gamifying work

How To Gamify Work – A New Approach For Remote Workers

I recently stumbled upon a YouTube video titled “How I made my life a video game,” and it got me thinking about how you and I could use this concept to make our remote work more enjoyable and, of course, productive.

The idea is simple but powerful: what if we approached our work with the same strategy we do when playing a video game? 

If you’re anything like me, you were glued to your computer or console screen as a teenager, trying to level up or unlock the next achievement in your favorite game. Imagine channeling that kind of energy into your real-life goals.

So this week I’m diving headfirst into the world of gamification – an innovative answer to boost productivity, hone focus and add a sprinkle of play and competitiveness to your work-from-home routine. Hold onto your ergonomic desk chair, grab your favourite cuppa and ready yourself to turn your work into a rewarding game!

The Video Game Edge

Just like in a video game, life requires us to level up and improve our skills in order to unlock new opportunities. But let’s be real, unlike the virtual world, life doesn’t come with cheat codes and the difficulty and time required to achieve goals in real life can sometimes be discouraging.

In otherwords unlike a video game, life and work can get tough, and it’s easy to get distracted (Hello, Netflix!). But here’s where it gets interesting, because there are three areas where video games have an edge over real life:

1. Clear objectives – Video games provide players with clear, defined objectives and steps to achieve them, offering a structured and manageable path to success.

2. Lower difficulty – The physical effort required in video games is minimal compared to the challenges of real-life pursuits

3. Lower risk – In video games, the consequences are virtual and easily overcome.

Makes sense, right? In a game, you always know what your mission is, the tasks aren’t physically taxing, and even if you fail, you can always restart and try again.

If only life were that straightforward!

Why Traditional Productivity Methods Fall Short for Remote Workers

Remote work comes with its own unique set of challenges that can transform seemingly mundane tasks into Himalayan conquests. As you’ve probably already discovered, traditional productivity methods often need to be tweaked (or overhauled completely) when your’re working from home. 

One of the biggest issues with traditional methods of productivity is that they often overlook the element of immediate gratification – a key human motivational driver. 

Traditional productivity methods are like old-world maps: They may show you the rough direction, but when it comes to modern-day remote work, you’re going to need a GPS.

Take, for instance, the classic to-do list. We’ve all been there, creating our daily to do list at the start of the day, and then ticking them off one after the other. It might feel good momentarily, but that satisfaction can quickly dissappear. 

The problem? It doesn’t offer that instant dopamine hit! You completed a task, great! But then… well there’s not much after that. No rousing reward, and no immediate gratification beyond the psychological check mark. It’s all a bit anticlimactic, which leaves our brains craving more motivation. 

This is where gamification comes in!

What Is Gamification?

Gamification involves integrating game design principles and elements – think points, achievements, progression levels and so on – into non-gaming environments (like your work!).

It’s about making use of intrinsic motivators like competition, and personal growth to ensure you’re not just slogging through tasks, but actively engaged in them. A dash of game dynamics can make even the most formidable work assignments into a game quest that you feel excited to get started on. 

Gamification is about leveraging game mechanics to make tasks more engaging, more enjoyable and making you more productive in the process. According to Zippia, introducing gamification strategies into your work can potentially boost productivity by a whopping 40%!

So if you want to improve your productivity, plug in your controller – uh, I mean laptop – and fasten your seatbelts as we start to decode this phenomenon. 

Gamification 101: Understanding the Science Behind It

If you’ve ever spent a few hours, (or even days) playing Candy Crush or Angry Birds don’t be embarrassed; these games are designed to keep you hooked! 

Enter the science of behavioural psychology. This is the magic formula behind game design and, thankfully, it can also be applied to improve your productivity! It’s a bit like your to-do list having a baby with your favourite video game!

The psychology behind gaming is all about engagement and motivation. Games take seemingly complex tasks (like overcoming obstacles or solving puzzles) and build them into a straightforward system of goals, rewards, and progression. That dopamine rush you get when you level up in a game? That’s what keeps you hooked and coming back for more. 

Gamification methods, tools and apps tap into this concept. By turning tedious ‘real-life’ tasks into game-based quests, you start associating work with rewards and progress, rather than stress and deadlines. Who wouldn’t want a daily dose of brain-boosting dopamine with their morning coffee right!

Turning Tasks into Quests

The first step to adding an element of play to your work routine is to start viewing your tasks as quests. 

Picture this: you’re in a game, navigating through complex quests, collecting valuable assets, improving skills to unlock new levels. The thrill of getting higher score, breaking your past records, and finally unlocking a highly sought-after achievement – motivates us to continue.

Now, transpose this scene over to your remote work. The quests become your tasks, skill development is your personal growth, and the final achievement is crushing your goals! 

Every time you acquire new knowledge or a skill in real life, it’s almost like earning experience points in a game. With each new learning, you’re incrementing your ability level – be it mastering a new software, delivering killer presentations, or just getting better at decision-making.

The more quests/tasks you complete, the more ‘power-ups’ or skills you acquire, which ultimately elevates your character level – or in real-life terms, enhances your professional standing. 

In video games, opportunities become more accessible as you progress. Similarly, in life, more doors begin to open in step with our growing skills and experience.

