HabitRPG Makes Improving Yourself Actually Addictive

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habitrpg appChange your habits for the better by tying them into challenges in a role playing game. Level up for doing things you know you should and lose hit points for indulging in habits you know you need to give up. If you love role playing games – and traditional to-do lists aren’t working for you – HabitRPG is highly recommended.

Whether’s its grinding through boring Chocobo races to unlock Knights of The Round or delivering masks to obscure corners of Hyrule to earn a freaking bottle, video games make tasks that would otherwise be mundane interesting. The trick: offering rewards. Leveling up and upgrading equipment feels good in a way that few games can describe to non-gamers.

At the same time most of us spend time doing things we wished we didn’t – browsing the Internet instead of working, for example. And most of us also don’t do things we wish we did – working out, for example, or practicing a musical instrument.

The HabitRPG app tries to capture the wonderfully addictive quality of video games in a way that encourages you to improve your habits. It’s not magic – it only works if you’re honest. But if you can stick to its system you’ll be glad you did.

How It Works

To get started head to HabitRPG.com. You’ll need an account, so create one. When you do you’ll see that the interface consists of experience and HP bars, at the top, and four columns below: Habits, Daily, To Dos and Rewards.

habitrpg app

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The basic concept is simple: Do good things and you’ll level up and earn money for rewards. Do bad things and you’ll take damage, lowering your HP score and possibly killing your character. Points lost and gained happen in the first three columns, which all encourage you do to different sorts of things.

The “Habit” column, for example, is simply a list of habits. Reward yourself for doing good things; punish yourself for doing bad. The system adjusts according to how well you’re doing, so the more you engage in a bad habit the more damage doing so will cause; inversely, the more you engage in good behavior the less it will help you level up. The idea is to subtly train you to stay the course, and to punish you for stopping.

This brings us to an interesting point: this game only works if you’re honest with yourself. If you’re not the sort of person who is willing to record your own mistakes, this probably isn’t for you.

The “Daily” column consists of things you want to do every day. Whether it’s practicing another language, writing a journal entry or exercising, this is the place to put things you know you should be doing every day but always manage to forget.

Fail to complete a daily and your character will take damage. Again, the effects of these daily tasks adjusts to you: if you usually manage one forgetting a day, it won’t do much damage, but neglect it daily and the damage will get worse and worse. On the positive side neglected dailies are worth more experience, encouraging you to tackle them.

Finally we have “tasks”, which is essentially a to-do list. Begin each day by filling in the tasks you need to accomplish and check them off throughout the day. You’ll get experience and gold every time you do, and man: does it feel good.

Tasks you take too long to complete will slowly turn red, meaning they are worth more experience and gold if you can complete them. This is intended to encourage you to do your neglected tasks – and it works better than any mere to-do list ever could.

Charts

Curious how well you’re doing? You can check out a chart of your progress for any habit or daily, showing you days you’ve done well and days you’ve done poorly. You can also chart your overall progress:

habitrpg review

Check back regularly and you’ll learn about yourself – and hopefully be able to improve.

Rewards!

In the fourth column we have rewards, the real reason HabitRPG works as well as it does. In this column you can offer yourself rewards for a set price. You could offer yourself a half hour of television during the work day, for example – whatever you think will motivate you to earn more gold.

There are also in-game rewards. You can upgrade your weapons to earn more experience and gold each time you do well or upgrade your armor to take less damage when you do poorly. Doing both will come in handy, because as in most role playing games each level takes longer to achieve than the level before it. Upgrading your equipment regularly helps you keep pace.

Chrome Extension

But wait…there’s more. A Chrome extension that connects to HabitRPG will automatically do damage to your character when you waste time on unproductive sites.

habitrpg app

Set some web sites to damage your character for lingering and some to help. You can set the time of day you’re supposed to be working, so don’t worry about not being able to browse in your free time.

Seeing that your character is taking damage because you don’t want to close Reddit can really motivate you to change your habits, so installing this is a good idea if time sink sites are a problem for you. Go ahead and download the extension from the Chrome Web Store.

You can check out Productivity Owl if you like this concept but aren’t interested in HabitRPG – it’s similar and far more customizable.

Conclusion

I’ve been consistently using this for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve got to say: it’s working. I’m not sure why imaginary experience points and gold motivate me to do tasks I earn actual money for, but they do. Maybe it will work for you.

If you wish your life was more like a role playing game you could try to start turned-based fights in the street, but I don’t recommend it. Other people rarely respect the turn-based sort of fight you’re trying to start. So this is probably the best tool out there for the job.

