Monday, 20 April 2015

Using SuperBetter and HabitRPG in tandem

I like SuperBetter and HabitRPG for organising myself. I’ve talked in the past about them (here’s the first time, a compare and contrast between the two and an explanation of how I used Habit (though it’s changed somewhat since then). I’ve known people on both platforms interested in using the other, so I thought I’d make a post about how the two can be used in conjunction most effectively. It does mean that I’ve summarised parts of both of them here, so that people unfamiliar with one will go into the other with at least some knowledge.

This has ended up a lot longer than I thought it would be, so if you want the TL;DR version: Use Hyperlinks in your task descriptions on Habit that point to specific tasks in SB. Click them off in Habit, open them in SB then comment on them and wait for ally comments.

Both SuperBetter and HabitRPG can be "played" in a range of ways. The way I've used them has varied over time, as my familiarity and engagement with them and other users has waxed and waned. In my opinion, there's more of a recovery mindset with SB users, and more of an improvement mindset with Habit, but they're not exclusive.

It seems to me that there's more people who need to make big sweeping changes - possibly involving a lot of real small steps at the beginning - in SB. If you've already got a lot of plates spinning in the air and handling it reasonably well, then selecting similar sorts of allies in SB might be more effective. However, I've had allies from all walks of life, countries, beliefs etc, and while sometimes I might roll my eyes and wonder what I've let myself into at first, they've all provided different insights and points of view that I hadn't expected and so I've learned from them, even if their suggestion was not something I followed up.

The way I am suggesting using these two sites in tandem is like so:
SB for the deep, personal connections allies provide, focused on one facet that's important to me (in the past I tended to use a multi-pronged approach, but I am shunting the bulk of that stuff over to Habit). Habit for the normal day to day stuff (though I'll be winnowing that down), reminders, to-do list.

New to Habit?
Start slow (you can always add more). Use emoji and tags to help easily identify things. Set alarms, change your homepage, shortcut/favourite/bookmark the link so you visit at least once a day until the habit of Habit sticks.

New to SB?
Decide how much you're willing/comfortable with sharing. Prepare a summary of what you're up against, what you want to achieve, and what things you're looking for in an ally and send this as an email when you ally up. That way, they're not going in cold, and can start making a connection.

New to both?
Congratulations! You've got no prior baggage or expectations getting in the way. I really do think that both running in tandem in a focused, thought out program will be the most effective, and will be starting this myself real soon.

When I first started using SB, and also when I started with Habit, I had no ideas what to list at first, then it exploded. I trimmed it down, but eventually it keeps creeping back up again, and you'll find things in multiple columns or listed in different ways all clamouring to be checked off. Scheduling a monthly/quarterly overhaul to cut down on feature creep is a great idea. Even if you find you're able to deal with more, you probably can condense, refine (or even remove) to make your lists more effective.

This post is part thinking aloud my overhaul, and partially signposting what I think would work well.

For my SB setup: I'm going to strip it bare of everything but the biggest issues I am struggling with, and largely try and stay focused on my big ticket item - writing - where ally support will be most beneficial. For me, that means some family items will remain as bad guys, but the bulk of my powerups, quests and Bad Guys are to do with typing.

On my first run through, most of my names tended to be flippant, but I made sure to give them detailed descriptions of what each one is, so that my allies know what it entails. If it's a Bad Guy, I liked to list in its descriptions some Power-Ups or Quests I can use to defeat it, or at least lessen the loss. I've seen allies doing it the other way too, but for me that seems overkill - it's more a case when I'm sucking at something I need a reminder of how to do better. This time round, they’re far more descriptive.

To a large degree, I use Quests and Power-Ups largely interchangeably. Short, quick things I tend to put in Power-Ups, and most of the time I made recurring Quests, though I pretty much ignored the which day it falls due section. The way SB highlights that wasn't too effective for me.

Turn it on here...
And it pops up over here, on the right hand column, right where some websites have ads.
I'm so used to blanking that out that I never see it.
Allies: a summary
Allies, and my interactions with them are my main focus of SuperBetter. Their different points of view, kind words and suggestions will all go towards encouraging me and making myself accountable to both myself and them. The more details I provide, the more help they can provide, and the stronger bond we form. This is the same whether I interact with them on my page, their page, or elsewhere. It makes a tighter bond and a more effective feedback loop. I've found this to be effective even after we stopped using SB. If you're both comfortable with it, would recommend in allying up in other ways too: emails, follow their blogs, friends them on other social media it can all help (so long as you trust them, and they trust you).

