life gamification project: how we earn points

(Second in a series.) I said my beloved and I are having a good run with a system where every day our goal is to score 100 points. How do we get points?

Our core idea: instead of making any big resolutions, we provide small incentives for doing things that we’d like to do more often. Right now, I have 67 different ways that I can earn points. More, in fact, once you break everything down. I am not making this up.

Here are some of the non-work related things I can get points for:

  • 8 points if I call my Mom
  • 1 point if I step on a scale (2 more if I actually record my weight)
  • 2 points if I make it through the day with only one Coke Zero
  • 3 points if we go to a new restaurant
  • 4 points if I use Brisbane’s awesome ferry system to go anywhere
  • 4 points for a blog post

Or, to provide an example for a specific domain, here are all the different ways I can earn points from jogging:

  • 4 points just for starting the run
  • 1 point if I remember to start my stopwatch
  • 2 point if Beckie also runs
  • 3 points if I also ran the day before (yes, gamers: a combo bonus!)
  • 3 points if I make it over the first bridge of my loop (my whole route is a beautiful loop along the Brisbane river, so I have to cross it twice)
  • 2 points if I make it over the second bridge
  • 3 points if I make it all the way to the end of my loop
  • 4 points if I run over the first bridge again
  • 3 points if I finish the second loop again
  • 5 points if instead of any of the above, I take a “planned rest day,” which means that instead of deciding one day that I don’t feel like jogging, having decided the day before that I feel like my legs would benefit from a rest tomorrow

The idea is that I don’t have to do any particular thing to get 100 points, but I do have to do some combination of things that I can otherwise be bad about not doing. As a result, I’ve pushed a whole bunch of habits in the right direction.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

5 thoughts on “life gamification project: how we earn points”

  1. The “winners” in a meritocracy are usually those who get to define what’s meritorious, and who set up the rules by which goodies are allocated. Methinks this is also true here. (Just an observation, not a criticism.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’d think we’d be running up the score, but we’re keeping it well-calibrated. The idea is that between the two of us we’re supposed to go for 200 points a day. Our average over the last 8 weeks is ~200.5. And that’s with me considering it a big enough success with improving little habits that I’m being evangelical about it.


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