Bored by the prospect of slogging through traditional businessy to-do lists? Take heart: Gamification is rapidly transcending the realm of enterprise apps and making its way into your personal productivity tools, adding a healthy layer of quirky fun to the usual lists and checkboxes.
The premise behind gamification is simple: Exploit the brain's natural mechanism for reward gratification using techniques long since perfected by the casino industry. Track desired behaviors, add a game-like atmosphere, and trigger a few strategically designed flashes and dings to let the dopamine flow whenever the user does good.
Over the last decade, gamification has been become big business in the enterprise software world, where companies have learned to tap the power of game mechanics to unleash their workers' competitive instincts. Now a few cool personal apps are bringing these techniques into the land of desktop, mobile, and web-based productivity tools for regular (albeit very nerdy) folk. Here are five great apps to help you gamify your daily routine.
Price: Free with ads, $5/mo for ad-free version
For anyone who's ever lost a few straight weeks to an immersive string of World of WarCraft raids, the addictive power of role-playing games is a brute fact. If you've found yourself wishing you could apply the motivational magic of RPGs to the rest of your life, HabitRPG may be just the thing to grant that wish.
At its core, HabitRPG is a web app full of smart task lists that you can customize programmatically to reinforce good habits and get things done. But those productivity tools are wrapped in the trappings of fantasy role-play, and every time you check off an item on one of your lists, HabitRPG plays dungeon master for you, rolling its virtual dice and dropping coins, magical items, and other booty as you rack up experience points and level up your character.
As with any RPG, you can customize your character's look, equip items you've won or bought from the market, chat with others in the tavern, and join quests to compel yourself forward in the game. Except that with this game, all the "play" centers around doing what you're supposed to be doing in the real world, and checking those items off your lists.
HabitRPG's best feature is its Habits list, which encourages you to reward yourself for building small, productive habits and give yourself demerits for engaging in unproductive habits. It also separates daily chores from to-dos, which can be helpful in framing your options as you consider what to tackle throughout the day. Its game elements feel a bit contrived, but it's a fun app that gets the productivity play right.
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