The joy of not lying to yourself
in Behind the scenes, by Peter Burke
What is it with so many apps and “gamification”? This morning my health app congratulated me on a “20 day streak” complete with accompanying exultant graphics. Not that I did much to earn the praise. An accompanying absurdity is that if I miss a day, then the next time I carry out a trivial act of measurement I will be greeted with those same graphics, congratulating me on a “1 day streak”. Ye gods.
But the problem goes beyond absurdity. It encourages bad behaviour – even, dare I say it, fibbing. Not so much with a health app, where I have to continue measuring or stepping or even just breathing, to get an incremental badge. The real culprits are those ‘To Do’ apps which encourage you to tick something off every day or else lose your streak; or, worse – far worse – reward you for completing a gazillion tasks in a day, week or lifetime.
Can we all agree that the true measure of success is not how many tasks you ticked off in a day? Busy fool, is what we used to call it. What matters, IMO, is how many tasks you have outstanding at a point in time. The fewer the better, because you’re more likely to achieve them, deliver them well, and stay calm throughout. This is why we designed ‘Time Buckets’ in Audacity – there is literally no better way to see what’s achievable in a day, and what you need to DDD: Defer, Delegate, Delete.
Perhaps the most insidious aspect of task apps is the Repeating Task. There it is, popping up every single day (or week, etc). You’re not going to do it every day, let’s be honest. But what do you do? You tick it off because that’s the only way to get it off the screen until tomorrow, and anyway it’s another step to gamification karma nirvana. Who cares that it’s a white lie? Well, lies are corrosive and if you are genuinely interested in how many tasks you did in a day or week, you’ve just messed up your own stats.
We believe in calmer, not karma. So, version 3.3 of Audacity introduces ‘Skipping’. Nothing to do with salt, mustard, vinegar and pepper. It simply gives you the chance to skip a recurring task. No questions asked. No lies told. No guilt. Also no need to take off your clothes and streak across a rugby pitch.