Personal productivity analytics - Gamifying GTD

May 4, 2012

Like many people, I struggle to get the everyday stuff done all the time. Paying the bills, doing the housework, making phone calls and appointments, getting enough exercise. I keep asking myself: what would help me get more motivated to do this stuff?

Gamification was the buzzword of 2011. The hype seems to have passed for now, but it struck me as an idea for helping me get on top of things, and feel as though I’ve achieved by doing so. So if I was to measure my independent, responsible adulthood, how would I do it?

I’m a smart guy, and I’m rather forgetful, particularly with regard to the mundane, everyday things. I also hate making phone calls to people I don’t know personally, and I’m a moderately accomplished procrastinator. So from that point of view, a few things spring to mind as aspects worth optimising for (and hence rewarding in a game scenario):

I’m not really sure if something as simplistic as a game score is going to be a sufficient motivator to push me over the line into a more organised life. Probably not - I think (hope?) my motivations are a little more complex than that. I suppose there’s the potential for it to tip some kind of motivational balance from inaction into action, at least some of the time. So would it be worthwhile? The answer is a resounding “maybe.”

If I were to do it, then setting up that kind of feedback system would be quite a job - we’d be looking at a pretty comprehensive set of hooks into my todo list (say, to start with, incomplete tasks weighted by priority, no. of tasks captured recently, no. of tasks completed recently). We could use a few numbers from other places too: emails marked “follow up”, for example. Then I’d want to weight each task by its anticipated difficulty, say, by pattern-matching the task description. That way more difficult tasks get more incentive, increasing (in theory) their chances of getting done. Then plot all those numbers over the last 7 days (or 30, or 90, though that’s a slow feedback cycle) to give an indication of how well you’ve been managing things lately.

If the interaction was really well designed, it’d make all this everyday stuff easier to do and organise as well. Although I suspect the feedback is the thing that would make the biggest difference, so perhaps it would be best to concentrate on that.

With all that said, honestly, I’m thinking that instead of putting all that effort into setting up this kind of feedback system, I’d be better off just getting some things done.

Personal productivity analytics - Gamifying GTD - May 4, 2012 - Lucas Wilson-Richter