Gamify your life and build better habits
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.”
“You find the fun and snap! The job’s a game!” So said Mary Poppins and her advice still stands.
You might not have the original super nanny’s magical carpet bag, but you can make almost any task a game thanks to a growing range of apps and online platforms.
What is gamification?
Just like Jane and Michael did in their London nursery, gamification allows you to find the fun in the everyday. It can turn chores and tasks into challenges and rewards, allowing you to feel like you have achieved a little something extra beyond the mundane.
Where Mary Poppins used songs and supernatural powers, modern gamification uses apps, websites and connected devices.
There are dozens of gamification platforms available, all of which reward you in some way, whether it is with points, virtual stickers, or by moving you up a level.
In some cases, you can pit yourself against real-world opponents, comparing your results to theirs to become the best of the best.
The benefits of gamification
Gamifying your life is fun! The hidden benefit is that this practice can improve your fitness and your discipline (not to mention the state of your house).
Using this method to motivate yourself can make simple activities less tedious and it can also give you the patience to stick at something that takes a long time to deliver rewards (yes, we’re talking about personal fitness).
The developers of personal development app SuperBetter claim that there are psychological as well as physical benefits.
The theory is that living “gamefully” allows you to tap into the optimism, creativity and determination that you use when you’re playing a video game.
Six gamification apps to try
Habitica / Habit RPG
Image courtesy: Habitica on the Google Play store
If you like to win at everything, this mobile / desktop app is definitely for you. Once you have set up an account, Habitica (AKA Habit RPG) can turn your entire life into a ‘quest’ style game, or you can just use it for a few specific tasks if you'd prefer.
You can use it to form better habits for everyday chores like flossing your teeth, or even inspire yourself to get a promotion at work.
When you play this game, you create to-do lists, daily tasks, and figure out positive habits you want to build in order to be rewarded with gear and accessories.
If you miss a task you lose health and your online avatar suffers, kind of like an old-school Tamagotchi, but one that gets you a more organised life, instead of a tongue-lashing from your fifth grade teacher.
Image courtesy: SuperBetter on the Google Play store
This platform claims that studies have shown it results in “improved mood…and increased belief in the ability to successfully achieve goals”.
Available online and as a smartphone app, SuperBetter gamifies your goals, allowing you to connect with other users to overcome bad habits and make positive changes in your life.
Image courtesy: ChoreMonster on the Google Play store
Great for keeping your family in check, this app really is your modern day Mary Poppins. ChoreMonster claims to do the impossible by making chores fun for kids.
Kids earn points by doing their chores, which can go towards winning ‘Monsters’ on the app and physical rewards chosen by you like ice cream or extra TV time.
Image courtesy: Zombies, Run! on the Google Play store
What could be more of a motivation to get and stay in shape than the zombie apocalypse? This tongue-in-cheek ‘adventure’ is an “ultra-immersive running game and audio adventure” that makes every run a mission.
You can train at your own speed, using music and storylines to “become the hero”. The game encourages you to collect virtual supplies which you lose if you drop your pace.
Just don’t slow down too much, or you might be caught by a pursuing horde of zombies!
Image courtesy: Strava on the Google Play store
Those in the mood for something more serious can create an account on running / cycling platform Strava.
This global app lets you track your runs and your progress, mapping out your activities so you can see how well you have been doing.
A highly motivating feature of Strava is that you can complete the same route or course as other member and then compare results. Winners get crowned ‘King of the Mountain’, but there is never someone far behind!
Image courtesy: Pokémon Go on the Google Play store
Release in July 2016, Pokémon Go quickly became a phenomenon, with people around the world heading outside to “catch ‘em all”. While this game doesn't let you target any specific chores or habits you want to improve on, it is a good way to get you off the couch and out for a walk.
The brilliance of this augmented reality game is that it encourages exercise and exploration. You have to visit local spots to find the animated monsters and travel between ‘gyms’ to make the most of them.
Special ‘Pokéstops’ can provide you with eggs, which only incubate and hatch once you have walked a certain distance.
Don’t think you can cheat by using some other form of transport – the app interfaces with Google Maps, which can tell the difference between walking and any alternative you might use.
You might even end up finding secluded little local treasures, like a hidden rest area or out-of-the-way café in places that you may otherwise have never had reason to explore. The addictive nature of this game makes taking a walk an irresistible prospect.
Just make sure you're paying attention to where you're going and not walking around with your eyes glued to your screen!
The great thing about using gamification to help improve your life is that the more you achieve online, the more you can be achieving in the real world, even if it is just regularly remembering to take a walk, make your bed, or clean the kitchen after dinner.