Free Gamification Hacks for Productivity and Employability

Ever feel like you'd enjoy your job a lot more if you could only be more productive? Surely there must be an easier way to get through your work? Well luckily, there is. Please allow us to present to you the gamification hacks that will change your life. Let's build You 2.0 ...

What is gamification and how can it help me?

Gamification is the process by which psychological cues traditionally seen in video games can be applied to everyday situations. It's generally a carrot on a stick approach to improving performance, or helping you to get on with an unappealing task, and invokes the human desires to collect things and track improvements - always ending with some kind of a reward.

If you've ever noticed a feature of a website or software program that allowed you to 'level-up', gain perks, or achieve a high score, then the chances are that it was probably an example of gamification in action.

The gamification aspect really helps on days when you'd rather just sit in front of Netflix with a jumbo bag of Doritos and a tub of the decadent evil that is Allioli.

By the end of this short article, we will have shown you how you can apply the principles of gamification to your life in order to give yourself a much-needed kick up the backside - easily and free of charge. 

If you manage staff within a business, then you may also want to consider how some of these principles could be applied to the projects you work on day-to-day. It's a brilliant way to motivate staff once you've got the hang of it. 

It works just as well if your task is to find a new job too - by keeping track of the applications you have left to fill in for the day, you can help to keep your motivation in what might seem at times like a morass of disappointment (and we've all been there).

The history of gamification

Gamification has actually been around in various guises for a lot longer than you probably think. I remember when I was a kid, my Mum had a game for our Commodore 64 called Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing (does that age me?). This game had a section where you were 'inside' a car travelling along a highway. The aim of this section was to type as quickly and accurately as possible in order to keep the car's speed up. The graphics weren't really up to much, but hey, it was the late 1980s afterall!

The term 'gamification' itself probably wasn't coined until the early 2000s - by a UK businessman and games developer called Nick Pelling. Later on that decade, gamification was to see a major boost, when manufacturers of games consoles such as the Xbox 360 (Microsoft) and PS3 (Sony) began to include 'achievements' and 'trophies' in their systems. 

"In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and - snap - the job's a game!"
Mary Poppins, 1964

These reward frameworks allowed gamers to gain credit for their in-game achievements, which could then be viewed by their friends and acquaintances. For the first time, gamers had a real social incentive to defeat that monster faster, finish a game, or find hidden items - and although there was no tangible benefit on offer, the systems were a great success. Some games even became notorious with so-called 'achievement hunters' - who would play through them solely to attain a higher Gamerscore.

How is gamification used at the moment?

Since games console manufacturers made it mainstream, gamification has found a number of uses in our everyday lives - some of which you may not even have noticed. She may come from a kids' movie, but you have to admit: Poppins had a point ...

Gamification for personal development

Apps like Fitocracy (for fitness and exercise), Duolingo (for learning foreign languages), and Codeacademy (for learning to code) have begun to gamify our lives and learning like never before. These systems use similar mechanics to those seen in video games - such as achievements, high scores, and progression in order to motivate their users. 

Here, instead of defeating a giant acid-spitting alien in under 10 minutes using only a melee weapon, achievements are handed out for things like doing 10 press-ups, learning to use a new HTML tag, or acing a quiz on the basics of Swedish grammar.

I literally credit this app with changing my life.

Such systems shouldn't be dismissed as a mere flash in the pan fad, either. Personally I've toned up a lot using Fitocracy (I can finally see my abs again!), learned quite a bit of German through Duolingo, and recently began to improve my HTML skills with Codeacademy. All three are great - and the gamification aspect really helps on days when you'd rather just sit in front of Netflix with a jumbo bag of Doritos and a tub of the decadent evil that is Allioli.

The gamification of E-commerce

Gamification has also made massive inroads in the world of E-commerce - where retailers are using it to motivate you to purchase more often. Examples of this in action include eBay (who assign you with a different coloured star depending on how much feedback you have), and ASOS - whose A-List loyalty programme allows users to gain rewards by 'levelling up'.

Hack your workplace

Given how gamification can help you to hack the human mind, it will come as no surprise that a number of systems have sprung up which can really help you to achieve things in your career. Here we've listed some of the best. Please note that we've avoided any technique that requires a smartphone, as their use is still frowned upon in many workplaces. Not all of these life hacks are gamified in the traditional sense, either - and some will require a drop of imagination... 

How to motivate yourself and remember to do things through gamification hacks

As I've noted already, motivation is one area where gamification really excels. If you're left in charge of your own deadlines, or you are looking for a new job, then you're probably all too aware that it's up to you to manage this - and you may have the most to gain from gamification in the motivational sense. 

An old-school method that works well in this sense is the Pomodoro Technique. Named after those tomato-shaped kitchen timers you can get (which the creator recommends you use), this concept neatly segments your day into time for work and time for play. The technique may work best for remote workers, whose situation allows them to take fully effective breaks without worrying about a boss breathing down their neck. 

This app can even offer help to sufferers of diagnosed conditions like depression and anxiety, which can make day-to-day work life a real struggle at times.

In order to keep track of things you need to do, Wunderlist is a hell of an app - and I literally credit this one with changing my life. Virtual checklists that you can sync to your phone, for free.

Whether it's a shopping list, a list of inspiration, or a list of jobs left to do to complete a project, this app is amazing - and there's a real kick to be had when you hear the little bell that signifies ticking something off.

If you want something similar to Wunderlist with more traditionally gamified elements, then check out Habitica. Habitica is set up to look like an 8-bit role-playing game, and it allows you to earn cool things like armour, swords, and hairstyles for your character. The only catch? You've got to tick items off your checklist in order to get them! This tool can really help you to 'slay' your procrastination - especially if you're a fan of old-school nerd culture.

Learn to type faster

Whether you're looking for something fun you can do at work during Pomodoro breaks, or you'd like to increase your typing speed in order to help yourself find a new job, gamified sites like 10fastfingers can help. You can create an account to track your typing progress and earn achievements, invite your workmates to take part in typing competitions, and even share your results on social media.

How to become happier and less anxious at work

If you're having a big issue in your work life - perhaps a lack of self-confidence is trapping you at your current salary level, for instance - then a site like Superbetter could really help. The site is also great for problems like a fear of public speaking, or social anxiety that makes connecting with people difficult.

"The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us, but those who win battles we know nothing about."

One of Superbetter's slogans is that 'you will soon conquer a great challenge' - and that's what this is all about. Superbetter aims to give you the ideas - and more importantly, the impetus - to do things just slightly outside of your comfort zone. These things are specially designed to help you achieve your goal. 

Superbetter can even offer help to sufferers of diagnosed conditions like depression and anxiety, which can make work life a real struggle. Utilising a system of 'quests' and achievements to keep you motivated even through your worst days, Superbetter is well-worth a look.

Why not design your own systems of gamification?

While I've covered some superstars of the gamification world in this article, things needn't stop there. Don't forget that you can use a combination of these techniques - or even design your own from scratch - to help you achieve your career or productivity goals. Best of luck levelling up - and hopefully you'll find yourself contacting one of our recruitment agencies in the near future!

Written by Matt Atkinson