HabitRPG is an open source project, meaning you can download it yourself and run it on your own computer – assuming you know your way around a web server. The developer is actively looking for contributions – a recently completed Kickstarter campaign went a long way – so donate if you can.

HabitRPG is not the only way to gamify your life. James pointed out gamification tools to make your life better, including a similar (iPhone only) tool to HabitRPG: Epic Win. He also pointed out tactics for making your new years resolutions stick, so check that out if your resolutions have all gone sour.

What do you think of HabitRPG, and apps like it? Are they useful motivation or a time-wasting distraction among many? I know what I think, but want to hear what you do, so let’s discuss this below.

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Comments (37)
  • Steve M

    Hey guys! I know this comment is being made a couple months after the original post but I’m fairly desperate!

    I’ve just started using HabitRPG and I’m all about it. I’ve got a friend getting into it now too, and a couple other people I’ve sent the link to.

    I’m using it for chores, work, exercise (all the usual) but the problem is, in 7 days I won’t have internet access for months! I work on farms for harvest and most of the time there’s very minimal facilities. I’ll be able to check online once maybe every 2 weeks or so unless I were to walk a good couple miles every day to use some free wifi at the library, but by the end of a day of work out here I can barely move usually.

    There was mention in your post of it being possible to download and run Habit RPB on your own computer IF you know your way around a web-server but alas this SpookyFarmShaman is not so knowledgeable on such subjects unfortunately. I really don’t want to lose my progress :(
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Steve

    • Justin Pot

      I can’t talk you through installing the service on your computer, but you can temporarily turn HabitRPG off by visiting the in-game “Inn”. Click your character, then click the Tavern tab – the innkeeper will ask you if you want to stay.

      Your character won’t take damage while you stay in the inn, and will be waiting for you when you get back to a consistent web connection. Have fun!

    • Steve M

      Ahh, that’s too bad. Working contract for the harvest is such hard work and the harder one works the more one makes. I was really hoping to be able to utilize HabitRPB for the season; Harvest is really a lot like Jedi training. After harvest is done I’m back to sitting drinking colorful drinks on the beach in SE Asia for months, so I imagine there won’t be much internet connection/HabitRPG for quite a while. If you can email me a hint or two on where I might be able to educate myself on how to download the service in the next few days it would be appreciated hugely. If not, such is life, thanks anyways.

      Cheers,
      Steve

    • Justin P

      Yeah, I’ve looked at the official instructions (https://github.com/lefnire/habitrpg/wiki/Running-Locally) but I’ve not gone through the process so I can’t explain it simply. Sorry.

  • Tyler Renelle

    Hey guys, Tyler (the developer) here! Thanks for checking it out. Sorry for the bugs, we’ve almost got them pegged! And we have have a sh-ton of features in the pipe, see https://trello.com/board/habitrpg/50e5d3684fe3a7266b0036d6. It’s gonna be oh-so-fun.

    Also, thanks Justin for this article – you’ve done wonders for Habit’s traffic :o

    • Justin Pot

      Tyler,

      The site’s been getting a lot faster in the past few weeks, and the crashes are almost gone entirely now. I’m really looking forward to these updates, so I can’t wait to see them roll in.

      Oops, I didn’t mean to bring in too much traffic. I’d hate for any crashes to be our fault. :) Was wondering: is there still a place to donate now that the KickStarter is complete?

    • Tyler Renelle

      Pff, Are you kidding? The traffic you brought is nothing but positive! Plus, with each new surge comes another new developer or two that helps out :)

      There’s no donate yet, but a complex pet system is next on the agenda, part of which will take tokens (real money) – see http://goo.gl/Jm94R. I’m telling people if you want to donate, buy yourself a pet (once that’s finished).

  • Guy McDowell

    How did I miss this article? Something like this might actually work for me.

    • Justin Pot

      Is it working?

    • Guy McDowell

      See, there’s the rub. I have to get motivated enough to download it and set it up. ;-)
      But I did make it to the gym last night! So, there’s something.

  • Robert Owens

    This looks like an excellent site! But I’m procrastinating in setting up my goals. A bad character attribute, I suppose.

    To bad there’s no way to re-roll my base stats in real life. :-)

  • Jorge Diaz

    It’s a good idea, I have to set my daily goals in order to acomplish something, also I have to find a way to apply this at my job because every day is not the same and I dont know what I have to do the next day.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.