While I want the bulk of my SB use to be on issues I'm dealing with and writing (my main focus at the moment for me), it's important to also add some things you feel good about and want to celebrate. All doom and gloom can be hard going for allies. Even if it's something as simple and small as three daily gratitudes (which seems to be a very popular option, even if the daily bit isn't always daily), some silver lining will help.

When you check stuff off, some explanation towards why you lost, or what you achieved, or your mindset that helped you win will help keep your allies informed and engaged, and spur conversation. Worst comes to worst, you've got a safe place to rant and rave about your boss/customers/spouse/kid/neighbour/insert anger inducing thing with a sympathetic audience.

Allies - give and take
There is nothing wrong with asymmetrical alliances. I have posted lengthy, detailed accounts of all sorts of things, but I'm comfortable doing so. I've posted links to photos of my family and other things that could be used to identify me. I've shared Facebook details with some allies. I love having long, rambling conversations with allies where we solve all the worlds problems and then some.
But that's not for all my allies, and that's fine. There's some I don't know if they're a bloke or a chick, and it doesn't matter to me if their either, neither or some other option I'm unaware of and have just unwittingly insulted. There's some who only interact with me on their activity feed, because they're still in the small step stages, and seeing me clicking things off in a frenzy depresses them, but they're up for having a yarn where they're comfortable, or in an email discussion, and that's fine too.
There's some that type nary a character, but have gone through and liked just about every comment and click I've done, no matter how deep it's nested, and that's fine too (I'm assuming they're reading them as well, and even if they're not, I'm narcissistic enough to enjoy having an imaginary audience hanging on my every word).
There are some that are kicking goals one month, and then struggling the next, that's perfectly OK as well, we all have ebb and flow in our abilities, interests and output. The only sort of ally doing it wrong is the one pointing at someone and saying they're doing it wrong (I'm whistling innocently now I've realised I've just done that).

My Habit setup: I find the social side of Habit to be far more tenuous - the groups are larger, you can't see what people are working on, there's not as much interaction. This can be both a good and a bad thing. If I look at my guild lists with an unbiased eye, there's some that are fairly inactive, some that I don't really interact with and just skim comments, and some that are purely social, not productive (but that's not neccessarily a bad thing). I could streamline it by leaving a bunch, but it's not hurting me, and occasionally I pick up a good challenge, or some ideas, or drop a few words in a bit of banter.
I find that the daily little things that I need reminders of or some sort of gamification to encourage me to do (or not do as the case may be) go perfectly here. 

Case in point, not checking my email on my phone when I get up in the night for a slash. It's a tiny tiny thing that you'd think I could brute self control my way into doing... wrong! Once I added it as a daily (really a yesterdaily, I check it off if and only if I didn't do it last night) it dried up. When I deleted it because I had racked up a streak and so obviously had it under control it came roaring back that very night... some adult I am huh? So I added it back in and now it's subsided again, mostly.

Unlike SB dailies, I find Habit Dailies effective in prompting me for the things I need to do on a regular basis effective as there is some penalty for not doing them (but as a high level cleric that tends to be losing my perfect day buff not the threat of death. I may have to look at my play style to bring that back in perhaps).

I have some Dailies that are eternally grey. They work as master tags and bonus modifiers. I have a lot of habits that are also repeated some way in the Dailies column, because often the things I do are not things that must be done today right now. For me its frequently I have a smorgasbord of things: I could be doing any of these three things. Having extra tasks I can tick off help me to prioritize (sometimes with questionable logic) and escape the inertia in of making a decision because I am spoiled for choice.

A while back I gamified everything, to make it more immersive, but I've since moved away from that stance, just for convenience. Some things still keep their names, but I've largely been adding them as what they are.

A hypothetical blank slate on both sites:
Here's some screenshots I put together for a mate who tried Habit recently. He was interested in improving his drawing, effective studying, getting more exercise, and dancing
All the things!
Just school

Just Art

Just Dance

Just Exercise

The first: An overview of everything. I made everything tagged, emojied, weighted (some hard, some easy) some greyed out completely or due on certain days. The one's following: clicking on the various tags brings up only those entries.

