To-do lists are the bane of many people’s existence but also a necessary evil if you want to maximize your productivity. Just because it’s necessary doesn’t mean it has to be boring—there are plenty of apps that turn getting stuff done into a game, and we’ve rounded up the best of them.
How often do you find yourself with a list of things that need doing and no motivation to get them done? We’ve all been there, even when we know it’s really important to complete a task. The thinking behind these apps is that if you make getting stuff done fun, you’ll actually do it. They won’t physically drag you to the task at hand, but like achievements in games, they’ll make you feel a little better about how you spend your time. Here’s 5 of the best apps for injecting a little gaming into your to-do list.
Habitica (Android/iOS, Free)
Habitica turns your life into an RPG, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Every time you have a birthday, you level up. Every time you learn something new, your knowledge stat increases, and so forth. So why not go all in and turn life into an RPG? Habitica does exactly that through a series of charming RPG style screens. Available on iOS, Android, as well as through the website, it’s easy to dive into.
All you do is enter your habits, daily goals, and your to-do list, and Habitica does all the calculations in the background. Pretty much everything goes towards unlocking something cool like the ability to acquire pets or new skills. As you tick things off the never-ending to-do list, you gain experience, but you also earn items and gold.
With the currency, you can unlock in-game rewards like equipment or real life rewards. These are simple but satisfying rewards, like being told to watch an episode of your favorite TV show. OK, so it’s a glorified reward chart but it works really well. It gives you a stronger sense of satisfaction than simply crossing something off your list. Further motivation comes from being able to compete with your friends and seeing who’s levelling up fastest. It’s a lot of fun and fun definitely makes you more likely to complete your chores.
If you’re not sure where to start, we strongly recommend starting with Habitica—it’s been around for years, is very polished, and it still under active development.
EpicWin (Android/iOS, $1.99)
EpicWin approaches to-do lists in a similar fashion to Habitica, but with more of a moody kind of aesthetic. Over all the user experience is pretty streamlined and if you found that the setup and configuration of Habitica left you paralyzed, you might find the jump-right-in experience of EpicWin more your speed. In EpicWin the type of tasks you undertake shape your character much like Habitica, and it’s also available for both Android and iOS.
Effectively, you’re ‘destroying’ your tasks in animated battles with experience and rewards given when you succeed. As a to-do list app, EpicWin supports repeating tasks, displays reminders for overdue events, and you can assign tasks to specific days. There’s also the more aspirational side of things where you can set certain tasks to ‘someday’ as a neat way of enticing you into doing those things you never get round to achieving.
It’s not as polished as Habitica, but it’s worth checking out if it ties into how you work and scratches that RPG itch.
CARROT To-Do (iOS, $2.99)
The CARROT series of apps are all pretty good at motivating you. Whether it’s encouraging you to eat healthier, get fit, wake up in the morning, or get your chores done, they’ve got it down. Unlike so many other motivational tools though, CARROT is distinctly offensive.
CARROT is touted as a robotic female AI, who really hates you in a strangely compelling way. Load up the app and you’ll immediately be told you’re lazy. Take too long to get stuff done and she’ll “yell” at you for not doing anything useful in a while. Essentially, she’s a tyrant that you don’t want to anger. However, make her happy by completing some of your list and you get a little reward in the form of mini-games or a cute virtual kitten. There’s actually a fairly compelling story within the quirkiness of CARROT To-Do and it makes it worth checking in on regularly. It’s unorthodox, sure, but it’s great for those that need a bit more of a kick when it comes to encouragement and aren’t too keen on the whole RPG-themed to-do list.
FreakyAlarm (iOS, $1.99)
Not quite a to-do list app, but FreakyAlarm does help you tackle one of the more crucial parts of getting stuff done — actually getting out of bed on time. The app treats the process like a game, requiring you to complete a series of logic games before it’ll stop ringing.
It’s as potentially harsh as it sounds. The logic games include mathematical equations, as well as some tricky code busting puzzles too. Worst of all, you may also need to scan a predetermined object around your house, such as a product barcode, QR code, or a photo of something you’ve previously snapped. It’s all in an effort to get you out of bed and moving. Harsh? Oh yes, but if you’ve got a to-do list to bust, you need to get started with your day. FreakyAlarm also provides statistics to demonstrate how well you’re doing at getting up since using the app.
Forest (iOS, $1.99)
Forest is a rather charming and laid back way of focusing your time more effectively. The idea is that every time you want to focus on your work, you ‘plant’ a tree within the app and step away from your phone. As time progresses, the tree grows bigger and sturdier. If you return to your phone too often, the tree withers and eventually dies.
By offering you a concrete reward in the form of seeing this tree develop, there’s a better chance of you staying focused on your goals. Stick with it, and you unlock new tree species as a form of reward. Eventually, you end up with a whole forest of trees, with each tree representing a different time you focused on the task that needed completing. It’s a pretty calming way of ensuring you master stepping away from your phone. By the end of the week, month, or year, you can check out how much your forest has grown, giving you a smug sense of satisfaction.
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