Staying on task with Habitica

To say I have difficulty staying on task is a bit of an understatement. I get bored or distracted easily and, by the end of the day, I often find I haven’t done half the things I wanted to do that day. There’s a perfectly good reason for that: ADHD.

The name, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is misleading. People with ADHD do not have an attention deficit; rather, it’s an overload of attention. We are aware of many things going on around us most people aren’t paying attention to – and those things cry out, “Look at me!” For example, where most people can screen out distractions, I see and hear lots of things around me they miss. In the words of the titular character of the TV show Archer, I have “total situational awareness”.

It has advantages, of course. I’m rarely surprised. I can carry on multiple conversations at once. I never get lost. I can avoid difficult situations because I see them coming sooner. It’s not all wine and roses, though.

The hyperfocus that comes with ADHD is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it gives me a way to complete tasks quickly. If the task is interesting and challenging enough, I can work on it for hours where most people would run out of steam in an hour or two. On the other hand, once it kicks in it is very difficult to get out of, distractions bother me more than they should (I find a ringing telephone especially annoying during these times), and working 12 – 14 hours on a task leaves no time for anything else – like eating, staying hydrated, and moving around.

I’ve tried numerous methods to combat this: list-making, setting alarms, pocket calendars, planners, Post-Its… the list is nearly endless, and most of them don’t work for very long. One thing that has helped a lot is a website called Habitica.

Habitica, formerly HabitRPG, is a role-playing game that rewards you for completing tasks. You create tasks for yourself in one or more of three categories: Habits, Daily Tasks, and To-Dos. You can plan as much or as little as you like, and it’s free to join. Like any role-playing game, completing tasks rewards you with gold, equipment, and experience. Joining a party lets you go on quests, another incentive to complete your goals and help others in your party complete theirs. Plus, you’re rewarded for “streaks” of completing daily tasks; reaching a streak of 21 consecutive days is a great motivation for doing a daily task.

But it’s more than just a planner and habit-builder; it’s a highly social program. Like any role-playing game, there are guilds to join. Some of the guilds are simply for fun; many, though, bring people together for specific purposes. I belong to several guilds specific to my needs. One of them is an artist’s guild; another is a guild of people with ADHD. Each guild provides challenges to help you meet your goals or make new ones, and a forum to share your experiences with other people. The guilds provide a place to feel like you’re not alone, a feeling of belonging, which is important.

One more thing. Habitica is open-source and encourages members to help make it more fun and useful. There are several ways to contribute, such as writing, music, pixel art, helping other players and, of course, coding. Contributing to Habitica earns you titles (ways to improve your experience even more) and tags for your user ID.

I recommend Habitica for anyone who’s looking to make building new habits and helping plan your day fun. Check it out at Habitica.com. If you do, look me up; I’m Dan O’Dea.

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