to pick a habit back up the longer you’ve been away from it.
Consider this a bonus tip for the day: make it a personal rule to never miss more than one day in a row of a habit. Even if you end up doing it on alternating days, that’s better than missing two days in a row and having it turn into twenty.
Beat the Clock
This one is also fairly self-explanatory. Decide on a task, set a timer, and see if you can complete the task before the timer goes off. You can add in rewards for beating the timer, if you’d like.
I find this one especially helpful with cleaning. Cleaning seems much less daunting when you know you only have to do it for twenty minutes and then you’re done. Even if you don’t finish before time’s up, it’s always motivating to see how much progress you can quickly make when you buckle down and focus your energy for a bit.
Setting a timer is also a great strategy because it helps to keep you focused. Using a timer that makes a ticking noise, or setting the timer to stop your music when the time is up are two ways to keep yourself continually reminded of the task at hand.
Trying to beat the clock also makes it much easier to get started on something that you’ve been putting off. Not only do you want to get started right away to give yourself the best possible shot at winning, but knowing that you have to only work for a set amount of time before getting a break takes away some of the pressure and makes the task much less daunting. Rather than worrying about how much work is left to do or how difficult it may be, your mind is on the timer.
Let Fate Decide
This is a good one if you aren’t great at figuring out what to do next.
Start by making a list of four things that you need to do today. Add in two fun things, so you have a list of six things (if you’re using a die—if you’re using a random number generator, you can make your list as long as you’d like).
Then, roll a die (or generate a random number) and do whichever task corresponds with the number you rolled. After you’ve completed that task, cross it off. Then, move the number of the task you completed to another task so that you have a higher chance of rolling that task.
For example, if you rolled a 3 and completed task 3, cross that off, and beside task 4 (or whichever other item you’d like to give more weight to), write a 3. Then if you roll a 3 or 4, that’s the task that you do.
Letting fate decide your schedule adds a bit of gambling and variety to your life and makes your day a little less predictable so you aren’t bored. This also makes your to do list a little more interesting so you’re less likely to just ignore the whole thing. It’s exciting to see which task will come up next.
Achievements work well for habits that you’d like to build. The more times you do the habit, the bigger your reward.
Start by deciding on a habit that you’re trying to implement, as well as some rewards for yourself. Since these rewards will only come occasionally, they can be slightly larger things than you may typically reward yourself with.
I like to make my rewards things that I don’t actually need but that would improve my life and make me happier if I had them—things like new boots or some cool decorations for my apartment.
From there, decide how many times you need to complete the habit before you earn a reward, and make that many checkboxes on a note. I like to use the Google Keep app on my phone because it’s straightforward and convenient.
After those checkboxes, add a final one with your achievement and reward.
It should look something like this:
Each time that you complete your habit, check off one of the checkboxes. When you reach your achievement, go get your reward!
When I use this tactic, I like to vary the number of times I have to complete the habit before getting a reward to add some variety. The number of times I have to complete the habit is proportionate to the habit. For instance, three trips to the gym may earn me a new bottle of nail polish, and fifteen trips earn me a new tapestry for my living room.
Something I like about this strategy is that you don’t earn a reward every time you do something. It’s important not to become too reliant on rewards because then you take action because of an external reward, and not intrinsic motivation. Because intrinsic motivation (aka your Why) is what will keep you moving forward when things get tough, it’s important to focus on developing it.
This is how I kept myself accountable when I first started going to the gym, and there were plenty of days early on where thinking of my upcoming reward was the only thing that got me out of bed at 6 in the morning.
There you have it: five ways to gamify your life and encourage yourself to get more done. I’d love to know which ones you plan to try out and if you make any changes to make them work better for your life in a comment below. :)