It's no secret that humans, and writers among them, tend to be creatures of habit. And habits have a terrible inertia all their own. Bad habits can be tough to break; good habits can be tough to instill. So when it comes to, say, ditching the habit of procrastinating and fomenting the habit of writing every day, sometimes you gotta play dirty. Any trick in the book is fair game, so long as it works.
If you are to any extent a gamer nerd, HabitRPG is a trick that might just work for you.
HabitRPG is an app that scratches a particular itch that gamer nerds are susceptible to. And it doesn't matter what game, so long as it falls within a certain category. You might get your satisfaction from collecting crowns and stashing away energy in Spiral Knights, or maybe you get a kick from watching your stats and inventory grow in Fallen London. Whatever your favorite RPG, the motivation is the same: you get stuff for doing stuff.
HabitRPG takes advantage of that powerful motivation.
Here's how it works.
First, you define the habits you want and the habits you don't. Then you code these as general habits, daily habits, or single to-do items in the game. So maybe you have a daily goal of doing morning pages first thing when you wake up, or a goal for each weekday of writing 2,000 words. You could code these as "Dailies," deselecting the Saturday and Sunday buttons for the item you only need to do on weekdays. If you want to get your latest short story cleaned up so you can send it out into the world, you might create a "To-Do" item that's broken down into a checklist of "revise short story," "make list of suitable markets" and "submit to first market on the list." Under general "Habits," you can create an item with both a positive and negative aspect representing what you do when story ideas occur to you: either write them down in a notebook you keep with you, or fail to jot them down because you're too busy doing other things.
Now the magic happens.
Each day, as you complete your list of dailies or to-dos, check that item off. When you perform a positive action you want to make a habit of, click the plus sign. When you catch yourself indulging in a bad habit, click that item's negative sign. Your health, experience points, and treasure inventory adjust accordingly. That's right--you don't just get the satisfaction of knowing you wrote your 2,000 words today; you also gain XP and coins. When you come to the end of a day without fulfilling a daily goal, you suffer damage. The app leverages your gamer urge to get all the stuff and transforms it from a procrastination temptation to a force for good and creativity in your life. Genius!
HabitRPG can be accessed from a regular old computer or from your favorite mobile device. (Your Examiner is a luddite when it comes to mobile devices, though, so she can't tell you much about using the app from an iPhone or a GalaxyTab or whatever the kids are using these days. She's using a laptop, and as soon as she publishes this blog post, she's going to check off a daily item on her task list and get some gold!) And there are other features this blog post has not gone into, such as those that unlock when you reach particular levels (your Examiner is still a lowly Level 1 character), or those that let you interact with other players (your Examiner is sometimes antisocial). Whatever your platform, however you use the app, you are invited to comment below and share your experiences. Did it help you? How did you use it? Have you advice for other users? Do you just wish more people would come hang out with you in the tavern? Sound off about it here!