Productivity Apps and motivation

This article is about apps. Over the Pandemic, I’ve given technology a lot of thought and realized that technology hasn’t really been helping us. Or more specifically, me. Endless scrolling through dating apps without dates and obsessively opening and closing apps led to an epiphany; they were not bettering my life in any way, shape, or form. I found myself accomplishing nothing and the Pandemic became worse as I began a cycle of starting projects only to never finish.

So I deleted the non-essentials and set about finding new apps. My goal was to make technology my friend and today I share two apps that have helped me thrive during the Pandemic; Habitica and Forest.

Habitica

The holy grail of apps. I found this by chance as I was brainstorming ways of being productive. My wish was to gamify my habits, much in the way Duolingo has turned language into a game. The original plan was to build my own app but to my pleasant surprise Habitica fit the need well. You have your avatar and your tasks are split up into recurring, one time, and daily. You can set them to easy, medium and hard. The kicker is, if you fail to do your tasks you take damage. You succeed in completing your task? You get money, experience, and mana. When you reach level 10, you get to choose a class and that’s when the app really starts to pick up. Each class has four skills and I picked rogue. I can steal money, stab a task (money and experience), collect more items, and even avoid damage if I’m feeling lazy one day and don’t complete all my daily goals. Each skill cost mana, which means you’ll be wanting to keep up with your tasks.

At about level 10 (I’m almost 50 now) I started looking at the other features. The big ones outside of having a fully customizable avatar (along with mounts, pets, and backgrounds) is the party and guild system. The two guilds I joined are for anxiety and life hacks where users can simply chat. These don’t have quests, the party system does. Parties consist of 30 people and create a small community of people dedicated to achieving their goals; it’s absolutely brilliant. With your party, you’re mostly doing quests where you typically unlock pets as rewards (as well as gold and experience) but some quests offer weapons and armor.

Forest

With Habitica, I solved my task problem. I could create goals and adhere to them. However, I was still missing a piece of the equation. Tasks that took a couple minutes or had a clear objective, no problem. But tasks that required flow, motivation, and willpower? Those were a struggle.

By happenstance, I stumbled across a Codecademy blog post where ‘Forest’ was recommended. The idea is simple; you set a timer in app and plant a virtual tree. Leave the app, the sapling withers and the forest does not grow. Reach the allocated time, you have a tree. The main draw? You earn coins depending on how long you set the timer and with those coins you can buy trees as well as shrubs to populate your forest. There is a treehouse tree, a lemon tree, a sundae tree, a celestial tree, and the list goes on and on. You can also use your coins to purchase soundscapes from the lapsing of waves on the Ocean to sitting in a cafe in Paris. With this app, I’ve been able to accomplish more in the last couple months than I had all of last year. Coding has been difficult to learn but getting a reward every 25 minutes has made all the difference. The app is updated fairly frequently with new trees and shrubs, which may not be a big deal for some, but it’s fun for me. The app also has a competitive leaderboard and achievements, so I expect to be using the app for the foreseeable future.

A musing on micro communities and motivation

With the Pandemic, I’ve taken a lot of time to think about what brings about the most joy in my life. To accomplish this, I’ve been exploring the very idea of what makes us human. I’ve boiled it down to competition and community. There are other fundamentals for sure, but as a whole we live to compete and are obsessed with reputation. We need these two things from a survival standpoint. I’ve been dreading competition over the last couple years but have come to see how invaluable it is in our every day life. Left unchecked, it can be dangerous, but utilized in the right ways it can be life changing. If there was no competition, there would be no reason for doing anything. Competition provides challenge and challenge in turn fuels growth.

On the flipside with have community, which I’ve been exploring a lot more. Codecademy has provided a haven for hobby coding, where I can go to feel welcomed. Habitica, has helped with habits. Without banding together in groups, it is much harder. We need other people and if we can focus, we can find little pieces of the world carved out for us. Community we are typically brought up into but micro communities (mostly existing online) we seek out. Typically, we are doing and then for growth to occur, we join together with others. Sometimes we compete, other times we support; it’s all a cycle of motivation. This is the first year I’ve fully explored online communities that match my interest and I plan to delve deeper. It’s an exciting time and here’s to hoping my dreams come true. It’s fascinating how much of a difference a few apps can make.


That’s it for the article! And for the month! I’ll be back in October, for my Short Story Horror Month. The big news is I’ve accepted a full-time offer to work at State Farm as an Account Manager. This month I’m studying for my license in property and casualty as well as life and health. I have 30 days to get everything in order so most of my time is going to be spent studying. On top of that, I have jury duty for the first time in my life as well as a birthday that needs celebrating. It’s an exciting and terrifying time but I’m sure it’ll all go well! Thanks for reading!

