Ok… Juniper will nap from 9:30am to 10:30am. When she wakes up, I’ll feed her and then we’ll quickly jump in the car and drive to story time at 11:15am. After story time, we’ll head back home for lunch and then playtime until her next nap. During that nap, we’ll unload the dishwasher, organize the laundry, and clean up the apartment. Once she wakes up, we’ll all take a walk to Boba Guys and do playtime at Dolores Park. We should get home by 5pm, give her a bath, and then have her in bed by 6:30pm. Ready?!?!… Let’s do this!
Post written by Erik van Mechelen, inspired by Yu-kai Chou’s Octalysis framework.
Decluttering your life isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be so hard. The power of applying Octalysis to your lifestyle improvements will be showcased today by example of digital decluttering. This article is as a complement to the previous series on lifestyle gamification.
Unless you are comfortable with creative chaos (I occasionally am), you probably could benefit from a small or large digital declutter.
This guide is a culmination of study by Erik van Mechelen using the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis to improve his life. Based on the Octalysis framework by Yu-kai Chou.
How to Add Epic Meaning and Calling into Your Lifestyle Design: Lifestyle Gamification Examples 1/8
This series is written by Erik van Mechelen, based on the Octalysis framework by Yu-kai Chou.
Gamification in your life
Yes, gamification can be used to improve your lifestyle.
You’re probably already doing it. If you’re a parent helping your child with homework, you’re helping your son or daughter be the best they can be because you believe in education to change their life.
Gamification, depending on how you define it, is essentially positive psychology combined with game design. Throw in a bit of behavioral science, motivation, and design and you have a working definition of gamification.
Yu-kai likes to call this human-focused design (not to be confused with IDEO’s human-centered design).
This contrasts function-focused design (this chair is for sitting, nothing else).
Because human motivation is complex and complicated, we need to account for the various drives that play into it. Why do we want to move towards something better? Or away from something worse? Because we want what’s best for our life. Isn’t it as simple as that?
Simply stated, perhaps. But creating a life is what we are all doing and aim to do each moment of our day. How well you execute or live within the framework and models you’ve constructed (whether internally or externally) give you some experience on the spectrum from suffering to satisfaction.
In Yu-kai’s Octalysis framework, there are 8 Core Drives (and one hidden Core Drive) to behavior. If none of the drives are present, there is no behavior.
In this series, I’ll take each of the Core Drives one at a time to give you a detailed look at how each contributes to lifestyle and how you can apply more or less of each into your lifestyle design to improve your life satisfaction.
How Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling effects your lifestyle
Here’s a short definition of Core Drive 1 from Yu-kai’s “Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards”
Epic Meaning and Calling is the need or the urge to be a part of something much bigger than just yourself. When this drive is activated, participants choose to be members of your system and will take action not because it necessarily benefits them directly, but because it turns them into the heroes of the company’s story.
So how can this be applied to lifestyle gamification? Let’s take just the first line…
Epic Meaning and Calling is the need or the urge to be a part of something much bigger than just yourself.
That’s all we need. Something bigger than just yourself. And something bigger than yourself. Examine the work you’ve done today. You’ve probably done something bigger than yourself on multiple occasions.
All we’re doing now is approaching lifestyle with the same mentality. How are you organizing your lifestyle to account for something beyond just yourself?
What’s more, Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling is White Hat and can produce long-lasting reward loops.
An obvious starter example: Volunteer and Charity
It’s easy to understand how volunteer work and charity often derive from Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling. Whenever you feel the urge to help others without expectation of return, that is, to GIVE, you are embracing compassion and giving. This sharing of your time and exercise of compassion and process of giving helps another individual or your community or even society (something bigger than yourself).
One aspect to notice. What other drives are present when you partake in volunteer and charity work? Usually CD1 is not the only drive present (CD5 is a common). Volunteer groups deliberately incorporate CD2 and CD5 to make volunteering more enjoyable.
The real test of if something is primarily driven by CD1 is if you would incorporate an activity into your life (for a larger purpose) WITHOUT recognition from friends or prompting from others.
