Gamification as motivation

by Volker Weber


Gamification works for me. Totally. Ever since I set my goals to 10000 steps a day and 100 km a week, I have not missed one of them. Not even once. That's 14 weeks and counting. One week I clocked more than 160 km. That's more than half a marathon every single day of the week.

Last week was difficult. There were three slow days where I hardly made the 10k. Monday was the most important day of Lotusphere, Thursday was only 18 hours long and I spent half of that time in an aircraft, and Sunday the big flu hit again. 102.43 km. You don't do 13 weeks and then give up on the 14th.

That's a motivational trick developed by Jerry Seinfeld:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. "After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain."

You need to set yourself a reasonable goal and then stick to it. I actually set two: 10k/day, 100k/week.


Today was another difficult day. I did not get up until around noon. Everything hurts. And yet, the dog needs walking, I need fresh air, and I have two goals to check off. So I put on a heavy jacket, gloves and a hat, and off I went.

What do I use? iPhone 6 Plus with Withings Health Mate as tracker. That app also tracks my weight and blood pressure. Pebble Smartwatch as display. What you see is the Futura Steps watch face which pulls data from the iPhone via the SmartWatch Pro app. Pebble has turned out to be the best match for my requirements. The watch is waterproof, the display is always on, yet it runs a couple of days on one charge. The watch itself can track steps if you don't want to carry the iPhone all day, but I found the sensors in the iPhone to be superior and more accurate.

Set yourself a reasonable goal, hang up that calendar and start walking. If you are not used to walking, start with 6500 steps, always park at the far end of the parking lot and never use escalators. Generally, avoid anything with wheels on it. Things will change quickly.


"Ever since I set my goals to 100000 steps a day"? epic! :) I almost did that once:

Yancy Lent, 2015-02-02 15:23

No, that's a typo. :-) According to Health Mate, I maxxed out at 31405 on Nov 22. For 100k in a day I would need to go 12 hours. That's currently unthinkable. But 100k a week was unthinkable last year.

Volker Weber, 2015-02-02 15:29

How do you use the iPhone as a device for Withings Health Mate? I couldn't yet find a setting for that.

Torsten Hoffmann, 2015-02-02 16:15

If you have an iPhone 5S and newer, the iPhone always keeps track of you motion. You simply give health mate access to that data. You will be surprised that you can see seven days back when you first enbable that. So, it's not and additional device but just a setting in iOS/Settings/Withings.

Volker Weber, 2015-02-02 16:21

Though Withings is allowed to retrieve activity data in iPhone settings, data is not showing up in Health Mate. I wonder why.

Torsten Hoffmann, 2015-02-02 16:50

Hit hamburger button, open dashboard, hit orange clover, hit bigger orange clover, hit Add Acitivity Tracking. Be careful though. Anything older than an iPhone 5S and it will eat your battery by lunch time.

Volker Weber, 2015-02-02 16:56

Out of curiosity, how much time do you spend walking per day? And more important, when do you do it? Before and/or after work? I'm commuting so I'd have to do it before eight or after seven. Any what would work better?

Joachim Bode, 2015-02-02 17:33

Two hours at noon, the rest before I go to sleep. I don't watch TV and I used to take a nap at noon.

Volker Weber, 2015-02-02 17:38

OK, figured it out. I had to remove Withings Pulse from the list if devices. Then upon restart of the App I was able to enable steps tracking.

Torsten Hoffmann, 2015-02-02 18:33

Now you can add it again. And switch back and forth with the "I forgot my Pulse" check mark.

Volker Weber, 2015-02-02 18:36

Hey, that's interesting. I activated Withings on my 5s and it counted the steps of the last 7 days. My 7.2 km running from yesterday is exactly what Sportstracker counted. But Withings calculated a 40% higher calorie consumption.That seems way to high but is not so important to me.

I like the idea of measuring without activating it.

Thomas Lang, 2015-02-02 18:53

Leider saugt Max Bäumle's App mit dem Futura Steps Watchface den Akku meines iPhone 5S so schnell leer, dass ich mich ab ca. 17 Uhr von meinem Telefon verabschieden muss.

Trotz sehr nettem Kontakt mit Max konnte ich keine Lösung dafür finden. Dennoch Daumen hoch für die App - wenn das mit dem Akkuverbrauch besser funktioniert, bin ich wieder dabei.

Thomas Langel, 2015-02-10 08:26

Das kann auch nicht die Ursache sein. Wenn Du das Watchface wechselst, dann geht der Batteriehunger weg?

Volker Weber, 2015-02-10 08:34

Ich habe es ehrlichgesagt nur in dieser Kombination getestet. In den Settings unter "Battery Usage" war die Smartwatch Pro App mit entsprechend hohem Batterieverbrauch deklariert (Platz 2 hinter "Mail").
Das Abschalten der "Background Refreshs" für Smartwarch Pro hat etwas Verbesserung gebracht, allerdings wird die Schrittfortschrittsanzeige dann zu selten aktualisiert (bzw. kaum noch automatisch) - da ist dann das verlängerte Display der Pebble nicht mehr sinnvoll, weil veraltet.

Thomas Langel, 2015-02-10 09:49

Wenn Du die Uhr schüttelst, so dass das Licht angeht, wird gleichzeitig das Watchface aktualisiert.

Volker Weber, 2015-02-10 10:02

Ja, das klappt. Der Akku-Verbrauch bleibt aber trotzdem (zu) hoch.

Thomas Langel, 2015-02-10 10:43

Nächster Schritt: alle anderen Funktionen in Smartwatch Pro abschalten. Ich vermute ein ganz anderes Problem. Aber das müssen wir erst mal finden.

Volker Weber, 2015-02-10 10:47

Das hatte ich auch schon probiert - das hatte Max mir auch empfohlen. Letztendlich fehlt mir aber gerade die Zeit, mich intensiver damit zu beschäftigen. Und die Jawebone UP Integration erfüllt alternativ den Zweck.

Thomas Langel, 2015-02-10 11:12

Jetzt interessiert es mich ja doch: Ist die App bei dir in den Battery Usage Stats nicht auf Platz 2 bzw. vorne mit dabei?

Thomas Langel, 2015-02-10 19:35

Jetzt interessiert es mich ja doch: Ist die App bei dir in den Battery Usage Stats nicht auf Platz 2 bzw. vorne mit dabei?

Thomas Langel, 2015-02-10 19:37

Die Smartwatch Pro hat bei mir ca 3% Battery Usage. Mit Background Activity.

Volker Weber, 2015-02-10 20:15

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