I have always sworn by the power of a good to-do list.
The problem is, they can be so, so overwhelming, especially when you add things to the pile, or have to move deadlines around! But lately, I’ve been using Habitica, a virtual habit tracker that blends healthy habits with the charm of a simple pixelated RPG, and let me tell you something.
This thing works. And more importantly than that, it makes me feel like I’m really accomplishing things! Let me show you how I’m making it work to my advantage, and when I’m done, maybe you’ll pick up your pixel sword and start slaying your to-do list too! ⚔️
Habitica is a scatter-brained D&D fan’s ultimate organizational dream.
Utilizing the positive effects of gamification (making things more rewarding by turning them into a game), Habitica promotes stronger habits or breaking bad habits. Finish a task that needs to be done? Gold and experience points are all yours! Indulge in a bad habit? Use the honor system and press the minus sign on the habit in question; you’ll then lose some HP as a penalty. This means it doubles not only as a rewarding little tracker, but as one that has relatively gentle negative consequences for dropping the ball.
The easiest way to show you how it works, though, is to show you what my Habitica dashboard looks like!
Dailies versus Habits versus To Dos versus Rewards?
This is the core of Habitica, behind its adorable pixel layer. It separates tasks for your day into different categories, which also allows you to ascribe a different sense of urgency to things that remain incomplete!
If you look at my handy little dashboard here, there’s a lot going on, particularly some overdue To Do items (ignore those; it’s been a busy week and a half here in the US, okay?). But the main thing is the four columns, split into Habits, Dailies, To Dos, and Rewards.
(And please don’t sweat comparing your dash or level to mine. I actually used this site years ago, quit using it for some reason I can’t fathom, and returned recently. I’ve got plenty of experience with it under my belt.)
Habits are meant to be things you can repeat. Most of mine are positive only, so the negative function is turned off. For example, every time I do something blogging related, I press the plus button. Yay, instant gratification, and more gold for my little pixel avatar (top left, sporting a lovely fall hat) to spend on rewards! Of course, I also have a couple habits that have negative options, like “No Spend.” In that case, if I go a whole day without spending money, I hit the plus button. If I make a purchase, I hit the minus button. Since I’m currently saving up to move out, this really does wonders for making me more money conscious!
Meanwhile, Dailies are exactly what they sound like: things you do daily. Shower, take your meds, brush your teeth, feed your pets, etc, etc. The cool thing is, though, that you can set your dailies to different intervals. I’ve blanked out the names of my medications, but I can say that one of them is every other day, and Habitica’s scheduling systems allow me to approach that daily as such. On days I don’t need to take that medication, it doesn’t pop up on my due list! And on days I do need it, it’s right there in bright color, so I can’t miss it.
It also works great for weekly things. I have a Daily that repeats every Friday, reminding me to write my Weekly Wraps!
Okay, my only gripe with Habitica: I hate the apostrophe they’ve slapped into To Dos. Just doesn’t sit right with me for some reason. Drives me bonkers. THAT ASIDE, this column is super helpful for lining up all your one-time items on a deadline! I have some overdue items thanks to a stressful, distracting election week (hopefully y’all will cut me some slack for that), but I can see them all in one place, and sort them by due date (or personal assessment of urgency, whatever floats your boat).
Habitica doesn’t have a “sort by due date” option that I know of, so you have to do some playing around with drag and drop as you create To Dos, but it makes for a delightfully flexible system. And as your To Dos sit around longer and longer, they turn redder and redder, reminding you that maaayyyyybe you should get a move on. It’s a very passive but pointed kick in the pants, which I’ll freely admit to needing on some occasions.
And to cap it off, you can break your To Dos down into checklists! That way, as you complete steps toward a larger goal, you can check those off, and get one large reward at the end when the entire goal is complete. A handy way to see where you stand in relation to the finish line!
The backbone of successful habit-building! Habitica lists a health potion and the Enchanted Armoire (containing a chance for gold, experience, or a new apparel item for your avatar) as default rewards for 15 and 100 gold respectively, but you’re free to customize your own! I use the rewards section somewhat sparingly myself, preferring to indulge in rewards on a whim so they don’t feel as forced, but like the other sections, it’s highly customizable to your needs and desires.
Also, it is super fun clicking that Armoire and finding out what goofy piece of gear you’ve earned this time! Not to mention it never gives you duplicate pieces, and it tells you how many unique items remain for you to pull. It’s impossible for the Armoire to disappoint!
Habitica has a strong social aspect as well, making everyone accountable together!
It’s not like the Duolingo owl, which tends to feel like it’ll show up to stab you in the middle of the night since you haven’t practice your German in three months. Instead of a vaguely threatening AI bird, you’re met with real people trying to do the same thing you are: do things that are supposed to be done!
There’s three primary ways to do this, as well: your party, the Tavern, and Guilds.
Possibly the closest social interaction, your party consists of you and up to 29 other Habitica users, and together, you can tackle quests sold in the quest shop for gold, earned regularly, or gems, earned through purchases (more on that later). Some quests are simple collection quests that send you off to find items simply by checking off items on your lists, and others are boss quests, where you deal more damage based on how much you’ve accomplished for the day. Your party is your group, your little pixel squad, when you quest together, you’re in it together! Missed Dailies from one party member allow bosses to damage the entire party, and party members each possess skills (once they reach Levels 11-14) that allow them to buff the rest of the party, dealing more damage, finding more items, resisting more damage, or healing everyone!
It makes it a team effort, and I love my party. It consists of some dear friends and one of my siblings, and we’re currently on a quest to defeat an evil pumpkin spirit. And we’re doing it together!
