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Are You More Likely To Establish A Habit If You Make It A Game?

habitica logoSomeone in my Twitter feed last week introduced me to an awesome site called Habitica. Basically, it takes the concept of forming and maintaining habits and makes it into a role playing game. Think Dungeons and Dragons or World of Warcraft.

You create a character, and as you establish and maintain habits, your character “levels up.” As you go up in level, you are hurt less by bad habits, while also benefiting less from good habits. Yes, that kind of sucks, but it’s also how life works.

When you start the game, you establish your habits. There are actually three types of habits you can set up, but I won’t go into detail here. Basically, as you do the things you commit to, you gain experience, which allows you to gain levels, and gold, which allows you to buy things, like equipment to boost your abilities or custom rewards like dessert or a short work break. If you don’t complete all your Daily tasks each day, you take damage. Take enough damage and you die. 🙁

Don’t worry. As is a feature of many role playing games, you can revive your character, at the loss of some gold and experience.

There’s an additional accountability element. You can form parties with your friends and battle monsters. While you are in a party, you can take damage when your party members don’t complete their Dailies. If you are the type of person who does well with external commitments but not so well with internal, consider joining a party as soon as possible. If failure to exercise can damage your friends, you might think twice before blowing it off. Killing your friends tends to lead to fewer friends.

Okay, you may be thinking, it sounds cute, but does it work? So far, I can say, “yes!” Here’s an example. I’ve been wanting to create the habit of taking my vitamins morning and evening. I’ve been pretty good about morning, but terrible at remembering in the evening. Since I started using Habitica, I haven’t missed once.

What about bigger goals? It still works. Another habit I’ve been struggling with is daily fiction writing, at least on weekdays. I set it up as a Daily task, so I have to do it, or I damage myself and my fellow party members. I also created a custom reward where I can spend 50 gold (a decent amount in the game) to skip it with no damage. My first real test of Habitica came on New Year’s Day, which was a Friday. To write or not to write? I gave it serious thought. It was a holiday. But I’m trying to build the habit. But it’s a holiday! I finally decided I didn’t want to spend 50 virtual gold on skipping the task or to take damage, so I got my butt to Starbucks and wrote. I think that’s a strong indication that Habitica works.

It’s only been a week, and lots could change, but right now I’m a huge fan. Have you tried Habitica? Do you want to? Sound off in the comments and let me know what you think.

  • I’ll try out the “game” I was never good with making any habits (bad or good) I get bored but perhaps I need to try harder 🙂

    • Juli Monroe

      Boredom can be a problem for me too, which is why I like the game. Checking off items gives a little positive charge to the brain, and Habitica gives you plenty of chances to check off. It might help with the boredom factor. Keep us posted on how you do!

  • Very interesting . . . I think I might try it. My only worry is that I would end up spending more time on it and then not on other things. Does it take a lot of time out of your day?

    • Juli Monroe

      @Michelle, setting it up takes a bit of time. You do need to decide what habits you want to start with, and I did some tweaking in the first couple of days. However, once you get it running the way you want, it doesn’t take much more time than checking something off a to-do list.