I’ve always had a fascination with planners. Neat lines stripe page after page in a book that looks almost the same from end to end, the only difference the numbers or days lying in a corner or header. We organize our lives on these pages, strategically planning our chores or pledging time to make dreaded—or celebrated—due dates. This is how we keep ourselves accountable, on task, and successful in lives populated with often overwhelming numbers of responsibilities, possibilities, and distractions. It’s a shame I was never very good at consistently using these invaluable pocket secretaries, as intriguing as I found them.
Enter Habitica. This app is a digital version of the paper-based organizer from the days of yore, but provides the immediate feedback-loop of a game. Habitica lets users—Habiticans—create an 8-bit character, level them up, and earn gear, just like in a role-playing game. Checking tasks off of Habitica’s various lists rewards the user with experience for leveling, gold for buying stuff, and magic points for using skills. It has a to-do list for those projects, a daily list for those repeated tasks, like going to the gym, and a habit list that rewards good behaviors and punishes bad ones. The latter is an excellent tool for things like getting out of bed instead of hitting snooze, or getting rid of a bad habit like biting your nails (I don’t anymore, by the way). Leaving dailies and to-dos undone or clicking a negative habit damages the user’s character, and death subtracts a level and strips the character of a valuable piece of gear. Like real life, leaving goals unfinished only holds us back, and Habitica emphasizes this point and encourages accountability, even on a social level.
Habiticans can help one another by gathering as a group and taking on quests. Each completed task contributes to finishing the quest, which requires the party collect enough of something or defeat a boss. The collection or “fight” takes place at the end of the day, each player contributing by completing their tasks. Boss quests are challenging as any unfinished task at the end of the day adds damage the scary beastie does to the entire party. This system heightens the sense of accountability, and I found fellow Habiticans will encourage one another to accomplish their goals to win as a group. Once characters reach level 10, Habiticans can choose a class, which will bestow skills that, when cast, benefit the user or the entire party in a myriad of ways, such as increasing gold gained or damage done per task.
The social aspects of Habitica include guilds, groups whose memberships offer specific challenges. I joined a graduate student guild that adds tasks to my lists tailored for academic writing and publishing, for instance. Guilds run a varied gamut, from losing weight to quitting or reducing alcohol consumption. The community is typically positive and supportive, and everyone shares the same great journey: improve their lives and be successful in their endeavors.
I love games; I love the way they make me feel and the way they present challenges. Habitica’s synergy between game and planner invokes those feelings, creating a fun and effective way to be organized and motivated. Many of my personal goals will take a long time to achieve, and, as I’m sure many people do, I forget to let myself feel good about the daily efforts I undertake towards those goals. Then I forget to appreciate my goals at all. Habitica’s gamified format is enjoyable, rewarding, and useful, and as I see my avatar become an impressive hero, I see all the challenges I’ve vanquished and my goals become clearer and more attainable. Then I become my own hero.