I’ve been interested in gamification, and it’s a neat gimmick. But I spent some time thinking about why it wasn’t motivating me enough to succeed. The short answer is the points didn’t mean anything to me. I could promise myself a reward at certain levels, but there were some things that got in the way of connecting the reward to the task.
When I played World of Warcraft, I did reputation dailies and got sick of them. I distinctly remember the many days when I’d climb onto my hard-won vanity mount, whine about how I didn’t want to polish Hodir’s helmet, and suck it up because I was after a necessary thing to get into raids. Some of those grinds were completed with a flash of light and a trumpet sound, followed by a couple comments from guildies, but the whole thing was fleeting and pointless. My greatest happiness came from being done with that particular set of dailies and having no temptation to go back to them. I didn’t mind other repetitive tasks like killing a certain type of monster for hours on end, but that was doing something when I felt like it until I got tired of it for the session. I’d do something else for a while and come back if I still wanted those pixels. Dailies were just do one thing until it was done, took maybe a few minutes, and then I had to wait until the next day to do it.
A little research showed me what other people got out of gamification. It seems to boil down to hijacking the behavior/reward mechanism. They get distracted from the task itself and focus on getting congratulated for it. There is also a competition aspect that seems to work better in households where more than one person has chores to do.
I was trying to get in another chore competition with my mom, but it was hard to make it fair over different households. For my laundry, I have to do it more often for two people but about 90% of it doesn’t need to be sorted and my laundry machines are in my living space. My mom has enough clothing that each color gets a separate load and she has to drag it through a storage area and into the basement, plus hers should be worth more points simply because she doesn’t do it as often. It was a friendly competition anyway, and our rewards are ultimately that we enjoy the benefits of getting the chores done. I decided that we should both come up with our own chore-system and compare how well they work for each of us.
I determined why I was having some success with a chore-chart. Probably the biggest thing was that I had a short list of specific tasks. I have some sort of executive function disorder and the chart was telling me what to do. At one point, my mom was using 10 popsicle sticks as reminders for her repetitive chores. Her method reinforced that she didn’t have to do them in the same order every day.
There is something called The X Effect. With that system, you would draw a 7×4 grid on an index card for each habit. If you did the habit every day for four weeks, the index card would be covered in black X’s and seeing that without any gaps would be pretty satisfying. I had a gradeschool teacher who did something similar, but it involved stickers.
When I was using a chore gamification app, I would have to sit down to log a chore on my computer. This mostly resulted in me getting distracted with other computer things for half an hour instead of using that steam to go onto the next task. I printed out those chores, stuck the paper to my chest freezer, and used magnets to keep track of whether or not I did the task that day before logging everything in the evening. I did get a certain amount of pleasure from moving the magnet; that was my gold star.
I’m still refining what I want my chore chart to look like.
It’s not about worrying about design considerations. The printer isn’t hooked up, so it will have to be hand-written. I can’t find most of my magnets right now, but I did find one of those flimsy advertisement can-barely-hold-itself-up magnets and I have no qualms about cutting it apart. I can worry about making a pretty one later. (Complete with strong magnets that make a satisfying “thunk” when set back against the chart.) Somewhere, I have a whiteboard that was designed and marketed to be a chore-chart, complete with cute magnets, but what I am able to grab right now is a blank whiteboard and a marker.
I have a vague idea about what needs to go onto the chore-chart, and having it on a whiteboard will help as I refine it and add things that I haven’t discovered yet. I can only guess at how often a task needs to be done. Cooking and dishes need to be done almost every day, sweeping could probably be done once a week, but how much laundry do you need to do to keep it from piling up? (Relying on the X effect here would be hard.)
I was wondering how to gamify a chore-chart without getting too complicated. Assigning more points to the important stuff makes sense, but there could be streaks of days where you could just do the important stuff and never get to the minor stuff because you spend more time on the big-point stuff. A simple yes/no would work, but that means going after the easy stuff and possibly neglecting something hard.
I am wondering what constitutes getting a “gold star” on the chore chart. Normal doing your dailies or weeklies is baseline, but does that mean completion or one load?
- I figure that you shouldn’t be penalized if you confirm that the task doesn’t actually need to be done. (Not enough laundry for a load.)
But what do you do when a task should be done, but it won’t get out of hand if you take a day off? On leftover night, I may only have four plates, a handful of silverware, and some glasses to wash. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if I blow it off until tomorrow.
What if I do one load, but there’s one thing that isn’t worth worrying about until the next day?
- I figure that you shouldn’t get extra points if you blew off the task for long enough that it takes hours to do instead of days. (Having to do dishes multiple times to catch up.)
If you get points for one load, where’s the incentive to do the task more than once if you have fallen behind or even happened to make extra mess? If you get scored to completion, (little enough left that it can wait,) there’s the frustration of making a huge effort without being able to mark it off. At some point, making a dent is better than just doing the minimum even if it doesn’t get completely done.
There will have to be some flexibility in whether or not you’ve done good enough.
I also say that you should confirm that a task doesn’t need to be done because doing the first step to acknowledge the task should help to keep it in your mind as a habit.
Why am I worried about chore-charts and habit-forming when everything is a chaotic mess?
Life is still going on. Clothes are being worn, dishes are being eaten off of, the garbage is getting filled, and the cats are using the litter box.
The other part is that the chores and habits will be added slowly. By the time I figure out a pattern to doing four tasks, I might realize that I want to add more.