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 One of the big changes I've made in the last year has been implementing a productivity system that at least partly works. Prior to this, I would change to a new productivity system, get some benefit from it for maybe 2-3 weeks, then stop using it effectively and give up a week or two later. Then, some time after that, I would start getting stressed at all the work I had to do and start using a new productivity system. 

My new system is to use HabitRPG and supplement it occasionally with Evernote. I've been using it since late February, so it's far outlasted all my previous attempts at productivity, and my self-assessment of its use is that it's been effective for me.

The main hook of HabitRPG is that it uses RPG mechanics to make you want to get stuff done. Doing tasks or dailies or habits nets you xp and gold, which causes your cute little avatar to level up and lets you buy gear for them (or custom rewards for yourself). Failing to work on your daily tasks causes you to lose HP, and if you lose too many you lose a level and a random piece of gear. That's the whole basic premise, although there are also new features continually being implemented like streaks and pets and mounts and challenges  and (soon) classes and quests. 

The second major component that works for me is the social aspect: there are Guilds, based around a theme or common interest, of which you can join an infinite number, and Parties, which require approval from the leader to join and are usually formed of people who either know each other in real life or who have similar approaches to productivity and/or levels of activity. There's also a Tavern, which everyone can view and post in, which is a good place to ask random questions, socialise, and so forth. There's a lot of community, and everyone is on the site because they want to be productive. That's one hell of a peer group to influence yourself with.

And that's pretty much it. It's a simple formula that works really well for me. I'm currently tied for the lowest level in my Party because the paper I was writing sucked up all my free time and stopped me from working on a lot of my other tasks for a while, and I feel highly motivated to add more dailies or to-dos so that I can catch up. I want to complete my daily tasks so that I can finish my collection of pet and get food so I can turn one of them into a mount. A few times in the past, I've almost skipped my daily Anki or Duolingo but ended up doing it anyway just before bed because I didn't want to lose my streak bonus on them. And I've gotten a lot of good ideas about the best way to structure my dailies/habits/tasks, new dailies that I should be doing, and also learnt a lot about other things (recipes, careers, floor-building, other grads' students research projects) from participating in Guilds and my Party. 

Of course, the system is an honour system. If all you cared about was having a cool-looking high level avatar riding a dragon, then you could just make up a bunch of tasks or reward yourself gratuitously for doing tasks that you personally find trivial and then boasting about it in the Tavern

But where does Evernote come in?, I hear you asking. It comes in for a couple of reasons. The first is that Habit loads really slowly on mobile devices and I've been too lazy to download the app and copy my ridiculously long identification string into it, so when I'm travelling I don't have access to it on my phone and instead I make notes about what I need to do on Evernote. The second reason is more idiosyncratic, and is that the more stressed I am the more I feel the need to babble away in a random text file that's separate from whatever I'm working on. This applies to Habit sometimes - if I have a lot of things that I need to get done, I'm more likely to remember what they all are and not feel overwhelmed if I spend some time brainstorming in Evernote first and transferring them into Habit later. But it also applies to research analyses and therapy and so forth - Evernote provides a good location for me to engage in free writing exercises about whatever I'm currently working on. 

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October 2014

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