Less personal than parties, which are so much merrier with people you know, the Tavern is just an open chat space for Habitica users to ask advice or, y’know, chat! It’s usually watched by a moderator or two round the clock to ensure it remains a welcoming, pleasant space, and I’ve never felt uncomfortable there, or in any other social part of the site. The rules are firm on no profanity or more mature topics because there are younger users, and because the site is centered on positive habit building and encouragement.
More specific than the Tavern, Guilds allow users to meet other Habitica members with similar interests. They don’t have a member limit, and often host challenges that can earn participants gems even if they aren’t subscribing members or willing to purchase gems. Personally, I’m a member of a writing guild, a reading guild, and a planner guild so far, with the very real possibility I might join others.
Really, for almost any interest you could have, or affiliation you could claim, there’s a guild for it! Queer guilds, student guilds, art guilds, ADHD guilds, language-specific guilds…the list goes on! You’re more than likely going to find multiple guilds that pertain to your interests, and they’re great places to chat with like-minded people.
The customization options for Habitica, though, take the cake.
This is the part that blows me away, and the part that makes Habitica such a joy to use. Not only can you customize your little avatar, you can raise pets and mounts to share your avatar’s space, and you can customize the difficulty of the tasks on your list, and you can customize your class, stats, and other related numbers! It’s a tiny pixel world at your finger tips, and it’s incredible.
Armor versus Costumes
Have you ever played a video game where the armor and weapons with the highest stats are ugly as snot? And your favorite armor looks so good but doesn’t protect you from a thing? You probably have, and no one likes it. Which is why Habitica did a truly wonderful thing, and split apparel into armor and costumes!
When you apply armor, the stat benefits of those apparel pieces will affect your avatar. However, if you apply other stat pieces as costumes, they affect the visual appearance of your avatar without conferring any of the stat benefits. Right now, I have on super ugly armor with +25 stat benefits (some of the best available), but I’ve covered up with a fun fall costume! You never have to sacrifice aesthetic for functionality or vice versa when you’re customizing your avatar.
Pets and Mounts
Who doesn’t want a loyal steed when they go into battle against their personal monsters? Habitica allows you to hatch pets from eggs and include them beside your avatar. More than that, you can feed those pets until they grow into a mount, which your avatar then rides. Yes, there are dragons. Yes, there are a ton of other pets. It’s full of yet more endless possibilities, and plenty of endearing pixel buddies to accompany you on your journeys!
Plus, there’s an achievement for unlocking all the standard pets, unlocking all the mounts, and then unlocking all the pets again. Achievement lovers, this will be catnip to you. It has been to me, that’s for sure!
This is probably what’s going to tempt the D&D players out there: at level 10, you have the option to choose a class. At the moment, I’m a rogue, which gives me a higher Perception score and lots of advantages on item collection quests. Two of my party members are mages, who can deal higher damage to bosses when casting spells thanks to their Intelligence stat, and at some point, I hope we’ll have a warrior with a high Strength stat for more damage dealing, and a Healer with a high Constitution to keep the party buff and healthy.
Each class comes with its own set of skills to help the player and the player’s party, and they can be statted manually or automatically based on your chosen class. Everyone begins as a warrior at Level 1, but once Level 10 rolls around, it’s up to you to choose what path you want to take going forward! And if you think you’ve made a mistake, once you reach Level 100, you can use an Orb of Rebirth for free. It returns you to Level 1, resets your stats, and makes all of your lists neutral yellow once again. You don’t lose gold or gems, and your lists aren’t wiped. It’s a blank slate without being truly blank, and it’s useful.
Fix Character Values
Finally, Habitica’s honor system and saving grace. Sometimes, you forget to log that you completed a Daily, but log in the next day and find that you were penalized for it. Instead of taking that penalty, you can go to the fix character values menu and do things like restore your HP or reward yourself experience you should have earned!
There are ways to abuse this system, sure, but I’ve never been tempted to. Habitica is so helpful the way it stands that I’ve only ever used Fix Character Values to restore HP unfairly taken due to missing a login but still completing a task.
And best of all? Habitica is open source.
This means a lot of thing. For one, it means subscriptions and gem purchases go towards paying the devs and keeping the site 100% ad-free. I treated myself to the yearly subscription for $50 (which comes out to $4/month) because I think they do incredible work, and this is a tool I’ll be using for a long time to come! Of course, if that’s beyond your budget right now, it’s still completely free to use otherwise, with only a couple non-essential features exclusive to subscribers, mostly apparel, gems bought with gold, and two specific quest scrolls, which are a drop in the ocean compared to the list of scrolls available to choose from otherwise.
It also means that if you have coding talents, you’re free to make applications that are compatible with Habitica! I know there’s one out there that automatically feeds your little pixel pets so that they transform into full grown mounts sooner, but with some coding knowledge, affectionately knowing on Habitica as blacksmithing, there’s plenty you can do!
Really, I can’t recommend a better habit tracking app than Habitica.
It’s cheery and fun and engaging, and best of all, it’s been a wonder for beating back my anxiety and depression. I don’t have to do all the work of devising a reward system myself, and it gives me a clear visual as to where my habits stand. Am I making progress on a habit I want to improve? Am I dropping the ball? As a very visual person, it’s a lifesaver.
And since the app has pretty much all the features that desktop does (though I will argue that desktop is a tad easier to navigate when you’re just starting to explore it), I can take it with me anywhere! Sometimes, I get to check tasks off in the break room before my shift starts at work, which gives me a little boost without fail. Maybe it could help you in between bigger things, too!
If you’re already an ardent Habitica user, I’d love to hear what you’ve thought about it! And if you’re thinking of trying it, I can’t recommend it enough! Let its pixel charm into your life, and let it help you with the things that sometimes seem a little too much to handle. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s without a doubt a deeply handy tool, and I’ll be using it for ages to come. 💜