A personal note on volunteerism
I do Reading Partners in Minneapolis, MN. I love it.
I like what Jordan B Peterson says about driving toward a better life. For yourself, for your family, for society, and for the world. When your actions improve each of these circles, the behavior feels optimal.
To apply this thinking and consider why the volunteerism feels so good: When I help a 3rd grader reading at a 1st-grade reading level, I’m helping myself be a better teacher, helping the child improve his reading ability, helping his community in the long-term be more literate, helping him be a stronger member of society.
In Adam Grant’s Give and Take, Grant cites research in Australia showing 100 hours is a “magic number” for volunteerism. Below 100 and one could feel more of the positive impact/reward. Above 100 though, and the individual moves toward burnout.
Interestingly, I do 2 hours a week (3 if you count driving time).
Yu-kai’s shift to Octalysis Prime
I don’t know this for sure, but I sense from my interactions with Yu-kai that part of the reason he has shifted to developing content for Octalysis Prime is because it has the potential to fulfill a larger Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling imperative for him. If he gets the change to improve lifestyle and workplace outcomes for people, and those people’s lives change so they can change the world, then Yu-kai has changed the world himself.
This is a different focus to his traditional design emphasis in his gamification consulting business.
Editing book for Vasco, 3x tech founder, about the dark side of founder psychology
I recently started content editing and collaborating with Vasco Patricio, a 3x tech startup founder from Portugal.
The opportunity gives me the chance to improve the following:
personal, improve my editing and writing and critiquing
startup founders, improves quality of life for startup tech founders, prepares the ones that will and dissuades those that aren’t cut out, and prevents suicide for those that are considering it
startup ecosystem, adds to growing concern and conversation, the truth that media or the industry won’t share… suicides are UP
the world, startups generally add innovation and can change the world, and this will be part of that conversation
In conclusion, your meaning ACTUALLY needs to matter
Some people do charity because they feel others will look down on them for not doing it.
This occurred in my team at Target. People would shrug and go because it was a team event. This even happened to me. I would have rather done a reading volunteer event than a food-packing event.
In essence, some of my team weren’t doing the volunteer event because they wanted to plant trees and regrow Minneapolis parks/wildlife areas, but rather because they felt compelled by CD5 and CD8.
ESPECIALLY when we’re talking about your LIFE, you best not bullshit yourself. You need to think really hard and feel out your emotions and reactions.
Start from first principles if you can. What would make a better life for me? For my family? For my community? Society? The world? Then build epic meaning & calling into your day-to-day.
When I took a few moments to answer these questions (using the Future Authoring program), it became very clear which epic meanings mean most to me and what I’m called to do. The beauty of our world is that there are many epic meanings and callings out there to pursue.
In life, you must do what you cannot not do.
How to Add Development and Accomplishment into your Lifestyle Design: Lifestyle Gamification Examples 2/8
This series is written by Erik van Mechelen, based on the Octalysis framework by Yu-kai Chou.
A reminder about Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment
This is the Core Drive where people are driven by a sense of growth towards a goal and accomplishing it.
He also uses an example from the early days of social media to describe how bells and whistles weren’t working as people expected. Points, badges, and leaderboards were the vanity metrics of online publishing:
What most people didn’t recognize then was that social media is much deeper than simply possessing and posting on profile accounts. That’s just the outer shell of its influence and impact. We now know today that great social media campaigns focus on how to create value for the audience by sharing information that is insightful and engaging; has a personal voice; engages and sincerely interacts with each potential customer; and much, much more.
In essence, the beauty of social media was in how you designed and implemented a campaign, not in the bells and whistles you’ve used. It was the informal and formal dialogue you had with your community that ultimately taps into the platform’s unique possibilities.
There’s quite a bit more to consider, especially when considering how to use CD2 in a lifestyle design, but first let’s look at what not to do from a real-life example…my own.
The vanity metrics of writing
“Write everyday” is advice many writers will give new writers. If you’re not writing, how can you be improving. Writing frequently is surely a viable (if not the best) path to being a great writer.
This is good advice up to a point.
I followed this advice and kept word-count goals. I felt pretty good about my streaks of weeks and months of writing every day.
