Apps I would love: GamifyMyTime

dev

GamifyMyTime is a project that aims to create a time/habit tracker that helps you to grow in any area of your interest by using some psychology of motivation basic principles.

Why this app?

There are already a bunch of apps with similar goals but any of those satisfy my needs. This app will therefore be the result of my opinionated idea of what a perfect habit tracker app should be.

How is this app different from similar solutions?

This app makes use of principles borrowed from the psychology of motivation.

While there are some really good apps out there, I would found my self returning back to my loyal and simple google sheets doc for tracking my habits.

Some of the principle behind my workflow, and therefore the app are:

Behaviour-oriented vs Result Oriented

Behaviour-oriented goals

I realised goals could be reduce to two kinds:

I realised too, that the kind of goals we tend to set by default are result-oriented goals.

While this isn’t necessarily bad, is usually source of frustration. The reason of this is simple: results don’t fully depend of our behaviour.

Setting a goal like: “I will lose 7 pounds this month” is a result oriented goal, and as such, it doesn’t depend fully of your behaviour. It could therefore either be a total success or a total failure: You could do your best to achieve your goal and even in that case still not succeeding, the reason as stated before is that there are an infinity of factors that will prevent you from achieving that goal: your metabolism and genetis, time constraints, motivation variations, etc…

So if results don’t depend of our behaviour, what could we use for our goals?

Well, our behaviour itself!

A behaviour-oriented goal would be something like “I will make 50 push-ups every day this month” or a “I will exercise for 30 minutes everyday this month”

Those goals are achievable because the outcome depends entirely of your behaviour.

Behaviour-oriented goal make you regain control over the goal itself and place back the focus on the road and not the destination. Behaviour-oriented gaol trains you to be present.

Intrinsic motivation vs extrinsic motivation

There are mainly two sources of motivation:

  1. Projection into the future
  2. Gaining conscience of progress

Projection into the future

Concentrate upon the work in hand. The suns rays do not burn until brought to a focus. Alexander Graham Bell

Projection into the future is pleasurable. You make plans and dream about that sixpack, your dream car or job. However, as the dopamine peaks they are, fantasies vanish like bubbles, and so the motivation you temporally get from them.

The motivation you get from this kind of behaviour isn’t reliable and doesn’t last much. This is the reason why you develop tolerance to those beautifully crafted motivational youtube videos, because they’re only smoke.

The kind of motivation you get from projecting yourself into the future is called extrinsic motivation because the motivator itself is something external to you.

Gaining conscience of progress, a.k.a intrinsic motivation

When performance is measured, performance improves. Thomas Monson

Being conscious of your progress is a powerful and wonderful motivation source because it builds up upon reality, even if that progress is slow and adds little by little, which leads us to the next point.

Tiny Habits

Divide and rule. Divide et impera. Phillip II of Macedon?

Tiny Habits by BJ Frog, states that one can significantly change and improve his life by taking baby steps.

If we retake the exemple given previously, if one want to lose weight and want to set a goal that adheres to both, the tiny habits and behaviour-oriented goals principle, one could set a goal like “I will exercise everyday for 5 minutes”

Why Tiny Habits works so well?

Your Brain is the laziest guy ever. He loves automation and hates to struggle when making difficult tasks. That’s why every time your about to engage in a task that your brain perceives as difficult, there’s a psychological barrier — a.k.a procrastination —

That’s also you usually fail to engage in tasks you have planned to do — akrasia — because, as stated in the “Intrinsic motivation vs Extrinsic motivation” point, dreaming and planning is way easier than actually doing something.

So in order to beat akrasia and procrastination, being that the problem is your perception of the difficulty associated to the task, you only have to modify the intensity of the task 🎉

Gamification

Life itself is a game. It doesn’t mean it is a easy one. Yokoi Kenji

GamifyMyTime uses gamification as a way of integrating all the previously described principles.

There are 11 levels associated with every habit/activity the user wants to track. This complies with the intrinsic motivation requirement described previously since it provides feedback that keeps the user motivated.

Levels are calculated using the longterm goal as a base (which is set by default to 400h for every habit)

Why Goku?

Because it was the first thing that came to my mind when thinking about levels.

In the future, I plan to make possible for the user to choose from a pool of presets, for every habit/activity, a different set of images or even create his own — that would allow the user to use an image of, lets say, Jimi Hendrix or Francisco Tarrega as the last level of the “Guitar” activity —

For the moment, lets keep things simple 🙃

Why using 400h as a base for the levels?

The 10.000 hours theory associated to Michael Gladwell states that in order to gain mastery in any field, one must spent 10k hours of deliberated practice in that field.

While the theory has been put in question multiple times and doesn’t seem backed enough by scientific evidence it can be use as a simple guide of proficiency.

However, 10k seems like an extremely-difficult and painfully-slow goal, so what if we apply the Pareto’s Law?

The Pareto Law is a principle that states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes

According to the Pareto’s principle, 20% of those 10k hours (2k hours) would be responsible for the 80% of proficiency.

If we apply the Pareto’s law again, 20 of those 2k hours (400 hours) would be responsible for the 64% of proficiency.

Again, this is just theory and is meant to by took with a grain of salt, but since calculating the level of the user the app needs a longterm goal, I decided to pick 400h as a default (the user will, of course, be able to change that for every habit)

Drawbacks

Since levels are calculated in the basis of behaviour, they don’t necessarily reflect the real level of the user.

For exemple, for the habit “Guitar” if the user has practiced 400 hours out of 400, the app would attribute him the last level.

But, since learning rates vary enormously between people, despite those 400 hours user could still be a novice. So, the level given by the app doesn’t mirror the current level of the user in that specific domain.

One could say that the levels given by the app can be used as low-fidelity indicators of the current level of the user and that they are more a reflection of the user engagement than a reflection of his real level.

Further reading