Be More Productive by Making Your Life a Game

How do you motivate yourself?

Do you reward yourself or promise yourself other perks?

If so, you may already be doing what many products are trying to do which is to motivate you by making it a game.

Do you think you would be more productive if your life was a game?

Gamification is Not a Game

Gamification is one of the most overused buzzwords of the year.

It is a powerful technique, however most people are misusing the term.

Gamification is not about turning the user experience into a game, per se.

It is about driving behavior.

Gamification is not about games.

Rather, it is about engagement, motivation, and enjoyment.

Gamification motivates you to do things because you want to see the results of getting them done.

It’s why we add an already completed todo to our list… just so we can cross it off.

It’s why we promise ourselves little rewards… if we accomplish a specific task.

We often make little games of our activities and don’t even realize it.

However, gamification requires four things:

  1. Goal: There must be a something that you are trying to accomplish. Otherwise, there is no purpose in continuing the actions.
  2. Engagement: There must be something that engages or captures one’s imagination. This can be the fun or enjoyment factor.
  3. Motivation: Gamification makes you want to see the result of your actions. It can be as simple wanting to see the completion of a task or earning a reward. Note: It is possible to have a negative consequence for one to avoid. However that often breaks the engagement factor (#2) and can lead to abandonment of the game.
  4. Rewards: Every game has to have a reward. The user must get satisfaction from playing. It can be subtle, like the “rush” we get by crossing off a completed todo. Or it can be a direct reward for accomplishing a task.

Be More Productive By Making It A Game

How do you motivate yourself by making things a game?

I wanted to give you three examples of apps that help drive your actions with gamification. (The third one is an exception, but worth examining.)

Here are three apps that drive your behavior through engagement and gamification:

Habit List

Habit List is an app which helps you build new habits. The app lets you track your daily accomplishment of habits and mark them with an “X” on a calendar. In the screenshot, you can see my habit tracking of “taking my vitamins.”

Let’s take a look at the 4 gamification requirements:

1.Goal: Create a new habit. You define what you want to track and accomplish each day.

2. Engagement: The simple yet effective user interface let you graphically track your habit accomplishments.

3. Motivation: The app motivates you by presenting you current success rate, as well as how many days in a row you have completed a habit. I find myself not wanting to break my success streak and this keeps me on task.

4. Reward: You get see your “score” of completion %, your Current and Longest Streak.

Get Habit List in the App Store.


Fitocracy has single-handedly helped me reinvigorate my workouts and physical fitness.

It is not a simple workout tracking app, but rather a community and environment to keep you on task.

Fitocracy lets you track your workouts and you earn points, level ups, and more by completing your exercises. Additionally, you can receive “props” or encouragement from other members.

1. Goal: Improve your workouts and physical fitness.

2. Engagement: The interface is slick, easy to use, and provides your workout history. I find myself want to track my progress in the app.

3. Motivation: Motivation comes from the community and sharing your workouts. I often get “props” and motivational words from members that I don’t even know directly. Also, you find yourself wanting to sharing your progress.

4. Rewards – You earn points, quests, and more from your workouts. Earn enough points and you “Level Up.” I am currently Level 13, and while I am not sure that means anything… it feels good.

Get Fitocracy in the App Store.


I am including FourSquare in this list because it is used by many as “the example” of mobile app gamification.

If you haven’t used Foursquare, it is a geo check-in application that lets you “check-in” to physical locations when you are visiting them.

Foursquare has always done a great job with the “gaming” side of the app.

For example, if you are the person that checks into a location the most often (say a restaurant)… then you are rewarded with the honorary title of “Mayor” of that location.

The curious problem with Foursquare is that it seems to be missing the most important requirement. (#1 above) The user doesn’t really have a goal in using it.

However, let’s take a look.

I used Foursquare to check into my gym long before I met Fitocacy. And as you can see from the screenshot above, I have a 58 week “streak” going at the gym. That definitely motivates me to keep the streak alive.

1. Goal: This is where Foursquare is missing out. There is no clear reason or goal for the individual to use Foursquare. Some use it for fun, some use it for rewards, but there is no overarching reason to use it.

2. Engagement: Foursquare has a great user interface. It is fast, easy to use, and makes it simple to “check-in” to a location.

3. Motivation: On the motivation side, you get to see your check-in points vs. your friends. You also get to see Tips from other users for the location you check-in. And then you want to check-in to see if there are any specials or deals at the location you are at.

4. Reward: Foursquare is big on little rewards. You can earn “badges” for your profile for attending certain events. Again, you can become “Mayor” if you visit a location the most. Additionally, you can sometimes earn freebies and coupons by checking in to businesses.

Foursquare has made a great little game that is worthy of studying even if it doesn’t have a clear user goal.

Foursquare in the App Store.

Gaming Your Motivation

How could you gamify your work and life?

Look for tools that help you get your work done while driving your motivation and engagement.

You can be more productive and have fun while doing it.

Try making your life and work more of a game today.

Question: What are your best examples of motivation by gamification? Share in the comments below.

17 thoughts on “Be More Productive by Making Your Life a Game

  1. Craig, great post as always. I use the 5K app from Jeff Galloway which has helped me but Fitocracy looks like something I’ll try as well. iOS has so many good resources that make life’s ordinary events more vibrant and fun- like a game.

  2. I write quite a lot about Gamification, and a fun example I come back to is the use of reward charts for kids. Used properly these can really help motivate kids of a short bursts. Of course you have to balance the whole extrinsic reward for intrinsic behaviour dangers (being good to get a reward rather than being good just because you are meant to be).

      1. Oh yeah!

        Also you have to switch from being good to get a reward to being good because that is what you are meant to do! The reward has to become knowing you are doing the right thing!
        Andrzej Marczewski
        Sent from my mobile device

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