But nothing really happened. I wasn’t getting that much better at writing just by typing. I sought advice.
Then I realized it depends on what you mean by writing.
Because the next piece of advice that hit home was this:
All writing is rewriting.
In order to rewrite something, you must have written something. I slowly started to understand that speed of writing mattered so much less than my ability to write well and then pick apart what I’d written to improve it even more.
I felt foolish for writing 10,000 or even 15,000 words in a single day (and being proud of it). Once, I wrote 17,000 words in one day and thought I was some sort of writing god.
But typing does not equal being a better writer or a better storyteller, two aspects of being a great novelist.
In the classroom, there is a list of names and star stickers for each time a student returns with their take-home book.
One of my students has a single star. Only one. By the way, he got it because everyone gets a sticker to start the year. He has never brought a book back. I have some guesses as to why, but lets at least say this:
The star stickers, no matter how shiny, are less motivating than however else he is using the book.
Adding CD2 into your life
Development and accomplishment is easy to understand because it easily fits into narratives and stories we tell ourselves and others throughout the day.
Your spouse is taking off in the morning and asks, what is on your list today? Then you list off some projects you’ll tackle. At day’s end, you’ll talk about what you did or didn’t do. The story of your day. You might even attach significance or mood to whether you accomplished these tasks.
Someone who obsesses over the accomplishment piece is likely an Achiever (in the Player Type model) and might be overly concerned with accomplishment. This is usually the person who makes the occasional or frequent mistake of “being busy” instead of doing things that matter.
Yu-kai echoes this in his book:
However, just because you see progress towards something does not mean you feel accomplished.
The key to Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment is to make sure users are overcoming challenges they can be proud of.
Jane McGonigal, renowned game designer and PhD in Performance Studies, defines games as “unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to tackle.”
McGonigal points out that the challenge and limitation is what makes a game fun. For example, if golf were just a game with a goal without any limitations, then every play would just pick up the ball and put it into the hole. Everyone would score high, and everyone beyond the “putting a round peg through a round hole” game will probably not be very engaged.
Actually using CD2 effectively
I previously wrote about Moti, which is basically an environmental cue robot. Their core concept is to use the robot as an environmental cue to trigger CD2-related behaviors, such as beginning a yoga session or picking up the guitar to practice. Becuase the robot lives on, say, your living room coffee table, and verbally reminds you of these things (and gives rewarding murmurs) it also serves as an environmental cue just by being there in the room.
This example of environmental cues got me thinking about routines.
It is no secret that routines matter a lot to actually getting things done. This is true in lifestyle design as well. Try typing “morning routing” or “evening routine” into a search engine and you will have no trouble getting advice.
The key is to start from first principles for YOU. What are one or two things that would make your lifestyle better, for YOU?
My girlfriend and I use Wunderlist to track our household chores and nice-to-haves around the apartment. It’s fun because we can take care of things for each other regardless of who added them to the list.
One sure-fire way to ensure I read fiction is to read in-progress work from peers. In 2016 I created a writing feedback community for speculative fiction writers. We share short stories and give feedback.
I now take part of two mornings per week to give detailed feedback. It’s impossible to do so without having read the short story or novella or section of the novel they posted.
I love reading, but I don’t always jump to do this work. So I’ve simply put it on my calendar for two mornings a week.
For my larger reading goals, I use Goodreads. Between Audible, Scribd, the Kindle app, and print volumes on my bookshelf, I read a lot. Some would count this as work, and sometimes it is, but my reading time is often between two and four hours per day. If you read the first article in this series, you’ll find for a variety of reasons that reading fits into my epic meaning & calling in storytelling.
Even though I would read even if no one cared what I read and no one was watching, Goodreads is a simple solution to help me track what I read. It gives me progress bars and reading goals which I can update daily or weekly. This has proved a good bonus to my desire to read by making it even more enjoyable to read and complete books and gain knowledge from them.
To-do lists or to-done lists?
Our bodies do things without our attention. Our physiology and our emotions and even ideas that arise are automatic.
Then we respond.
