I used to be really bad at staying hydrated. So bad, in fact, that my elbows were rough and angry all the time because they were too dry.
Now, as of this writing, I have consumed at least 60 oz of water for 270 days straight.
I’ve mentioned Habitica before, but I wanted to devote an entire post to how I’ve used it since December 2018 to build positive habits and improve my quality of life all around, especially in the areas of physical health, mental health, and creativity.
Habitica is a user-driven habit-forming game-service that lets you pretend you’re a character from an RPG who’s slowly gaining levels, gear, and enchanted animal companions — all for the low, low price of building good habits and breaking bad ones. It’s free, though you can support the development of the game (it’s all crowd-funded and open source) by purchasing “gems” that unlock special critters and quests.
If you’re at all motivated by gamification, you’ll want to check out Habitica. You can get a mobile app on both Android and iOS and it’s a very welcoming website as well.
I’m not going to try to pitch you on Habitica too much, but if you do check it out, here are some notes and tips from how I’ve been using it to get my writing on track, so you can kickstart your #authorlife habit-forming and bad habit-smashing!
Opening the app is half the battle
And the other half is setting yourself up for success!
If you’re serious about using Habitica, put it somewhere on your phone that you’ll see it constantly and start to open it by reflex rather than having to go hunt it down.
Then, go onto the web version when you’re sitting in front of a computer, and type in all your tasks. Of course you’ll end up adding to them as you think of new things you want to track, give yourself credit for, or form a habit for, but if you do a lot of the legwork in one or two shots, the friction between you and successful gamification is significantly lowered.
Utilize the different types of tasks
There are three types of tasks in Habitica: Dailies, Habits, and To-Dos. Dailies are surfaced for you every day that you specify they should appear (every day or every, say, Sunday and Wednesday). Habits are tracked on a recurring basis and you can specify whether you want to track a streak every day, week, or month. To-Dos are one-offs, one-time tasks for which you get a lot of experience points.
I use each type of task for its own kind of writing-related habit:
- My daily: 📝 Write something! I tried a few different tactics for getting myself to write every single day — “one word sprint,” “write 100 words,” “work on one story.” Nothing worked until I landed on this very low-pressure task: write something, anything counts. Give yourself this kind of achievable low-pressure criteria for your dailies.
- My habits: ✍ Write 500 words, 🗺 Work on a world, 📣 Post on the blog. These are things I want to practice doing on a regular basis, and don’t want to lose sight of because it boosts my overall capability to create or make money off my art. Checking off these kinds of tasks creates a reinforced feeling of positivity about doing and making. Give yourself these kinds of concrete goals as your habits — don’t let yourself slip into vagueries!
- My to-dos: 🐲 Outline “A God Grown Old”, ✒ Do bracket pass on “Short Story Boot Camp.” These are also concrete goals, but they’re larger, and longer-term. Set the final milestone for your long-term projects as your to-dos.
Break down big goals into achievable tasks
The kinds of longer-term goals I set as my to-dos can be broken down using the checklist feature in Habitica — both to give yourself better rewards for milestones in the overarching task, and also so that you always know what achievable task you can do next! This latter provides peace of mind that you’re on top of your project, even if you aren’t actively working on it right now.
Always have the next step(s) in your checklist. It’s a good habit to add the next sub-task each time you check one off… unless you’re checking off the final sub-task, of course!
Join a party and go on quests
One of the things I like most about Habitica is the very lightweight accountability it provides. I’m in a party with Jake, Amy, and Julie, and we’ve taken on some really high-level quests against difficult bosses. When we don’t complete tasks, everyone takes a hit.
This plays right into my gamer guilt, and I’m definitely more likely to squeeze in a few extra good habits at the end of the night just so I don’t kill my friends’ virtual avatars on accident. If you’re similarly motivated, you may find this an extremely useful tool for tricking yourself into productivity and good health.
Give yourself credit
Something I’ve found that gets me to open the Habitica app more often is giving my character experience points for things that happen every day, whether at my job or in my personal life — such as 📦 Organize something and 🧼 Straighten desk. More often than not I end up checking off my ✍ Write something! habit because of a document I created on the job as because of a short story I work on after hours. It’s a nice reminder to myself that I do a lot of the things I want to stay sharp on every day, even if I can’t make extra time for them after work.
I add cute or funny related emoji before or after my task titles, and I’m several times more likely to open the app and enjoy looking at them. It’s a dumb little hack but it’s worked wonders for me!
If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.