Over the years I tried to get him on SB too, but I didn't have any luck. Here's a quick mock-up for SB I've just made. Much of it is condensed down: instead of the different types of exercise, there's just exercise - the breakdown would be added in a note he'd type in, and if he added some more detail then his allies could interact with him apart from just "Way to go mate." There is also some double up: Stayed Up Too Late is a Bad Guy that you can lose to, OR you could win it, OR you could click on the Power Up Went to Bed on Time. Why yes, I do work at the department of redunancy department, redundancy division, why do you ask? The reason for this is so that we have positive things to help guide positive thoughts, and also because there's a difference in my mind from actively going to bed early, and happening to notice just in time that it's nearly my assigned sleep time and making a mad scramble for bed. Having different ways of recording it does allow for some nuance. This was also a quick 20 minute example, and the real deal would be modified as needed, so take it with a bit of a grain of salt.

Bad Guys

Power Ups

Quests page 1

Quests page 2
There's a lot more clicking around to get things ticked off (Quests, Bad Guys and Power-Ups are all on different pages, and then you need to select the one you want, then if you did it (possibly also picking the difficulty level as well) so if time is of the essence, recording victories and losses elsewhere then entering them when you can also add the comments to explain them to your allies would be my recommendation.

Also to be added would be assignments/exams as once off quests. In SB, they'd be in the To-Do column, but I'd be recording the due date somewhere else, as neither site fills me with confidence for reminders of when things are due on time.

How to use them together:
Now that everyone has an understanding of how to use the two sites and a quick example of what a starter set would look like in both, it's time to get all synergistic up in this place. The way I would suggest this is to use Habit as your main site of data entry, using the magic of clickable links in your titles thusly [Name of the clicky bit you're clicking on](actual link) in your actual naming of tasks, like so. That means that after you click on the plus you did it, you click on the link, and it takes you directly to where you mark it off on SB.
This from my artistic friend:
From the Habit column in Habit

Would go directly to this:
The Posted some art quest page, ready to check off
After clicking everything off in SB, go back to your activity feed and write your notes to keep your allies informed, and bask in the feedback they provide.

For battling Bad Guys, you could even make separate Habits for them at different difficulty settings (that was often something I forgot to adjust when clicking it off). This would especially make sense if you're a subscriber in Habit, as the data retention would possibly give you more info (I'm not too sure about that, graphs don't really do it for me and I barely glance at them).

Enough of the Hypotheticals, let's get back to me:
I was planning on visiting Dr. Meta soon (a cull and overhaul of Habit) and so I guess no time like the present. A before screenshot of EVERYTHING before I started culling:

A lot of those To-Do's got added and never looked at again

I then went into SB, and stripped out all my old stuff (even the ones that I am still going to keep) so that it reset the counters. I thought about what I wanted to add back in, and how it would relate to Habit.

Here's my new, improved Habit everything screenshot.
Possibly there's still too much going on?

NOTE: I'm not a productive dynamo and powered through a ton of To-Do's, instead I weeded out things that had become too much of a "some day, one day" thing instead and ditched a couple of challenges I made for myself in my private guild because I'm not focused on them at the moment, they were just cluttering up things.

Here's a list of things that have the SB tag, the ones under the SB headings with extra emoji are purely related to SB (I use a tag separator for every tag grouping I have, even if they're not always filed under it because of reasons). You see that most of the others have the hyperlinks set up, so when I tick them off in Habit, I can tick them off here too. For the visiting the ally Daily (greyed out at the moment as I have no active allies), I'll add a check box for each ally. They will likely only be ticked when I've posted a few comments on their pages (I'm quite an active and chatty ally), and the comment-storm Habit will be for the long rambling discussions that I love.

After swapping between the three groups in SuperBetter (Quests, Power-Ups and Bad Guys), this is the lists I've ended up with:
Power Ups

Bad Guys (there was too many for one screen so I zoomed out a bit)
 It's much smaller than my lists from Habit, but that's because these are the things I am focused on, and don't want to distract my allies with other things. Allies can click on them, see my track record, and my detailed description so they know what's going on. In my first email with them where I give them a summary, I will be describing what I am doing in relation to each one, and some ideas of what I'm looking for from teaming up with them.


  1. ok, I read through this but there is one piece missing for me. How do I actually make a title in Habitica a hyperlink to SB? I'm sure its something most people know how to do, but I couldn't find a way to do it when I looked around in Habitica.

  2. Nevermind! I did a little searching and found out it is markup language (which I am not too familiar with, but learning). For anyone else who is confused: In Habitica, in the title, you put the task that you are sharing in SB in square brackets and the URL in round brackets with no space in between. So for instance for Meditate it would be [Meditate](http:SB_URL) and afterward Meditate would show up as a hyperlink to your SB task that you are syncing. I am also wondering if you could do this in SB so that your allies could more easily "see" what you are doing?