This is easy to understand. But what do you do with this reality? How can you harness this understanding to get better moment to moment experience and long-term results?
I’ve never done well with to-do lists. They either spiral out of control like a massive brainstorm (braindump) or I get part way through the list and don’t see the reason in doing the second half, either for lack of motivation or because the second half of the list seems insignificant.
For me, writing down what I did is powerful, and more powerful than what I aim to do.
It helps me avoid thinking:
Look at all this stuff I didn’t do.
Instead, I give myself permission to be “unfocused” for three minutes to do a mini blog post about a “random” topic. That random topic could lead to a new follower or a business deal. Actually, a “random” blog post on Article Bunny was how I met Jun Loayza and eventually how I met Yu-kai Chou. If I’d stuck to my to-do list I wouldn’t have taken the 4 hours to take the opportunity as my dad likes to say “when the iron was hot”.
Consider rewards, extrinsic, and intrinsic
From Nir Eyal we know we can put ourselves through trigger, action, reward (variable), investment cycles. If you’re trying to add habits or institute new morning routines, this CAN work.
Also consider B. J. Fogg’s model: behavior = motivation + action + trigger.
The type of reward you give yourself matters. Will the reward make you feel good in the long-run? This is something to watch. To see if your behavior is changing for the better.
You can also implement negative rewards, which can work in the short-term as experiments.
My experience is I prefer to shoot for positives than avoid negatives. But life is usually a bit of both.
Extrinsic vs intrinsic for CD2
Yu-kai usually describes CD2 as extrinsic-focused, but I want to mention something about the intrinsic side of it as I view the framework.
Let’s take a day where I have physically moved backwards in my novel-writing. I’ve noticed some big problems in a scene sequence and will have to remove a character. I’m actually going to have to do more work before the scene sequence is “done” again. This process removes the accomplishment that I might have had the previous day, ie completing that scene sequence. However, there is some intrinsic development of noticing that problem, because my UNDERSTANDING of storytelling has increased. This is not a tangible understanding…it is only my subjective view about my own understanding of a very untangible thing. In this way, I can feel GREAT about moving backwards on a goal so long as it is balanced by the intrinsic development reward. I’m a better storyteller because of that breakthrough, so will write better stories and story parts and scene sequences from here forward.
A note on encouraing others (and father-son relationships)
A different example:
My dad in retirement sails more and plays golf more. His golf score doesn’t always improve. It moves like the stock market or a rollercoaster, rising and falling. He complains about this because it doesn’t feel like he’s getting the CD2 when his score is worse than the day prior.
I usually start by pointing to his trend, which is downward and a good thing in golf.
But even IF his score trend was worse, could it be that his swing has improved? Tiger Woods famously changed his coach and swing, but it took another 2 years for him to get back to his typical scores in tournaments. But the swing itself was objectively better for his overall game.
Embrace the journey
Enjoying the downs as well as the ups is key, I think. It’s hard to have one thing without the contrast of the other. But actually enjoying the down parts can give you even greater gains. Instead of frustration, we can enjoy the downs and get value from them to make the ups even better when they come.
Watch out for vanity metrics or vanity CD2.
Look for the intrinsic even with CD2, and think holistically about your lifestyle design. What small behavior or routine or habit can you try to build which will help everything else? (Yes, that’s a Halo Effect.)
We all strive to be more productive: to have more energy, to accomplish more in a day, to hit our goals, to be the best possible versions of ourselves that we can be. But of course, we all face challenges that keep us from achieving our peak selves: we watch TV, we watch Youtube, we sleep in, we do everything possible to avoid the work that we need to be doing.
If life is a game, then we can hack our lives using Gamification to motivate, drive, or trick ourselves into being more productive.
The following are the 10 best productivity apps that use Gamification to improve your productivity, health, and financial habits.
The 10 best productivity apps that utilize Gamification
10. Todoist Karma – gamified productivity app that uses Karma as a measure of progress
How it works: First in our list at #10 is Todoist Karma, a simple, easy to use task manager that utilizes a point system to rank a player and get them motivated to complete objectives. When tasks are completed, the player gets Karma. When tasks are postponed for later, the player loses Karma.
