Review: SuperBetter

Recently I have started playing a new game. No It’s not Diablo 3. It’s not even the type of game I would have seen myself playing a year ago. But with a new lifestyle comes new interests. The game I am speaking of is called SuperBetter.

SuperBetter is an online, social game that allows you to put a challenge in place for yourself (such as eating healthier, losing weight, recovering from an injury, etc). You also can enter in a goal or reason for your challenge. Together they form a mission statement. Mine is: “I want to become SuperBetter at eating healthier so I can become healthier, stronger, and have more energy.”

Now comes the fun part. You can create “quests” which are tasks you can do once or as a recurring thing. These tasks are categorized as Physical, Mental, Emotional, or Social. Every time that you complete a quest you gain points in one or more of those categories. If you cant think of quests on your own SuperBetter provides “PowerPacks”-essentially bundles of quests based around a theme- which you can import into your quest list.

You are also encouraged to create “Bad Guys” to fight. These bad guys can be things like eating too much junk food, taking a smoke break, or anxious feelings. Whenever you defeat a bad guy (or fail to) you can check it off and keep a tally of your battle against the bad things you are trying to avoid. “Power Ups” help you in doing this. A Power Up is an activity or thought that is designed to give you a boost in one the four categories mentioned before. When you are feeling down, or are losing a battle to one of your bad guys you can activate a Power Up and reward yourself for doing something positive.

When you get enough points in the four categories from completing quests, defeating Bad Guys, and using your Power Ups, you gain a new level just like in a role-playing game. But the difference is you are not playing a fictional character, you are leveling up yourself. Every level brings with it a new “Secret Move” or tip on how to improve your life as well as access to research that supports the use of the Secret Move.

Pros: 

-Can be an excellent motivator for exercising or doing things to improve your life. I have done more pushups in the last week than in the last 2 months I think.

-SuperBetter is a social game so it encourages you to enlist allies to help and encourage you.

-Simple, clean site that doesn’t add a bunch of distracting fluff.

Cons:

-There is the potential to become more obsessed with leveling up than with actually progressing in real life. You have to be careful that you aren’t becoming complacent or using SuperBetter as a way to validate a lack of action in your real life.

-No full mobile application (at least for iPhone). It was originally supposed to be released in late April 2012, but according to the app’s page in the App Store the release date is now June 2012.

-To access the SuperBetter forums you have to create a separate account. It is for security purposes, but it is still an annoyance.

Overall I think SuperBetter is a great idea that harnesses the power of positive thinking, small everyday steps for improvement, and social networking to improve peoples lives. Its flexibility allows you to customize it for a variety of purposes, and it is simple enough for even the most technology illiterate to use. I encourage my readers to check it out!

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Battling Boredom and Being a Steward

At some point in our lives we have all said it: “I’m bored.”

There are times when there seems to be nothing to do, or the things that do present themselves seem incredibly uninteresting. I regret to say I have wasted and still do waste way too much time being bored. When you are bored you try to fill that empty time with sedentary entertainment such as TV or video games, food (generally of the unhealthy kind), and unproductive time wasters like Facebook. I am guilty of doing all those things. But as a minimalist, and as a person who is genuinely interested in improving my life, I have to say enough.

We are all stewards. Stewards of the time that is given to us, the talents we have, the bodies we inhabit, and the resources we use. If we make light of our stewardship and waste the things we are supposed to be caring for what good are our lives? More specifically related to boredom, if we allow ourselves to become bored we are wasting the time given to us. There are so many things of interest in the world, so many things to learn, experience, and feel that it is foolishness to succumb to the lazy trap of boredom.

I have experimented with the idea of a “boredom list” before, but I think I will begin one in earnest. Here is my idea. Take things that you have always wanted to do or read or watch and write them down. Create a list of things that you may not have the time or inclination to do everyday, but still interest you even remotely. This Boredom List will soon fill up with things that you can pull out when you feel boredom creeping up on you. Take my list as an example when building your own.

My Boredom List (So Far):

  1. Watch The Joy of Mathematics
  2. Watch Games People Play (about game theory)
  3. Write a blog post (like this one).
  4. Write in my journal.
  5. Listen to a podcast or audiobook while I (insert task here)
  6. Take a walk.
  7. Read an educational or nonfiction book (Art of War, philosophy, poetry)
  8. Meditate
  9. Exercise

These are just a few examples of some of the things that you can add to your boredom list. When you are done with them cross them off the list. Or better yet, make a second list called a “Victory List.” Write on this list all the things that you did to defeat boredom. Not only will it give you the satisfaction of seeing how you have bettered yourself and defeated boredom, but it will be a record and reminder to yourself to be a good steward of your time.

Keeping Your Head Above Water-Managing Tasks in An Ever-Busy World

I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m a lazy ass. But laziness doesn’t get you anywhere in life, and it wont pay the bills, feed the family, or benefit any relationships. So naturally I had to find ways to combat my natural state of apathy. I first began being interested in productivity methods when I entered college. For the first time I had a workload that was more than I could manage without some sort of organizational tools. Looking into many different tools, I realized I didn’t need anything fancy. That’s where my Productivity rule #1 came into being.

Rule #1-If a productivity tool or method takes an inordinate amount of time to manage, it becomes counterproductive.

So I developed a three part system of managing everyday tasks.

Part 1-The Calendar (Long Term, Not Urgent)

Any online calendar will work for this part. My calendar of choice is built into Windows Live Mail. This program allows me to have all my email in one place along with my calendar, allowing for easy entry of dates and events. Linking my hotmail account with my Facebook also populated my calendar with all my friends birthdays. Anything that I have going on for the long term goes in my calendar.

Part 2-The To-Do (Short Term, Everyday Tasks, Urgency Varies)

The to-do list is perhaps the best known method of getting things done. but by itself it lacks integration with actual life. I use Evernote as my program of choice for my To-Do list. I have dabbled with simple texts files synced through Dropbox, Microsoft One-Note, and a couple other programs, but Evernote works well for me because I already use it to clip articles from blogs I follow. I can easily use my iPhone to access Evernote and enter in a quick task or record some information to put in my calendar.

Part 3-The Whiteboard (Short-Medium Term, Weekly Tasks, Generally Urgent)

I bought a cheap whiteboard/corkboard combination for this section. After finally getting the damn thing to stay stuck to my wall I could use it as a sort of motivational tool. By recording the most important things I have to do each week on the whiteboard, I take the task out of the nebulous realm of “yeah I should get around to that…someday” to the hard reality of “Stop watching Starcraft 2 commentaries and get busy you moron!!” The corkboard portion is also useful for pinning up bank statements, phone bills, etc. This not only gives me easy access to them but keeps my desk clear of crap.

This system works by keeping my tasks separated by both time and priority. I can easily shift a task from one portion of the system to another and ensure that they get done in a timely fashion. But the most important element of this system is simplicity. It takes very little effort to maintain this system, and I don’t get bogged down by the tools I am using.