Habitica: Finish Your To-Do List and Level Up

Ah, the perennial struggle to finish the to-do list. I am, hmm, how to say it, inconsistent in the housekeeping arts and not entirely reliable at doing certain home-based exercises that need doing every day, though my husband and I are good about driving to the gym two to four times a week. So what to do?

My mother used to take the cardboard that sandwiched her typing paper and create to-do lists, hand writing what needed to be done in a column on the left and then placing a checkmark after every item she had to do that day. When she finished an item, she’d fill in the checkmark with a circle of ink. The next day she’d do the same, adding and filling in another checkmark, until the cardboard was full of filled-in circles and she ran out of room on at least one of the lines. Goal accomplished! Then she’d create another list.

Even when we got a computer and printer, she would still write her lists out by hand—something to do with the tactile interaction of pen on cardboard, I suppose.

Me? I loved the concept and even tried it for a while, but the repetition of writing and re-writing my lists was a waste of time. Honestly, it felt like yet another item in my to-do list. Of course, I tried updating it for the modern age by creating bar graphs and charts on my computer and printing copies every week. I loved filling in the boxes, and I loved seeing my progress over time, and that kept me entertained. Until it didn’t.

I also tried the to-do lists that came with calendar apps and discovered they were only good for increasing my stress level. Thus my listing days came to a close.

Or so I thought.

At the end of October, a friend introduced me to a free app called Habitica, which aims to motivate people to accomplish their to-do lists and other pesky activities. It wants “to help you improve real-life habits.” Its lists come complete with checkboxes to click, and it has challenges that get you to agree in a public forum to do certain activities by certain times. You can join together with people in groups so that you can hold each other accountable, either generally or because you are working toward the same goal. The forums are chock full of ideas on how to keep on track and how to improve health, relationships, and financial stability.

Did I mention it’s also a role-playing game?

Yes, you also get to go on quests, defeat monsters, and level up. You receive rewards for achieving Perfect Days, when you have completed all of your Dailies, and those help you with your quests/monsters/leveling up. You find pets and feed them to turn them into mounts. You can buy equipment. You can celebrate Grand Galas with the rest of the Habiticans and can wear funny hats.

However, you don’t have to all of it, just what keeps you moving forward toward your goals. You don’t have to interact with people—there’s even a group for people who just want to fight monsters but don’t want to do that whole “talking” thing. You can use only the part of Habitica that offer positive rewards if you don’t like negative motivation.

How motivating is it? Well, I’m at Level 92 right now and have been playing it for less than three months. Oh, you mean have I accomplished the items on my to-do list consistently?

In the past two-and-a-half months, I have:

  • Done three specific exercises at least once every day;
  • Done another specific exercise twice a day;
  • Stretched my hands and feet at least four days a week (except when I was sick);
  • Flossed every single day (it’s the little things in life…);
  • Read two books on finance;
  • Memorized 57 Bible passages. Thank you, Fighter Verses, for putting them to music.

Dusting has been on the list, but it hasn’t gone as well (though better than before). Ditto keeping up on organizing all of the photographs I take. However, Habitica offers a half a dozen different ways to track and get rewarded for activities so I’ll keep modifying until I find something that works.

Having used Habitica for under three months, I cannot yet say it’s an unqualified success—maybe at the one-year mark—but even if I stopped using it tomorrow, I still memorized 57 Bible passages; those are with me for life.

All of the important functionality is free for anyone to use. You can also subscribe to Habitica to support the site and get little extras. The app has impressed me enough that I recently subscribed for a year.


  1. Sandy

    Dawn, your essay on “To my friends in the medical profession “
    Drew me in and I liked what I read. You were spot on in how we worked, or should I say slaved to get through our days or nights.

    Yes, my employer, understaffed us. We were overloaded to start with and as the shift went on more patients were added, there wasn’t much we could do except suck it up and do our best.
    Yes, I most days went home exhausted, dehydrated, hungry and stressed out.
    But, and it is a big but, I slept well ( like a dead man) I knew I had given my best effort to help someone. That is the kernel of truth about us in healthcare, we really do it because we love it.

    I think most of us are drawn to take care of others because it is our gift of talent thr Lord has given us.
    I always knew I would take care of sick peoples since I was a small child.
    Anyway, Inenjoyed your thoughts, you are correct on it all, especially that the harsh parts, the truth of what we deal with, even to our detriment.
    Then I read your thoughts on getting things done with a list.
    I think you are very much like me. I had a mother who didn’t write a list but she insisted all,was done throughly, daily.
    That perfectionism drove me to keep a perfect house until one day my sister-in -law quietly told me”your house is so clean it makes people uncomfortable “. Yikes, what a wake up call!
    Well, here I am, with the often dusty house, unfinished chores, unread books, weeds overtaking my yard.
    Your writing posts, and helpful hints are enjoyable. And I will be back.

    1. Dawn Smit

      Glad to see you here, Sandy, and thanks for choosing to work in medicine. For many, it’s a calling.

      Yep, I’m a recovering perfectionist, though it has never shown up in housecleaning. My problem with lists is that I have a low threshold of boredom. That’s also my problem with household chores, I suppose. It’s funny how a game can incentivize me to keep up on the vacuuming. If Habitica might work for you, I hope you’ll try it. For the unread books, Habitica even has book clubs!

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