Why it works:
Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment: Todoist Karma does a great job at showing a player their progress over time. They have great charts and analytics that show a detailed view of how productive a player is. Players are motivated to complete tasks to earn Karma and improve their charts.
Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance: Players hate losing things that they’ve earned. The threat of losing Karma for postponing or failing on tasks drives a player to complete objectives so that they can retain their status.
9. Smarty Pig – gamified productivity app for finance
How it works: Smarty Pig is a personal finance app that helps you achieve your purchasing goals. Let’s say you want to buy a new refrigerator. Well, with Smarty Pig, you set the refrigerator as a savings goal and then automatically deposit money from your bank account to your Refrigerator account. You’ll slowly fill your progress bar (savings account) until you’re 100% complete and you can buy that refrigerator guilt free.
Why it works:
Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment: Smarty Pig uses CD2 very well in two ways: 1) it makes the savings process incredibly easy. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it approach that makes you feel smart and financially savvy; 2) instead of a meaningless progress bar, Smarty Pig replaces it with progress that leads to a real world purchase. When you hit your objective, you not only feel good, but you have something to show for it.
Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession: As you rack up the dollars in your savings account, you’ll feel greater ownership of your accounts and pride in your ability to save money. Furthermore, Smarty Pig does a great job at encouraging you to spend your money once you’ve achieved your savings goals.
8. Fitocracy – gamified productivity app for fitness
How it works: Many people want to work out, but they have to battle against sleeping in, eating chips, watching Netflix on the couch, or late nights at the office. It can be incredibly difficult to get motivated and head to the gym. Fitocracy aims to drive people to live a healthier life by gamifying fitness and nutrition. They turn working out into an RPG (role playing game), where you earn experience and level up the more you work out and eat healthy.
Why it works:
Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment: Fitocracy gives the player the feeling of progress and improvements through earning experience, leveling up, achievements, and quests. It’s their way of turning fitness into a game.
Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness: Fitocracy excels at helping players find small online fitness groups that encourage each other to work out and eat healthy. By being the platform where groups communicate and encourage each other, Fitocracy taps into the Right-Brain Core Drives of its players, driving them to workout for intrinsic reasons (for example, because they don’t want to let their team down).
7. Bounty Tasker – gamified productivity app for to-do lists
How it works: Bounty Tasker takes the concept of a real life RPG to the next level. At its core, Bounty Tasker is a to-do list, but what really sets it apart is its Gamification elements. As a player, you get to choose and customize your character and assign yourself tasks that give you experience upon completion. As you gain in experience, you level up and earn items to outfit your character.
Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback: CD3 is where Bounty Tasker truly shines. Players get to customize their characters as they level up and earn items. This loop of accomplishing tasks, leveling up, gaining items, and customizing characters keeps the player motivated to keep playing.
6. Challenge Timer – gamified productivity app for the Pomodoro Method
How it works: Challenge Timer uses the Pomodoro method to break large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. Unlike most Pomodoro timers, Challenge Timer lacks a pause button, forcing you to finish your task during the given time period.
Why it works:
Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment: like most productivity apps, Challenge Timer uses CD2 to drive users to complete tasks and objectives. When you complete a task, it gets marked off as “achieved”, making the user feel good about their work.
Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience: the lack of a pause button creates a limited, forced window for you to complete your task. By limiting your ability to get distracted, Challenge Timer forces you to stay focused.
Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance: if you get distracted or need to stop your task, then you have to click on the “Forfeit Work Session” button–admitting defeat. Players don’t like to lose or get defeated, so this drives them to stay focused and complete the task.
5. Beeminder – gamified productivity app that puts your money on the line
How it works: At it’s core, Beeminder is quite straightforward:
Set a goal
Did you complete your goal?
Yes: great, keep it up!
No: we take your money
What!?!?!… yup, that’s right, if you don’t hit the daily or weekly goals that you set with Beeminder, then they take $5 from your credit card (it’s their business model). Sound extreme? Maybe, but it’s quite effective for people that only get motivated when they’re about to lose something.
