Posts Tagged ‘coding’

To be clear, nothing has gone awry quite yet.

In fact, progress has been unwaveringly positive. Since the commencement of this plan I have not missed a day nor a task.

So why the negative preamble? From my experience, holidays and vacations have a strong tendency to derail momentum and unravel patterns of behavior. It is in the very nature of these breaks in regular time to disrupt the status quo for a day, a week or more, to remove us from the monotony of life and tease us with freedom.

Unfortunately this tease and the sort of plan I have in place are not well met. Labor Day alone almost broke my string of successes. Now I venture northward for a week at a remote house on the Atlantic coast with nary a concern. Nice try universe. I will not be swayed.

In fact, I will cause the universe great weeping and gnashing of teeth and add to my daily habits. Since the writing, reading, running and working out has proven successful, I think it’s time to introduce a new daily into the mix. Enter the Matrix!

Or rather, I will return to my daily coding lessons, which I have left buzzing in the background for months now. This way it is I who knocks, who changes the status quo. I will write science fiction. I will write code. I will continue to feed my body with unwelcome exercise and my mind by reading endlessly into the night. This vow I cast into the teeth of Dionysus, to dare tempt me with a week of leisure.

Clearly I do not know how to vacation. Perhaps I will find a balance, all work and no play, etcetera, etcetera… To be fair, the writing and reading are as much play for me as anything else, but the effort of daily practice alongside these other goals makes it become a bit more like work. So I will do my dailies, but I will find peace in the moment, and enjoy the freedom of being elsewhere and not bound to my job.

I will NOT allow it to break my string however. Priorities first.


So the plan is set, the habits and tasks laid out, and thus comes the most difficult part of any attempt to change your life: implementation.

In making life changes, even small ones, the most essential element in strengthening one’s resolve to maintain said changes is feedback. This can be experienced in the sheer enjoyment of the work, the notice and admiration of your peers, and eventually from the tangible results spawned by your efforts. Skipping tasks, ignoring the plan and generally failing to meet the goals you’ve set for yourself can also provide its own form of negative feedback, which can either motivate or dishearten deepening on your resolve and the magnitude of the setback. While there have been a myriad of ways that this balance of reward and punishment has been achieved over the years, for me the greatest motivator has proven to be gamification.

To put it simply, gamification is the practice of applying game-like qualities to everyday life in order to push, inspire and reward. While there are several ways to do this, generally it involves building a role-playing game (RPG) around your goals, and creating a reward system that responds to your daily activities. I have done this through notebooks with character sheets, through excel docs with point systems, and most recently through apps designed for this very thing. It was in fact my desire to create the perfect life-gamifying app that coding became one of major goals. How you do it, the depth, the level of detail, the system of rewards, is really up to you. Each of us finds our motivation in different ways, and so it becomes imperative for you to understand what your personality needs to be driven and shape your RPG around that.

I’ve already noted I had set off on a path to design my own app, having not found one that fit me perfectly. That being said, there are great apps out there that can help you gamify aspects of your life. For this current program I start tomorrow, I am duel-wielding apps at the start before deciding which to use for its duration.

The first is HabitRPG. It combines an online site (Habitica) with the HabitRPG app to allow you to create an avatar. Through successfully accomplishing Habits, Dailies and To-Do’s, you earn experience points (EP) and gold. The EP level up your character, and gold can be used to purchase weapons and armor that you can equip to further increase your stats. Gold can also be used to purchase rewards like a few hours of video game time or a night out at the movies.

The second is LifeRPG (not to be confused with Life RPG which I talk about later). Where HabitRPG excels at the avatar experience of having an 8-bit avatar that can don armor and wield a sword, LifeRPG has a great skills/attribute system. The main reason experimenting with these various apps led me to wanting to create my own was that none of them had the stat system I was looking for. LifeRPG actually does. You can create master skills, such as Strength, Writing, Coding, etc, and then you can set it so that each habit/task you create feeds into these. For example, when I write for an hour on my novel, it adds skill points to my Writing and Willpower skills. When I take a coding lesson, it adds to my Coding and Intelligence skills. As the points accumulate in each skill, those skills level up. This is the immediate measurement of growing a skill that I want.

Combined the two give me the complete package. With the former I have an avatar who gets gold and EP, who changes as I am able to buy better armor and weapons. With the latter I have a skill tree that is reactive to the individual talents I am developing. The app i wish to create would be a merger of the two.

