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Habitica users create RPG-like characters, who are powered when the user crosses things off their to-do lists. Photo: Habitica.
Habitica users create RPG-like characters, which receive power when users cross items off their to-do lists. Photo: Habitica.

There are hundreds of productivity apps out there, with complex tools that promise to help users get their to-do lists and long-term goals in order. But personally, I’ve never found any of these apps engaging enough to keep using after a week or so — until I found Habitica.

Working towards rewards, like leveling up or getting new items, keeps users engaged and on top of their long -term goals. Photo: Habitica.
Working towards rewards, like leveling up or getting new items, keeps users engaged and on top of their long-term goals. Photo: Habitica.

Habitica is a community-focused app that turns to-do lists into a fully fledged Role Playing Game, complete with quests for users to embark on and monsters to defeat.

The game has a retro, 8-bit feel, but functions like an RPG. Users play as an in-app character, and their character will gain or lose health and resources depending on how well users keep up with their habits and tasks.

Users can create and join parties of other players to go on quests, and if they keep keep their stats up they can win prizes, earn more gear, and even adopt pets.

Habitica’s productivity tool is composed of two kinds of tasks: repeated tasks, which can be good habits or bad habits, and one-time tasks, like a traditional to-do list. For example, one of my daily tasks right now is to floss my teeth, and one of my one-time tasks is to email my landlord about a broken light.

When users add a task, they can customize it by choosing its difficulty level, setting reminders to complete it, and also choosing if and when a task repeats.

When users practice good habits or check of tasks, their in-app character will gain health or money — so when I floss my teeth every night, my character gets 6 gold, and when I finally email my landlord I might gain health.

But if users practice bad habits, or miss deadlines on their tasks, they lose health and resources, and sometimes their entire party will suffer.

Users can also join challenges, groups of people working towards the same goal, and that group’s tasks will be added to their lists. Challenges have wildly different functions, from communities who want to work on their photography skills to those dedicated to supporting users with eating disorders.

I’ve found Habitica’s feature of repeated, habitual tasks and focus on community has actually helped me stay on top of forming good habits and discouraging bad ones.

Because I’m trying to eat healthier, I created a daily task of eating protein and a bad habit of eating sugary foods, and I was shocked by how much this impacted my food choices. Sometimes that extra motivation is all it takes to grab an apple instead of a cookie.

I was also surprised how much the in-game rewards motivated me to check things off my to-do list. When I would normally put off tasks like vacuuming my apartment, I might do it because it would get me enough gold to buy a new shield I’ve been eyeing.

The community aspect of Habitica also makes the game more fun. The app has several social functions, primarily the parties, which users can create or join to go on quests.

Users can join parties to fight monsters with friends. Photo: Habitica.
Users can join parties to fight monsters with friends. Photo: Habitica.

You can also chat with other users, either one-on-one or by visiting the Tavern, the app’s message board, and you can barter and exchange goods with members of your party.

Habitica’s community is extensive, with lots of action in the Tavern as well as on the game’s Subreddit and Facebook page. This isn’t a huge surprise given how the app was built: although the app has a small team of developers, it is open source and also relies on the work of volunteer developers, or “blacksmiths.”

Blacksmiths fix bugs and make updates proposed by users through the app’s GitHub page (there’s also a Wiki, a blog, and a Trello board to help organize the blacksmiths).

Overall, Habitica is a fun, engaging way to stay on top of long-term goals and short-term tasks alike, and its unique setup and community give users that extra motivation we all need from time to time. It’s available for free for iOS and Android.

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