Goodbye Social Media: Mental Health Awareness Month 2021

This year, Mental Health Awareness Month is planned. The topics I have picked in advance and am gradually adding to over the course of months. With this more organized approach to my series, it’s the perfect opportunity to gradually document my social media habits as I begin to shed them.

As of now, I’m about a week into uninstalling Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and Hinge on my phone. On my Computer, I have unbookmarked the social media sites; if I want to hop on Facebook, I manually have to type the URL. I have always considered myself not to be an avid user of social media. I post a little but not a lot. The other night that changed. As I was scrolling through my dystopian doomsfeed I realized that I was miserable. I derive no joy from Instagram. Most posts are meaningless and add no value to my life whatsoever. I have friends who post a story a minute and others who have lost sight of the silver lining. At best, people are posting about food or doing another selfie. At. Best. In this brief moment I realized that we are living in a dystopia and that all hopes for a utopian information age have all but been lost. Then I looked at Facebook. For every post I saw, I would see a targeted ad. And Twitter? Literal Hell. Negativity is unavoidable and a platform based solely on growth and engagement? Disgusting. Hinge? More endless scrolling in what would ultimately be a relationship death spiral. Match, get bored, match again with the 1% chance I get lucky. The very principle of dating apps diminishes the premise of a relationship itself.

So here I am, a couple weeks in and I feel better. I still log on to Facebook and Twitter but not obsessively. Youtube has become more slightly frustrating as I’m noticing the recommended section is solely designed to influence behavior. If Youtube removed the entire right half of its site, I’d be perfectly ok with that.

LinkedIn

Since 2017, after graduation, Linkedin has become the bane of my existence. Habits Facebook and Instagram instilled carried over to my everyday. I scroll, I like, and am told that it should one day have a payoff. And it doesn’t; Linkedin is a showcase of the superficial, a shrine to those who are lucky. It glorifies an unrealistic percentage of people and even then it frowns upon whenever grit is shown. My recommendations are now for Call Center work and systems that I assume were meant to help, have become my literal Hell. Our Social Media lives have become an episode of Black Mirror.

The Mental Drain

It’s all been exhausting. That is the best word I can use to describe my experience other than soul sucking. Social Media has broken people. We’ve been made to believe that it is the world and since we cannot tangibly see those who have turned away, the lie is easy to swallow. Even with all my other mental health habits well established, Social Media I never saw as posing a threat to my overall well being. I thought I could control it and I was wrong. I thought I was smart enough to keep a fine line between reality and fiction. I was wrong.

A Couple Months Now…

About a month into my social media cleanse, something bizarre began to happen; sites that never emailed me before began to “check in”, to let me know “all that I was missing”. That was Instagram. Facebook? Where it once told me if someone was having a birthday, I have wrought its fury and now receive email notifications mentioning individual actions my friends have taken. In this dystopian hellscape of a world, I know it is only a matter of time before its probing yields success. The emails have gone largely ignored other than mere curiosity and now horror as I watch the information age turn against me as I ignore it data.

Every Other Ad

As my language skills progress, the algorithms become confused. I know this because I get ads in German, Spanish, and now the occasional French. What was initial excitement has now devolved into questions that I’m not really liking the answers to. I’ve been giving information freely to Big Tech all throughout my 20’s thinking overall the benefit outweighs the cost. It took a Pandemic but I finally see the value in privacy albeit a little too late. There’s enough data to be on the cusp of dictating my behavior and that scares me. I worked at a Call Center? Here are some Call Center jobs I think you’d “enjoy”. Here’s a book, here’s what your friends are doing, and the list goes on.

Dating Apps: When Hinge turns into Fringe

If Hell exists on Earth, surely it exists in the form of our ever connected age. Dating, has become a matter of quantity over quality. The sacred has become a mad dash for people to be coupled and as I’ve found, strictly virtual dating is opt for failure. I’ve longed for a meet-cute and a chance to hold on to a moment of love that is more than a fleeting, long lost grab at the wind.

I have no solution

As will no doubt be a theme with this month, I have no easy solution to the problems I now find myself facing. Will I cave and reinstall dating apps? Perhaps. Will Facebook and Instagram manipulate my habits enough to shift what is now strictly a computer only affair to a once-again obsession I never knew I had? Perhaps. Will Twitter continue to be the societal destabilizer it has always been? Most likely. There is no avoiding the information age, that much I am certain. And it may become impossible to live with, if we are not already there. So all I can do now is try to disconnect while I still can and hope others are doing the same, that people are rejecting the notion that every moment must be digitized and that it is ok to exist in your own bubble, even preferred. And for the love of God, have the actions to back it up. Words are cheap, actions are not; in an age of little action and many words, wouldn’t it be nice to plant your feet firmly in the ground?