There are of course other apps out there giving similar experiences. I already mentioned Life RPG, which is very similar to the HabitRPG format of earning gold and EP for an avatar He levels up and gets to equip the weapons and armor you buy with your earned gold. There is the colorful Task Hammer, which tries to accomplish the blending I mentioned above. You choose from one of four characters, and then create a set of tasks you wish to accomplish. The daily achievement of these tasks feed into whichever governing attribute you assign them (strength, vitality, intelligence, perseverance or charisma). It’s decent but does not excel in either area as do my two selected ones above. The avatar is sort of boring, and I really need to customize the attributes into which my tasks are feeding.

Outside of the RPG realm there are plenty of habit-assisting apps that reward and punish, without all the nerdy fantasy. There are also a great series of exercise apps built around the same idea. FitRPG gamifies you FItBit with quests you complete through physical activity. Fitocracy likewise challenges you to missions, minus the hardware. As they say on the app page, you “track your workouts, earn points, unlock achievements, beat quests, and slay the laziness dragon!” My personal favorite though is Zombies, Run!. There are missions, a base to build up and zombie attacks; and it all meshes with your personal music.

Clearly there are a lot of options, and it really comes down to knowing who you are, what motivates you, and what will keep driving you when the novelty of new resolutions wears off. For me it’s gaining levels, building a character, and running from zombies. More to come.

The time has come once again to make a play at creating new patterns and opportunities, to gamify my life in order to gain control of my future. As evidenced by the lack of entries since early March, I allowed work and life to intercede and eventually derail the 4 week plan I set up for March. Life has been good, but busy, and unfortunately that also means uninspired. There’s been fun and sun. beaches and vacations, and a whole lot of digging from Florida up into West Virginia. Overall it’s been a fun, fulfilling summer, and yet I feel a tide of change is needed.

It’s not terribly complicated. As much as I am happy with my life as it is, there are certain aspects that need changing, and they are roughly the same themes I find myself returning to again and again. This is what I want:

  • First and foremost, to be a published writer. I need more than anything else at this point to fully complete a book, and at the very least self-publish through something like Amazon. I believe the current project I have been on and off again, Copernicus, will be perfect. I just need to change how I approach it. It must be treated as a job, and as such be attended to a specific number of hours every day.
  • Next is my physical health. I am not exactly in poor health, but I could definitely be doing more to ensure I enter middle age (am I already there?) as fit and sound as I possible. A simple regime of running, working out, yoga and meditation could do wonders.
  • The last bit is my pursuit of endless education. Specifically for this run of goals I will bounce between online courses, spanish lessons and coding, The coding is becoming increasingly important to me as it, like my writing, is an avenue to future financial freedoms outside of my career.

Instead of burying myself in planning as I am prone to do, I am simply lifting from my March plan and reorganizing it a bit. The basic breakdown is as follows:


These are the fundamental habits I will work to replicate in my everyday life. And again, taking from the March plan, this would be the rough schedule:


The reason I say it’s a rough schedule is because some elements of it will be more fluid than others. For example, the top three lines are pretty locked in. I want those to occur everyday no matter what is happening in my life. The fourth and fifth lines, relating to my physical health, must also occur consistently, but they obviously play off one another, so I will adapt them as I see fit. The final bits about coding, linguistics and endless education are more of a suggestion, as the goals I have for those lie more in weekly totals. And they’re interchangeable. If for instance I get on a roll with my coding lessons, I will keep them going rather than leaping to my Spanish or other online courses, picking them up later in the week or in the next. The point is to be engaging with these ongoing lessons in an organic way that I feel is making progress. That way I am not a slave to the program.

The last action to take is the elimination of those darling social media sites and apps that are forever wrenching my attention away from what I should be doing and shoving it toward something shiny and absurd. This has always been the key to making these changes in the past, so I will be deleting all social media apps from my phone. I have also already installed tools on my PC that will block these sites, and penalize me for visiting them if I find a way around it (damage and loss of experience to my HabitRPG avatar – I’ll discuss that tool another day).

All of this get’s implemented on September 1st, the day after tomorrow (my bday!), though I am already engaging in a few of these habits today to get the whole mechanism moving. I will be updating regularly through this, my wordpress site, but on everything else I am going dark.

I’ll pick a target date to mark some level of completion, like 21 days or a month, but the true purpose here is to create life-changing patterns that become a part of my everyday life. I want to be published, I want to write and code for money, I want to be physically fit, and I want to disconnect from silly distractions. I know I can do this, I just need to make it so. I will begin right now, turning to the stars and my current writing project, Copernicus.