life gamification project: goals brunch

The premise of our life gamification project is to provide lots of microincentives to do more of the small things we’d like to do more often. For it to work, we need to revisit these incentives regularly and think about what we’re trying to accomplish, what’s working, what we’d like to change.

So we invented an institution: Goals Brunch. Every Sunday morning, we go to a restaurant and think about our goals. We bring along notebooks and scribble reflections while we eat.

Goals Brunch has three phases:

1. Recalibration. We think about whether we want to make adjustments to anything in our point system. If there’s something we want to be doing but aren’t, we increase the points for it. If there’s something that we’ve largely habituated or that we no longer think is important–or we are just trying to keep the game balanced if we’ve increased points elsewhere–we decrease points.

2. Weekly goals. Each of us can set three Special Weekly Goals for things that we want to accomplish that week. 10 bonus points for accomplishing a weekly goal. I had a short paper idea that I wanted to draft this week, so I set it as my top weekly goal, and, lo, it’s already done.

3. Big picture. In truth, neither of us are very good about things like “Where we would like to be in five years?” If this were a self-help book, I’d have some great pitch about how we set that aside and insist on talking about these things and seeing how the incentives we provide now are directed toward that. Mostly though we just finish our breakfast and keep writing in our notebooks. As with so much else, though, if we keep at it, we will get there.

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.

3 thoughts on “life gamification project: goals brunch”

  1. It’s cool this works for you guys, but I usually think of cost benefit, rational, incentive inspired analyses as being really good at telling a story about the past, ex post. Good for figuring out which means will get to which ends. As far as using that kind of system to plan, alter, and motivate behavior ex ante, I think broader systems of virtue ethics, “I want to be a more disciplined person,” are better, if only because they provide us with nice simple heuristics to dedicate limited cognitive resources to.


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