(I just want to state outright that this post isn’t sponsored. The Habitica people have no idea I exist. I’m sharing this because it’s been truly helpful to me and I want to make you aware of Habitica’s existence and share ways that I use it to inspire you.)
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this post about ways to use gamification to make productivity a little easier and more exciting. As I was writing, I did a bit of research about gamification to make sure I was explaining it properly. During that research, I stumbled across Habitica.
Habitica is a task management application meant to help you gamify your life and get rewards for doing all the things that you need to do. It seemed interesting, and a little more fun and useful than most of the productivity apps out there, so I decided to try it out.
Most of the time, I’m not into habit tracking or planning apps. Calendar blocking does a pretty good job of keeping me focused, scheduled, organized, and moving forward.
In my experience, most productivity apps are too bloated to be useful and are created by companies trying to jump onto a trend but with no idea what they’re doing. An app that is difficult to understand and use and that has way too many features isn’t going to change lives. Most of the time, these apps are better for procrastination than productivity.
A good productivity app needs to be fast and easy to use, with one clear focus and purpose, rather than trying to do it all. I don’t want to spend an hour a day messing with an app that is supposed to save me time. In general, I’m pretty tired of hearing about all of these apps because it seems like a new one comes out every week and most of them are awful.
But Habitica caught my eye.
In a sea of productivity apps that all look the same, Habitica stood out because it knows its aim. Habitica wants to take gamification a bit farther than the usual “maintain a streak” tactic that a lot of apps use. It wants to turn accomplishing your goals into a game using parties, guilds, inventory, mounts, health, mana, XP… you know, all that normal game stuff. Except, in this game, your mission is the work that you have to do in real life.
Given the anti-app introduction, I’m kind of surprised to say that I’m a pretty big fan of Habitica and intend to continue using it. It certainly has its flaws, but all in all, it’s a useful app that has definitely helped me stay more consistent with the things I’m working on and brought a little more fun and motivation into my life.
Before I launch too much into the details and how I use Habitica, I want to briefly explain the basics so that this all makes sense.
In Habitica, you’ve got a little 8 bit character that you design. That character is you. You then assign yourself tasks and when you complete the tasks, you get to check them off and are rewarded with gold.
Gold can be spent on in-game items for your character, or you can add your own rewards to the rewards list and set prices in gold.
The amount of gold that you get for each task varies. Task sizes can be assigned as “trivial,” “easy,” “medium,” and, “hard,” with harder tasks giving more gold. Some overdue tasks also give more gold as an incentive to get you to complete them—though this can also backfire because it means that putting the task off will reward you with more gold when you do complete it. So I see their logic there, but it doesn’t seem like the greatest system.
Types of Tasks
Habitica has three types of tasks that you can create, each functioning slightly differently.
In Habitica, the habits category is meant for things that you intend to do (or stop doing) several times a day. For example, if you wanted to get in the habit of drinking more water, you could create a habit for drinking 8 oz. of water and check it off each time you do it.
Within the habits category, there are three types of habits that you can create. For any habits that you are trying to build, you create a + habit. When you click this habit, you receive gold and XP. For any habits that you are trying to break, you create a - habit. When you click this habit, you lose health.
Finally, a habit that you’re trying to build and a corresponding habit that you’re trying to break can be combined into a +- habit. For instance, I have this bad habit of picking at my face when I’m feeling anxious. I created a +- habit for it, so whenever I pick my face, I minus the habit and whenever I avoid picking at my face, I plus the habit.
However, there aren’t very many things that I’m trying to do or stop doing multiple times per day, so I only have a few habits listed. Most of the things that I consider habits in my own life are tasks that I only need to do once per day, so those end up in the next category: dailies.
The dailies category is definitely my most used task category on Habitica. I use it as something of a to do list even though “to do” is the final category of tasks. But I like dailies.
When you create a daily, like other tasks, it can be assigned a difficulty level between trivial and hard. And though they’re called dailies, they can be set to repeat daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. This is especially useful because I have plenty of tasks that I do once or twice per week—Sunday reset, anyone?
Dailies, like habits, reward gold upon completion and turn green and then blue if you do them often enough. One of my favorite things about dailies is that you lose health if they aren’t completed at the end of the days that they’re assigned. That little consequence is motivating for me and I’m much more likely to complete my dailies in any given day than I am to complete my habits or to dos. Even better, if you complete every daily in a given day, you’re rewarded with more gold for having a perfect day!
I find dailies useful for the things that I’m likely to forget to do each day—like filling in my bullet journal—because they serve as a reminder. Dailies are also good for those tasks that aren’t necessary, but make my life better (like packing my gym bag before bed each night) because I have to do those tasks to have a perfect day.