To thrive in both dimensions, you have to be willing to explore, learn, adapt, and overcome newer, more challenging quests or situations. So, like an avid gamer thirsting for victory, why not approach everyday tasks with a similar mentality? After all, being the protagonist of your own productivity game is quite the adventure!

Game On! General Strategies to Gamify Your Life

So, how do we turn this fantasy into reality?

Here are some practical steps I have found useful.

Set Clear Goals – For starters, you need to set clear, specific goals, akin to quest logs in video games. Having a roadmap not only gives you direction but also keeps you motivated.

Break Down Your Tasks – Next, just like game designers do, you need to break down big, scary goals into smaller, less difficult and more manageable tasks and daily habits (you could liken this to levels in a game). 

For example I improve my coding skills on CodeCademy (which by the way, also has gamification elements – badges, rewards etc). But instead of aiming to become an overnight superstar coder I just study for 15 minutes every day.

Power Up! Another concept that really helps is the idea of “power-ups”. Try viewing resistance and discomfort as game style power-ups that can be absorbed when overcome. By embracing challenges, you gain a sense of accomplishment and power, and just like gaining a suit of armour in a game, you end up better equipped in life to handle difficult situations.

Embrace Risk – Another practical strategy involves embracing risk. In video games you have no chance of levelling up without taking risks. Avoiding risks leads to long-term dissatisfaction and regret but by reframing risk as an opportunity for growth, you can build resilience and face challenges head-on.

Personal Fulfilment – The final strategy revolves around reflecting on the deeper and longer-lasting rewards that real life offers. Aspiring to achieve personal fulfilment and satisfaction surpasses the superficial and short-lived rewards found in video games. Reflecting on your values and desired life outcomes becomes crucial in this context.

The Role of Rewards: How Gamification Keeps You Inspired

In the gaming world, quests always come with rewards. You can create a similar sense of excitement by setting up rewards for your own productivity.

This could be something as simple as rewarding yourself with after a deep work session with a break to stretch or have a cuppa, or something more substantial, like indulging in your favourite show or book after completing a big task.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I give myself breaks all the time, and I still struggle!” Well, sure, but let’s add a bit of a twist. What if you turned this reward system into a properly structured game? Right? Exciting, isn’t it? 

Here’s the how:

First set your intentions for the day. Check your todo list and decide on the top 3 projects or tasks you want to work on.

Next, set up your rewards. I find the simplest way to do this is to use the ‘Pomodoro Method’ which rewards me with a 5-minute break after focussing on my tasks for 30 minutes, and a longer 15 minute break after four 30 minute focus sessions. 

At other times I’ll set a reward for myself for completing a specific project or task. For example if I finish a specific task before lunch, I allow myself a longer lunch break to read or watch a TV show. 

Remember, rewards shouldn’t be something that will set you back in your work, but give you something to look forward to and a moment of enjoyment before getting back into it. 

These kinds of rewards not only make work more enjoyable, but also provide that immediate fix of gratification we often crave. 

Ready Player One? Gamified Apps for Remote Workers

Turning your work into a thrilling quest sounds like a lot of fun, and the practical strategies mentioned above work really well for me, but what if you want a bit more of a video game style experience?

This is where game-based productivity apps come to the rescue. They take all the hassle out of turning your work into a fun game and providing a structure for your tasks and projects that enjoyable and rewarding.

These apps have done all the hard work for you and really do mimic the video game experience.

Here is my recommended list – I personally have used both Forest and Habitica and found them a lot of fun.


Fancy growing trees while you work? Forest is a game-based productivity app that rewards you with a tree each time you complete a work period. To keep you on track, if you leave the app to check social media or your email, your tree withers and dies! Over time, you can grow an entire forest from your productivity. 


How about transforming all your tasks into monsters! Habitica is an RPG-style task management app. From mundane daily chores to important work assignments, you create, ‘slay’, and earn rewards for everything you do. Who said you can’t battle bosses in your pyjamas?

Zombies, Run!:

If you fancy keeping active while you work, this app is for you. Zombies, Run! combines storytelling with exercise, encouraging you to go on running missions to escape zombies. After all, nothing enhances productivity like the threat of a zombie apocalypse, right?


Designed by a game designer during her concussion recovery, SuperBetter is all about wellbeing and resilience. It transforms your big goals into series of quests and challenges, fostering your capability to handle stress, overcome setbacks and stay connected.

So, why not try one, or even all of them? You might wonder how you ever managed without game-based productivity tools once you’ve played your way through a workday. Who said playing and working are mutually exclusive?

Game Over: Tying up the Quest for Productivity

Well, there you have it, folks. A fresh take on revitalising your work-from-home routine through the playful yet powerful approach of gamification. The science is clear, transforming your duties into missions and rewarding yourself for achievement does a lot more than just making the day pass quicker.

It fosters a sense of purpose, ramps up motivation, and most importantly, enhances productivity without the dryness of classic techniques.

So, isn’t it time to turn your workspace into an exciting gaming arena? Incorporate these strategies into your work life and see your productivity soar. Remember, in this game, we’re all winners. Ready, set, game on!

About the author, Steve

Hi My name is Steve Hall. If there are things about your life you wish were better but you have little to no idea about what steps to take to get you from where you are now to where you want to be then you’re in the right place!