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2016-05-22 - Using Habitica

Noble Kale's picture

Over the last week or three, I've been using a website named Habitica. I've been doing this in order to assist my attempts at building better habits and generally improve the way in which I go about things. I've made no secret about the fact that when I'm pulled down by depression or anxiety, my good habits and routines tend to get thrown under the bus - which only makes things worse. In this way, perhaps I can reinforce better patterns of behaviour in order to ensure that these habits and routines survive those low periods.

So, with this in mind, I thought I'd give a quick run-down of how I use Habitica, because maybe it's something that could be useful for others.

What is it?

Habitica is essentially a to-do list, a list of behaviours that you wish to enforce (or turn down) wrapped into an RPG. In short: gamifying your behaviour so that you have an external reason to refine the things you do. (Some folks might say 'ughhh gamification', but I basically see it as: if I need something external to help me get over the initial habit-forming period, then I'll take whatever I can get.)

How I'm using it

There's a really interesting tip when you're setting up your Habitica account, which is 'start slow and small'. This is probably a really good point - it's pretty common for people to get inspired to be better at a whole bunch of things at once, and overwhelm themselves. I admit that I perhaps overdid it myself when I started, but that's all balanced out pretty quickly. Either way, I'd recommend you keep this bit of advice in mind.

Habitica has 4 lists, though 3 are pertinent during setup: Habits, Dailies and To-Dos. Habits becomes the list of items I wish I did more often - otherwise known as 'things I get inspired to do, but then kinda forget about/stall out on after a while'. This list includes:

  • Tweeting about my own games (yayyyy marketing)
  • Tweeting about the games of other people I feel should be promoted more
  • Doing pixel art
  • Watching educational videos on YT (TED Talks, GDC Talks, Crash Course & others)
  • Reading
  • Cleaning
  • Exercise - this is usually just an extension of the '10 minute walk' on my Daily list, but that's fine

Image of lists from my Habitica Habits list
These are things I don't necessarily need to do every day, but things I'd like to do more often. Notably, I used to be very regular about tweeting about my own games - this rapidly fell off when I burnt out in November after the release of Quarries of Scred 2 & PAX Aus 2015. This is something I feel is really important but don't do - and since it's linked to how well my games sell, it's obviously a perfect candidate for this list.

The Dailies list is for things I feel I should be doing at least once every day (anything that you can do more often than once, but should do at least once per day needs to have a habit AND a daily item, as daily items are once-per-day only). This is things like washing dishes, waking up earlier (not doing so well on this one, sadly), and spending some time reflecting on the day.

Finally, the To-Dos list is a bunch of items that are one-hit that you want to do. I haven't particularly been very successful with these, but I'll spend some time refining them at some point. They have an option of having a due date as well.

So, how do each of these lists perform? This part is pretty interesting and seems to be well thought out: Habits will give you a bonus to experience, money and maybe an item when you do something good. I haven't set up any negative habits (for now), so I don't know what the effect of doing something bad is yet. Dailies will give you rewards when you complete them, but anything left undone at the end of the day (midnight!) will give you health damage. To-Dos seem roughly the same - though again, I'm not really using those at the moment so I don't know.

The fourth list is pretty interesting though I'm not using it to full potential just yet - it's the Rewards list. Habitica comes set up with a bunch of equipment for your Avatar as rewards, so you can spend the gold you earn doing tasks/whatever in order to improve your character's gear. The really interesting thing, though is that if you delve a bit deeper into the documentation, there's discussion on how to set up custom rewards so that you can do things like Bulk Buy an item you want (say, chocolate bars) in meatspace and then reward your good behaviour with individual items from said bulk purchase by setting them up as a Habitica reward. Again, though I've read up on this, in staying with the 'start small' principle, I haven't gone there yet.

The Social Side

I'm not too deep on the social side - though Habitica does appear to have a capacity for a lot of social based stuff. There's a party system (which is tied into the quest system), which I've only dipped a toe into so far. There are challenge groups, which look pretty interesting (in that they form groups of people attempting the same tasks, which could lead to some good social support structures). The staff seem to be pretty responsive, and I note that the code of conduct is one of the longer, more thought out ones that I've seen. These are all things I've not dived into yet - but I see a lot of use for them.

Keeping tabs

As far as 'how I keep track' - I have a tab open for Habitica on my desktop pc at all times (and often, it takes up half of one of my monitors) just to instill the habit of checking into it, etc. The mobile client is surprisingly good though there's a few things it seems you need to use the web page to do instead - either way, I find things like being able to give myself a Habit +1 while I'm walking is instantly gratifying and often keeps me going a bit longer. (Self manipulation, but whatever gets the job done).

There's also a data dump which you can peruse, though for a longer set of records you need to subscribe - something I'm slowly convincing myself of since I love seeing stats and data. We'll see.

Wrapping up

In conclusion - I'm finding it to be a pretty good thing that works for me. The true test will be if I am still using it in a few months, but at the very least - even if I stopped using it today, I'll have had 3 or so weeks of good habits/productivity, which is better than where I was before I started using it, so I'm pretty happy.

Also, check out my avatar and his sweet Wolf.
Image of Kale's Habitica Avatar at the time of writing
Oh, and you better believe I'm making a To-Do for this to fulfill to reward myself retroactively for writing this article. My wolf needs to be fed.