Gaming Time Management: How to boost your productivity with game-based apps

It’s no surprise that Americans are obsessed with video games.  In just one year, (2013-2014) the time spent gaming has increased by 13%, with the average American over the age of 13 spending over 6 hours per week playing games on all platforms.  Candy Crush Saga is the king of the App Store, ranking as the most downloaded game to date. Fruit Ninja came in second followed by the original Angry Birds, Subway Surfers, Despicable
Candy CrushMe, Clash of Clans, Temple Run, Angry Birds Rio, and Temple Run 2. In the category of top ten app-based games, only Words with Friends has educational value. Although books have been written about the benefits of video games (Everything Bad is Good for You and Why Video Games are Good for your Soul), it is difficult to argue that we reap desirable outcomes from playing Candy Crush for hours each day.

In recent years there has been a trend to put our fascination with games to good use. A number of apps and tools that gamify time management and productivity help users get things done while having fun. Here are three notable apps and tools that add a gaming component to everything from life planning to health.

  1. Habitica turns your to-do list into a role-playing game where you earn experience points, gain levels, and stay alive by getting things done. You can also list habits you’d like to break or adopt and you’ll receive experience points for completing them. Rewards are built into the system in the form of leveling up, or you can set your own rewards. HabitRPG is free to use/play and available on all platforms.
  2. SuperBetter was designed by author and game developer Jane McGonigal, Ph.D. to help its users achieve big goals like quitting smoking or getting in shape by breaking down goals into a journey with trials, quests, and rewards to drive motivation.
  3. If you want to win at the game of life, check out MindBloom. To play the game, you plant a tree that represents your life, with leaves that represent the different aspects that are important to you like health, career, relationships, finances, spirituality, etc. As you perform real-world actions, you get points, achievements, badges, and other in-game rewards for doing the things you’ve always wanted to do.


  1. Which, if any, apps do you use to support your productivity?
  2. How can we harness the power of gaming to boost productivity?


  • While I don’t currently use any of these apps, I do find them intriguing. As a student, I feel like Blackboard keeps me on track of my tasks, but perhaps putting a gaming feel to it, creating my own rewards outside of grades would be beneficial.

    The only rewards/gaming style apps I currently use are FitBit for activity as well as Jiff, which is an activity/health based app my company supports and provides rewards in the form of gift cards. These do help me to stay motivated and allow me to compete in step challenges with family and friends.

    I recently heard of a startup app, though I don’t know if it’s been created, I think it was called “Just F*ing Do it!” The user puts in a goal they’d like to achieve, (i.e. losing 10 lbs by March 15) and if they do not achieve this goal, they actually get charged. I didn’t see if there was a reward for achieving the goal, though achieving the goal is a great reward and not owing money is too.

    I’m wondering if anyone has some gamification ideas around getting participants to complete evaluations for courses, while keeping the evaluations anonymous…?

    • I have never heard of that app but that is definitely an intriguing idea! I think with how hectic our lives can be nowadays it’s a great notion to be able to utilize apps to help boost productivity and make out lives a bit more efficient. I know personally that I can get distracted very easily, or have a tendency to tell myself “oh I’ll do it later” and then it never gets done. Therefore having an app to either block certain content for me such as Facebook or Instagram and another one to motivate me a bit can really help boost my productivity!

  • Hi Jen:
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about gasification. There is an app called “Stikk” that sounds similar to the start up you mentioned. A couple of economists started it and it has been very popular. I haven’t heard of a way increase evaluation completing but a way to “gasify” this would be interesting!

    • HI Kathy –
      I will check out Stikk – I haven’t heard of that one before. I’m going to continue researching my evaluation response rate dilemma, but really would love to add a gamification aspect to it, while keeping the evaluations anonymous.

  • I love this concept. Many apps that my friends and I use to boost productivity are those that block distractions(social media, games,etc.) for a certain amount of time, like SelfControl or Concentrate. The apps mentioned above take the role of positive reinforcement and goal setting, which is a great change of pace. Just about everything is more fun when it’s made into a game. These games can take away a lot of stress and procrastination.

  • When I started playing video games at a young age with the Atari 5200 it was merely for amusement, and I, along with the generation before me never really saw any other usage. The idea of using it for training, coaching, and other workplace activities was something never thought of.
    Now, I use various Facebook games to wake up my creativity “center” and boost my productivity, from social empires to monster legends I start most days constructing and building environments that are in turn producing items that assist my interactions with others who play these applications. These applications like the app Mindbloom has the player gather points to level up and achieve specific goals set by the game, while also introducing new seasonal goals to challenge the speed of one’s productivity.
    This “wake up call” early in the morning is almost like a cup of Earl Grey tea without the excessive caffeine to make me jumpy and initiates my brain to start upon a path of creative thinking which I rely upon throughout the day.
    If my organization could make training modules that are usually followed up with online multiple choice quizzes into something fun, or like the HabitRPG allows the subject to earn rewards for participation and/or a certain amount of correct answers would significantly boost productivity. With their increased knowledge employees would unwillingly be better equipped for the tasks connected to their job, and could solve daily complex problems with ease and without the need or time that it takes to commonly do research for a solution. Using gaming applications would be the next step to training employees to be more creative in devising better solutions in the future.

  • Using games in our everyday lives to increase productivity or to engage learners has evolved tremendously. I can’t say I use any app to increase my productivity but I certainly all for it. The list of applications you provided, habitica in particular, I will certainly look into. The workplace is constantly changing and can be stressful at times so we all need some sort of tool to help us keep our sanity as well as increase productivity. Gaming can certainly be a stress reliever.

  • I currently use a checklist app for my work-related to-do lists. There is something very satisfying about checking something off the list and having it disappear! I am intrigued by the Habitica app mentioned in the article. I have also used apps that reminded me to stand up during work so I was not sitting all day.

    I think gaming has potential to boost productivity. Coworkers can play games together to build teamwork and trust. Gamifying boring tasks at work or ways to stay organized might be another way. Awarding badges for accomplishments is another way gamification may motivate employees. I am a strong believer that games can have a positive impact (my undergrad is in video game design). There are some things I believe must be taken into account when using gaming for productivity or in the workplace. The gaming or gamification must be meaningful and relevant. It must also be fun on some level. Also, it should not hinder or distract employees. There may be some who do not have time to or want to participate and that should be okay. I believe this market is underdeveloped compared to other areas and gaming. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

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