One-Way

Perhaps it’s time that I talk about something long buried, that I’ve hidden from the world in the hope that over time, it would vanish.

That I am afraid. Our lives have defining moments where we are left with two options; do we climb or do we fall?

Each decision a branch on our tree, creating endless ripples of what could of been and what will never be.

 I move forward and at the same time I stay exactly where I was, unmoving. I watch as the branch next to me crumbles and cling to my branch for dear life.

The wind begins to pick up and I pray that the branch chosen is strong enough to withstand any storm and should it begin to crack, I find the courage to keep climbing. That I will one day touch the sunlit canopy, and look back to see the branches I chose still standing strong; reaching their hands to catch me should I fall. And should I have stood upon a branch filled with rot, to have the knowledge to nourish the branch till leaves begin to sprout and the strength to severe the limb should the rot spread. 

Should I reach the top, I hope to see the forest and look far beyond the canopy of green that lays before me. To look at the thick roots down below; an intricate network of connections that keeps the forest alive. For if one tree suffers, the whole forest begins to die. And it is true that the strong nourish the weak but it is also true that the weak nourish the strong. And should the forest burn, from the ashes life begins anew.


Content from the Grave

When I found this draft, all it had was the title and the first line. So I expanded. This post was always meant to be a reflection of life and I wanted the words to be up to the reader to interpret. What is the forest? What do the branches represent? Is this referring to the individual or the group? Both?

$1.00

Hope you enjoyed and thanks for reading! Thoughts? Comments? Sound off below and I’ll do my best to respond.

Was it worth it: A reflection piece.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a reflection piece. I’m happy with my update post (I based the design off of developer patch notes) but it’s not enough. I’ve worked hard to free myself from my shackles and be a better person and for the most part I have. Yet I am still living dual lives. I thought over time the “Old Mike” and the “New Mike” would merge yet that hasn’t been the case. It turns out however far I run, life always seems to have different plans.

I find success only to have it ripped away from me over and over again. My world has and I suppose will always be in a state of chaos. It’s by no lack of effort on my part but rather always a series of unfortunate events. The straw that broke the camels back was when I had a contract with my dream company. Most of my life has built towards this moment, reaching the finish line. I saw the good in the business world and truly believed that I had finally made it, only to be cut down by the political nature of Corporate America. And I am at a loss. I pick myself up and have nowhere to go.

And here I am, split between being honest and being correct. My world has been a firm handshake, a quick smile, and language so polished that it’ll make your ears bleed. And I’m tired of it. With over 300 contacts on LinkedIn, it might be time to hang up the towel. What I’ve built has become ash and I feel nothing. The money is nice but at the end of the day, it’s an obsession not worth having. I am tired of being used as a tool, or worse, a weapon. I learned as much as I could so that I could help others yet that same intelligence has only ever brought misery. The more I learn, the more I wish I didn’t know. Americans bathe in ignorance and it’s tough to see.

During my search, someone I trusted introduced me to Amway disguised under the pretense of “Alticor”. I went through the process and saw how some choose to make their money. An honest answer is it made me feel dirty, so I walked away. Is this the right answer, I can’t really say. The business model is sound and works for those with enough motivation, yet the reverse pyramid is still a pyramid. And at the end of the day, I must follow my heart. Corny, yes, but the truth nonetheless.

I don’t know who to trust anymore and it’s a damn shame. I love my friends and I love myself and for me that’s enough. It’s when I’ve put my faith in my professional network is when I’ve been hurt. Interesting to say the least.

This said, I am done hiding. It’s time to find just what all I am capable of. I am finally doing what I want and while I sacrifice the security of Corporate America, I don’t want to die in a cubicle. I thought I could waltz into an organization and change the world, yet I realize that change starts at the grassroots. My whole goal with writing and now photography has been to give myself a voice. It’s liberating to talk and have others listen. Now that I have, I want to focus on what I care about and not worry so much about reputation. So, cheers. Let’s build something together, it’s time I finally got my priorities straight.


A late night musing and I have to say, it felt great. I’ve been feeling anxious since graduation trying to find my place in the world but I came to realize that it has always been the route of the entrepreneur. What that will look, God only knows but in my never-ending pursuit of happiness, this is worth pursuing. Thanks for all your support throughout the years, it has meant the world to me. As I continue to grow, may you grow along with me and if I can inspire just one person from the work I do, then I’ll have done my job.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com