HabitRPG Techniques

Kithia Verdon:

The hit productivity website HabitRPG has been a huge positive influence on my life over the last few months. Here are some of the self-improvements I credit the site with helping me achieve:

  • Stopped using electronics in bed, leading to earlier and better sleep
  • Stopped logging on to the computer in the morning before work, leading to a less distracted morning routine and making it to work at a more consistent time
  • Daily flossing. A classic!
  • Dramatically reduced how often I indulge anxious self-critical thoughts
  • Dramatically reduced the amount of time I spend playing video games and tooling about on social media sites like Facebook
  • Increased the number of Pomodoros of focused work I achieve each day
  • Via the site’s active and friendly community of developers, started learning Web development and contributing to the site’s open-source code

If you have any interest in forming better habits and getting things done, I encourage you to check out this site, especially if you also have a love of classic console RPGs! If you’re already using the site, here are a few techniques I’ve been using to make my use of the site even more effective.

Timed Rewards. I found that for things I’d like to spend less time on, but which aren’t intrinsically bad (Facebook surfing, video gaming), setting them up as negative Habits didn’t work very well. Instead, I build them out as Rewards with a gold:time exchange rate. When I want to spend some time shooting zombies or being a social-media zombie myself, I buy the Reward and queue up the corresponding amount of time as a repeating countdown timer. When the bell rings, I decide whether I’d like to keep going, in which case I purchase the Reward anew, or I close things down and move on elsewhere. Just putting the item on my Rewards list is sufficient to really cut down my reflexive use of those distractions!

Big, long-term Rewards. I’ve got some Rewards in mind that represent major purchases: I’ve been drooling over the idea of getting a fancy solid state hard drive for my PC, for instance. I want myself to work hard to earn something like that! So I build it with a really large gold price: 750, in this case. Then I set up another Reward with a lesser cost, 1 or 5 or 10, and whenever I buy that Reward, I reduce the cost of the major Reward accordingly. It helps with the discipline needed to bank toward a long-term goal! I’m thinking of also having these Rewards represent a gold:dollars exchange rate, such that when I do that incremental purchase, I move the corresponding amount of money to a savings account.

Due dates with bite. Currently, the Due Date feature on Habit’s Todos is informational, without any effect on how the task functions. But when I assign a due date to something, that means I’ve made a commitment to someone to get a thing done on a particular timeline, so I’d like it to sting when I miss a due date. If I miss a due date for a task, I add that task to my list of Dailies, so I take damage every day overdue it gets. When I get my act together and accomplish the thing, I check off the Daily for gold and XP, then delete it.

Jubilee days. Constant self-improvement can be draining! It helps to take a break sometimes, to kick back and not care for a while. So I’ve set up Sundays to be as consequence-free as possible! I don’t ding myself for negative Habits. I don’t spend gold on Rewards of the timed variety; I get to spend however much time doing them as I like. Most of my Dailies are inactive; the only ones left running are those with substantial real-life consequences for missing a day (like medications) or which are only relevant on Sundays to begin with. It’s a great breather to take, letting me redouble my efforts come Monday.

To-dos as Habits. HabitRPG focuses on habit formation, not task management, so its to-do functionality tends to fall short of what you can do with a more task-focused app like Toodledo or Remember the Milk. I use The Secret Weapon, an implementation of Getting Things Done in Evernote, for my task-management needs. Plus, I tend to use to-dos of any sort as reminders of very tiny next actions to get me rolling on a project, like “take a trash bag out to the car” as an easy start to actually cleaning out my cluttered vehicle. It feels like cheating to get a pile of Habit gold and XP for something minor like that! But getting rewarded for accomplishing those things is still important. So I use Habits instead, “Home to-do” and “Work to-do”, that I score 1/task when I empty out my “completed” list. The diminishing returns of Habits keep the score from getting excessive, but I still feel accomplished and make levelup progress for successful completions.

Have you tried HabitRPG? What cool poweruser tricks have you come up with for it?