This post was recently updated to reflect the 10 best productivity apps that use Gamification for 2023
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 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback: Smarty Pig let’s you name your financial goals, giving you the creative freedom to save for whatever you’d like.
- 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.
Why it works:
- Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment: Of course CD2 will make an appearance here. Bounty Tasker makes it fun to turn your tasks into a game.
- 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 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback: The artwork in Epic Win is fun and exciting. As you progress through the game by completing tasks, you gain loot and can customize your character.
- 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 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback: Players use their creativity to craft the quests that will accomplish 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 1: Epic Meaning & Calling: users can spend virtual coins they earn to plant real trees in real life! How amazing is that–be productive and save the planet!
- Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment: of course, every productivity app leverages CD2. Accomplish your task and you will grow a tree.
- 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.
- Core Drive 5: Social Influence & Relatedness: ability to compete with friends.
- Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance: if you get distracted, then your tree withers and dies. It’s crazy, but the thought of your virtual tree dying truly motivates a player to complete the objective.
1. Habitica (HabitRPG) – the gamified productivity app that turns life into a game
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.
Why it works:
- Core Drive 2: Development & Accomplishment: set tasks, slay monsters, achieve your goals.
- Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback: like many of the other real life RPGs, Habitica allows players to customize their character and quests.
- 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!
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