Gamification For Productivity

“Gamification” has become a buzzword in recent years among the tech crowd, but it has spilled over into other arenas as well. With the pervasiveness of smartphone apps and new websites popping up every day, “gamification” seems to be everywhere. At its simplest, it’s just a way of introducing elements of gaming into other tasks.

There are lots of ways to do this: common elements include earning points, gaining levels, and sometimes earning achievements, badges, or prizes. There’s gamification for working out, buying coffee, listening to music, shopping, recycling, and eating out. While retailers and marketers have been using gamification to their best advantage, gamification can also be used to increase productivity, whether in individuals or in a team.

To encourage general productivity, take a look at HabitRPG, which has a website and an iOS app. At its heart, it’s a to-do app, but “RPG” stands for Role-Playing Game, which HabitRPG uses to incentivize productivity. There are four different elements when you start out using the program: habits, dailies, to-dos, and rewards. Habits are actions that you want to either encourage or avoid, but don’t have a specific frequency. Dailies are tasks that you want to repeat on a regular basis: every day, once a week, etc. To-dos are one-off tasks like on any other to-do app. Rewards are things you can purchase by completing your tasks. You earn a certain amount of gold and a certain amount of experience points for each task. Experience points let you level up and eventually unlock different game elements. Gold allows you to buy rewards. As you level up, the game introduces a market, item drops, pets, armor, and other elements. It’s a fun way to keep all of your productivity items in one place with a dynamic and well thought-out incentive scheme.

If you like the idea of a gamified productivity app but don’t need quite as many features, Carrot is an iOS app with a mean streak. It’s a minimalist to-do app that is very user friendly and unlocks features as you gain points. Be warned, though: Carrot has a personality, and if you don’t complete your tasks, she gets angry. How many points you get and how she talks to you depend on what mood she’s in. Carrot is a quirky app that is probably the most unique of the bunch, and worth checking out if only for its surprises.

EpicWin is another RPG productivity program that gives you points and prizes for your real-world tasks. Here again, you can choose your character and level them up as you go. You can’t yet spend gold on things, but EpicWin is in the process of being developed.

If you’re looking to be more productive with a specific task or process, try SuperBetter. SuperBetter gives you tasks, quests, power-ups, and “bad guys” depending on your specific journey, like exercising more, increasing willpower, stress relief, or improving your relationships. It’s not a productivity app in itself, but improving these aspects of your life can definitely improve the rest of it.

If the area of productivity you’re struggling with is managing your finances, there are programs for that, as well. SaveUp is a program tailored to incentivize saving and making smart financial choices. It gives you credits for the choices you make, and you can cash them in to contests with real prizes, or you can cash them out. SmartyPig is a website that also focuses on saving, though a little less gamified than SaveUp. SmartyPig makes saving automatic, and it also rewards you for meeting your goals.

If you’re not so interested in using apps or websites, gamification doesn’t have to involve technology: you can use game elements on your own. The best way to go about it is to start by identifying the tasks that you have a hard time completing or that you want to incentivize. For each of those tasks, determine a point value. You may also want to assign them different categories. Maybe doing the dishes gets you two blue points, but cleaning the bathroom gets you eight red points.

From there, identify rewards, positive (but not goal-subverting) actions or items, and assign them point values as well. Then, to get your rewards, you first have to do enough tasks to afford them. Don’t stop there. When you’re defining your own system, you can get pretty creative. Find ways to allow you to “level up” or do a boss battle: what really big challenge do you have coming up, or what milestone can you celebrate passing? Give yourself constant ways to progress, and you’ll see yourself finding ways to become more productive while having a little fun on the way.