Along with the things that I’m likely to forget or ignore, I’ve created a daily for most of the productive things that I do regularly like meditating, writing, and tweeting three things I’m grateful for every day. With all of these tasks added to Habitica, my to do list is more or less created for me every day and I’m much more likely to 1. Remember to do the things I need to do and 2. Actually do them because I earn gold for it and lose health if I don’t.
I’ve added some flexibility to my dailies by creating four dailies that don’t have a specific task beyond doing one pomodoro of work. This means that I have to dedicate at least two hours to work each day but gives me the flexibility to do whatever type of work needs to be done.
I also try to write for two hours each day which I have broken up into four pomodoros as well. I initially had it listed as one daily labeled, “two hours of writing,” but that left me with days where I wrote for an hour and a half but didn’t get to check any boxes for it, which is pretty disappointing.
Putting most of the things that I need to do each day on my list of dailies gives me an easy checklist to go through at the end of each day. It helps me to do any last minute things that I’d forgotten about which has been truly helpful with those small habits. Bigger tasks and habits can be calendar blocked out, but “do your skincare routine” isn’t a large enough task to warrant a calendar block.
Dailies keep me consistent. They’re simple to use, but changing to green then blue and awarding gold for completion, and punishing me with lost health if I fail to do them, is enough to make me do most of my tasks every day.
The final category of tasks on Habitica is To Dos. They’re meant for one-time tasks, but to be honest, I don’t use them very much, primarily because I don’t find them very motivating.
To dos can be assigned due dates and you can view them in the order that they’re due, which is nice, but nothing happens when to dos pass their due dates. No health is lost. The task turns red, but it doesn’t bother me, so I feel no pressing need to do them.
I’m sure that the to do category is useful for plenty of people (if you’re one of them, tell me in a comment how you use it!), but I primarily use it to keep track of ideas that pop into my head that I want to do fairly soon but without a set deadline. Then I use my four daily pomodoros of work to chip away at my to dos.
I’ve mentioned gold a bunch of times, but what can you do with that gold?
Habitica has its own set of rewards that you can buy to upgrade your character, and you can add your own rewards and set a price in gold before you can buy your irl reward. Habitica even has a cool wiki page with reward ideas.
I love this reward system because it’s similar to the one that I used in idea #5 of my recent post about gamification. I can directly see how my actions will add up to the rewards that I’m working toward.
Personally, I’m not much of a spender. In real life, I don’t buy anything that I don’t absolutely need. Spending money to treat myself typically makes me feel guilty even if I buy something that I’ve wanted for a long time because I feel like that money should be saved for the future.
By using the Habitica rewards system and buying things for myself only after I’ve “earned” them, that feeling goes away. I recognize that I work hard and I’m not recklessly spending money on things I don’t need. Occasional treats are okay.
Some of the things that I’m currently working toward are Birkenstocks, a meditation pillow, and a Taco Bell cheat night. By earning these things through gold on Habitica, I get to buy something that I want and I have an incentive that pushes me to do all of the little tasks that are so easy to ignore. It’s a win-win.
A few more things
This post is getting fairly long, so I’ll wrap it up with a few more cool things that I’ve found on Habitica.
If you aren’t sure what goals to set for yourself or want to ease into something new, challenges are a great way to do that. Challenges are sets of tasks (habits, dailies, and to dos) created by other people that all support one goal. You can take on a new goal without needing to figure out how to work toward it. Someone already did that for you.
The challenges are fun to scroll through. I’ve seen ones for practicing instruments daily, building a better relationship with food, and buying only the things that you set out to buy when you go to the store. I also just found one that’s a big list of to dos, each with something to read, watch, and listen to, which is an interesting way to push yourself through a to-read list. I know my to-read list is getting a little out of hand. So many books, so little time.
Guilds are essentially chatrooms. Each one has a theme. Many of them function as support groups for things like quitting smoking or compulsive overeating so that you can find people in similar situations and support each other.
Many guilds center around challenges and “fight against monsters” together. By fighting monsters, of course, I mean that they keep good habits and do the things that they need to do in real life to defeat the monsters. Your actions in real life kill the bad guys.
Parties are somewhat like guilds. People join together in parties to “fight monsters” aka go after their goals together. Parties can complete quests and challenges, help each other out through spells, and support each other with their habits.
If you’d like to join my party (right now it’s just me), send me an email with your Habitica username at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll make our lives better together!
This article touches on the surface of Habitica, but I’m fairly new to it and I know there’s lots more to explore. If this has sounded even somewhat interesting to you, I definitely recommend giving it a try! I’m sure I’ll be using Habitica for a while so I’ll likely write a more in-depth post about it later on. Until then, come hang out in my party with me and we can explore together!