Thursday, October 2, 2014

Have Fun Getting Things Done

We all have things we want to improve on in our life. How often have you said things like, tomorrow, I will start my exercise program or my diet? When will I find time for the things I have to do and the things I enjoy doing? Even if you do start will you be able to convert these behaviors into permanent habits? What if there was a way to make being reminded about these things a little more fun while also providing you with the motivation you need to get them done?

Well, I would not be asking these questions if I did not want to talk about an application I came across that does exactly this, HabitRPG.

I have never been a big player of traditional low pixel resolution RPG games like Pokemon but I have played a lot of Everquest and Wow and one of the things these types of games can do is influence your behavior by introducing compulsive addictions which draw you back to the game again using virtual rewards as a motivator. This can be a hugely effective but can also be a huge waste of your productive time. This does not have to be the case if we could keep the motivational aspects of playing a game but tie the rewards to you getting things done in real life (IRL) instead.

HabitRPG has a simple system. Tell it the habits you want to encourage (like not smoking, if you smoke or drinking more water), The things you want to commit to every day called Dailies (Like getting out of your chair and getting some exercise) and your todo list of tasks you need to get done.

Once all this is entered, the game begins. You start a level one. You are given 50 hit points. If you loose all your hit points, you die. Now no one wants to die but if you don't start checking off tasks they will cause you damage and each day, your incomplete tasks will drain your hit points. How do you gain back your hit points? By leveling up your character. Each task you actually complete grants you (through your character) experience points and gold. Accumulate enough experience points and you will gain a level. Gain a level and you become completely healed.  This cycle keeps you motivated as you build your character and gain levels. If you die, you loose a level after reading a disturbing dialog informing you of your death.

Wait a minute...did you say gold? Yes, in addition to building experience points, you also accumulate gold for completing tasks. Gold can be used as a reward since you can take things you enjoy doing and assign a value in gold to them allowing (or possibly reminding) you to reward yourself for all your hard work. Gold can also be used to buy gear to protect yourself from damage to your hit points or potions that will restore your hit points if you are near death.

One of my sons pointed out to me that you could cheat at this game by simply creating tasks and completing them for profit. This would be the equivalent of grinding in an MMO or an RPG. My response to this is why bother. The only person you are cheating is yourself. If you can't be honest in reporting your own accomplishments, how can this game help motivate you to get things done in the first place?

What about the stress or pressure you might start to feel if not finishing your dailies is rapidly killing you? Nobody needs to have panic attacks over an artificial motivation such as a fear of death in the game.  The solution for this is simple- just check into the Inn. If you check in to the inn then you will not take any damage until you check out again.  I died on my second weekend playing the game because all my daily tasked killed me because they were scheduled for every day of the week. Once I fixed this so that I only performed them during the work week things went much better for me. Going on vacation? Don't forget to check in to the Inn for this as well.

During my day job I usually plan my work week using another web based tool called JIRA and a plugin called JIRA Agile. This tool works great for team assignments, planning and todo list for a project but I have started using it in conjunction with HabitRPG. I find that the concept of dailies and habits and having a personal todo list works great in conjunction with my JIRA task lists (now if I only could arrange to get gold and experience points for closing out JIRA tasks!)

I am only at level five at this point but I think I am going to stick around. The rewards for leveling include access to a character class system where you can specialize take up such occupations as Warrior, Mage or Rogue. These classes give you access to special abilities which allow you to help yourself or others. Something I am just beginning to discover is the possibility of group play. The game has Groups and Guilds which allow you to tackle goals with a team of people.

At this point I have to ask myself, who should use this tool? I think anyone who needs a little help motivating themselves to get more done or to finally start doing some of the things they have been meaning to do forever should consider it. I am trying to introduce my kids to it but so far, no luck. Just imagine getting gold and experience for doing your homework.

It will be interesting to see how this application evolves. I have often wondered if there should be an extension of the site that actually lets you use your character in a real RPG environment. This would allow you to actually play your character in a game while building it during your day job. To my knowledge this does not exist yet but I think the idea has potential.

In case you are wondering, I have set up work on my robot as a reward. It costs me 10 gold but it is worth it.