tool profiles

Tool Profile: Habitica

This post was originally written back in September 2018 for my patreon page. It’s slightly out of date with respect to my priorities and specific tasks but that’s not really important so I’m posting it as-is.

Like many people I often use the beginning of the calendar year to start new stuff. Like far fewer (but still a lot) of people my birthday is in mid January.

Habitica is the first thing I’ve ever taken up at the start of the year and still been doing every day by my birthday, two weeks later. That was in 2015.

my avatar on Habitica. I have a pet robot.

Habitica tells me that I’ve checked in 627 times. Sure, that’s not every day – I generally check myself into the “inn” when I’m on holidays or unwell. But it’s a lot! And the fact that I still keep going back to it speaks to how well it works for me and the way my brain works and what keeps me motivated to keep doing a thing.

And because I am motivated to keep doing the Habitica thing that’s helping me do all the things that Habitica reminds me to do!

Brief Overview

In Habitica you have three types of tasks.

Habits – are things you can do multiple times per day and can be positive  or negative

Dailies – things you can do once per day on a daily or regular basis (every monday, or every 2 days, or every 4 weeks).

Todos – things you do once

Habitica is a real life Role Playing Game (it used to be called HabitRPG!) and you have a little avatar that gains gold and xp when you complete your positive habits, dailies and todos. You lose health by completing negative habits and missing due dailies. (A todo will never cause you to lose health but if you’ve been procrastinating on it for a long time it will give you extra gold and xp for completing it).

By gaining XP you can gain levels which allow you to add stats to your character increasing its strength (helps you do more damage to tasks), intelligence (gains you more mana which you can use for spells), constitution (makes you tougher so your missed dailies don’t hurt so much) and perception (helps you find more gold and random drops when completing tasks).

You can spend your gold on in-game rewards like equipment to equip and dress up your character or you can create custom rewards to reward yourself with real-life stuff.

How I use it

I use Habitica as my “hub” and I have daily tasks on Habitica that remind me to check up on my tasks that I’ve set up in other apps. 

I also use Habitica for tasks that I want to do every single day such as Meditating, Making the Bed, Doing Laundry and Engaging in Leisure (Reading, Gaming or Watching a Movie or TV). As I’ve been using it for 3 years now my character has maxed out in levels and I’ve collected all of the pets and mounts several times. But I still use custom rewards to motivate myself to keep doing my tasks. If I cash in a certain amount of in-game gold I allow myself to purchase an expansion pack for the sims.

initially I had stuff like “playing video games” as a reward itself but I found that having fun stuff as a reward made me feel like I should avoid doing it so that I could save up for something better. And I also felt like when I wasn’t doing so well and wasn’t completing my daily tasks I couldn’t “afford” to have any fun at all. So for that reason I have my rewards as things I purchase for myself and have basic-fun-stuff-I-do-just-for-fun as a daily task instead. 

Although a Habit can have both a positive and a negative aspect to it (so you can set up a habit to be positive for drinking a glass of water and negative for drinking fizzy drink) I find it works better for me to have them separated into stand-alone positive and negative habits. 

My character is a healer which means my tasks don’t damage me very much and I have healing spells. I chose this task because I found that the “stick” aspect of Habitica was not very motivating for me and made me feel like I didn’t want to keep using it. The “carrot” of getting in game rewards and goals works very well on its own.

Because of this I don’t always push myself to complete absolutely every task every day. Giving myself permission to leave some things helps me better assess how much I actually can do because I don’t get stuck in the “well I can’t do all of it I might as well not even open the app!” mindset.

I don’t use the “ToDo”s on Habitica for tasks. Instead I use them for goals I want to reach. Right now my ToDos are about the goals I want to reach with my finances but I lot of the time I leave this area blank.

Things Habitica Does Well

The main thing that makes me keep coming back to Habitica over other gamified task managers I’ve tried is that a daily won’t show you how many days overdue it is. It’s just a thing you need to do today and if you haven’t done it for 2 days or 10 days or whatever it doesn’t show you that. I always found seeing exactly how overdue a task is to feel really demoralising. Instead Habitica colour codes your tasks based on how regularly you do them. Something you do really frequently will be blue – it won’t give you so much of a reward when you complete it, but if you miss a day it won’t hurt as much. Something you find really hard will start to go orange and then red – it does greater damage if you keep missing it but it gives you bigger rewards for completing it since you obviously are finding it hard.

I will often look more closely at my remaining tasks and if I feel like I can only do one or more things for the day I will look at the tasks that are the most red and maybe leave a couple of blue tasks undone instead. If I’ve flossed my teeth every day for a month it’s probably fine to miss a day, you know? 

There is also a social aspect to Habitica – you can join a Party and go on quests with your real-life friends (a quest boss will damage the whole party if you miss your dailies so trying to keep your friends safe from harm can be motivating!) and you can also join Guilds where you can’t do quests but you can do challenges where all the people participating in a challenge will try and do the same set of tasks.

Things Habitica Doesn’t Do Well

So if you love Habitica so much why do you use Todoist as well?

In my opinion Habitica fails at one very important thing – tasks that need to be done at certain intervals but you’re not disciplined enough to actually do them every x days exactly.

While you can set up a task on Habitica to repeat every x days (or weeks, months or even years) it will always become due exactly on those intervals even if you completed it late or early. So if it’s due on every 3rd day and you complete it on the 2nd day it will still be due on the 3rd. You can work around this somewhat by making a note or adding a checklist item when you complete it and then only checking the daily off on the day it’s “due” on Habitica but this really doesn’t work well for me. If I would like to change the bedsheets every 2 weeks then if I leave it for 3 weeks or 4 weeks (or longer! It happens!) I want it to be due 2 weeks after I actually did it.

Todoist (which I’ll go into in another profile) in contrast to Habitica does these sorts of repeating tasks really really well. So I have a lot of repeating housework and social tasks in Todoist instead of Habitica and my Habitica tasks are about whether or not I’ve completed my Todoist tasks in certain projects.

Add Ons and Customisation

If you use Habitica in a browser there are a LOT of extensions and customisations which can customise the experience for you. There are addons that remove the Gamified aspects of the game entirely, or hide all the creepy animals (spiders and skeletons and such), there are ones that change the colours scheme to relaxing purples instead of the intimidating red and orange tasks. I use a browser addon to automatically feed my pets and another add-on to bulk sell my extra items. If you’ve used Habitica and it was perfect just apart from this one thing there might be an addon that fixes that or maybe you could make one if you’re into that kind of thing.

So that’s a little bit about Habitica and how it works for me. If you use Habitica please feel free to comment about what you like (or don’t like!) about it.

If you’ve got a Habitica account or you want to sign up for one my $2 patronage level will grant you an invitation to the STUFF up! your life Habitica Guild. I’ll be putting together some challenges on Habitica to help you try and get the most out of Habitica and keep using it. There is still time to change your pledge before the beginning of the month if you’d like an invitation!