Why it works:
Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment: Beeminder uses a “yellow brick road” to keep you on track. Everyday it asks you if you accomplished your goal and to quantify it (quantification is key). If you’re on track, then you stick on the yellow brick road. If you get off track, then you have 24 hours to get back on track or else Beeminder charges you $5.
Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance: CD8 is a big part of Beeminder. If you get off track and don’t hit your objectives, then you get charged $5. For some players, they need skin in the game and the thought of losing something to get them motivated to take action.
4. Epic Win – gamified productivity app for those that want to level up their life
How it works: Epic Win takes the concept of a real life RPG and makes it super fun with great artwork, fun animations, and a system that truly feels like a game you would pay for on the app store. The character designs are imaginative, fun, and quite customizable for a productivity app.
Why it works:
Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment: In Epic Win, the player creates tasks and assigns them experience points. As the player achieves tasks and levels up, the player can customize their character with loot.
Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession: the more that you customize your character, the more ownership you’ll feel for them. This drives the player to keep making progress and upgrade the character even more.
3. SuperBetter – the gamified productivity app for recovery and wellness
How it works: SuperBetter was designed by Jane McGonigal to help players live a healthier, more fulfilling life. To accomplish this goal, SuperBetter is a game where players design their “epic win” and go on quests to accomplish objectives. Players design their quests, team up with allies, identify “bad guys” or actions that are counterproductive, and create power ups throughout their journey in real life.
Why it works:
Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment: SuperBetter utilizes player stats to motivate players to take action and accomplish their goals. Players can create their own quests to move towards accomplishing their epic win.
Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness: CD5 is where SuperBetter really shines. Not only can you add friends as Allies in the game, but Allies can add Quests to your Quest Board. In the video above, Jane’s friend knows that she is trying to recover from a concussion. He creates a Quest on her board to walk together on the Embarcadero, knowing that this will help her recover from her concussion.
2. Forest App – the beautiful gamified productivity app that helps save the world
How it works: When it’s time to focus, open the Forest app and plant a seed, signifying that it’s time to focus. If you stay focused on your task, then the seed will grow into a might tree! However, if you leave the app to check on something like Facebook, then your little seedling will whither away.
Why this works: Forest app is an amazing app because it utilizes many core drives to Gamify your life:
Core Drive 4: Ownership & Possession: the more you play the game and be productive, the more trees you’ll plant and the bigger your forest. You’ll want to keep playing because you feel ownership of your forest and you want it to keep growing.
How it works: Similar to other real life RPGs listed above, Habitica aims to gamify your life. Habitica has earned the #1 spot on our list because it boasts over 2,000,000 users and is a completely open source project. In Habitica, players create their character, create their Guilds where they team up with other players, and take on quests and defeat monsters to accomplish their objectives.
Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness: this is where Habitica truly shines. Because it has over 2,000,000 players, it’s easy to get involved with a Guild and go on quests together. The community, camaraderie, and opportunity to meet others truly makes this game stand out.
Did we miss any Gamified Productivity Apps that should be on our list?
Let us know if you have created a gamified productivity app or use one that you believe should be on our list and we’ll review it. If it blows us out of the water, then it could make our top 10 list!
This article was written by Contributing Writer Erik van Mechelen.
Kids don’t like chores
Getting kids active and participating in household chores has many benefits, but have you ever had trouble persuading your kids to help out around the house?
I know as I kid I wasn’t easily persuaded to do things that weren’t my idea. In Gabon, when I was four, my parents couldn’t even get me to try a single slice of pizza! (Eventually, I tried it and thought it tasted amazing.)
Chores felt like work, which was worse than homework. I’d finally finish my homework, be ready to play, then BAM, my mom or dad would show up with a chore to do. (Chores often are work.)
My guess is a lot of parents don’t bother with getting their kids to help out with household chores. These parents probably have excuses like:
“Too much effort to keep them motivated.”
“The kids will just whine and complain.”
“It will be faster to do the chores ourselves.”
But these parents are missing a great opportunity to implement lifestyle gamification to motivate and reward their kids for helping around the house. Busy parents, take note!