Carrot: Negative Reinforcement

Wake up. Grab a bagel, avoid the line at the coffee shop. Check the to-do list. Should I hit the gym like it says I should? Nah, let’s just skip that and grab a donut instead, I’ll work out harder tomorrow.

Sound familiar? Face it: there are lots of things that you’re supposed to do on your to-do list, but you don’t. Is it your fault for being lazy, or is it the list? Carrot aims to answer that question a bit differently: It’s you, stupid.

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GTD Via Gamification

The full name of the app is CARROT: The Todo List with a Personality, and that should tell you a lot about what you’re in for the first time you fire it up. You’re greeted with an eye of sorts floating in the middle of the screen, giving you rather ominous instructions: Get things done, get rewarded. But if you don’t, well, you don’t want to see Carrot mad.

Well, that's pretty straightforward.

Well, that’s pretty straightforward.

The concept here is that you get points for completing tasks, providing motivation. The more you do, the higher in levels you go and you’ll earn rewards in the process. Previous apps in this genre have just left that as-is, but Carrot adds another tier. By not completing tasks, you make the great app mad, and you will feel their wrath. It’s pure entertainment, even if it does occasionally make you feel like a jerk.

Making Carrot Work

Navigating through Carrot is pretty straightforward, and described in one of the first screens you see. Swipe left for the menu, swipe right to remove it, pull down to add an item. See? Easy-peesy.

Oh, and don't touch the sensor, you'll just make Carrot mad.

Oh, and don’t touch the sensor, you’ll just make Carrot mad.

With each completed task, you earn points. As you progress through the app, you then go past levels, earning certain goals along the way. For example, hit level 8 and you earn Edit & Delete. Early on, you earn the ability to rearrange tasks by dragging them. So what this means is that the full functionality isn’t available in the app right away, you have to earn it.

Easy controls make life easier.

Easy controls make life easier.

I liken this to the initial levels in most console video games. Say you’re playing one of my favorite games, Assassin’s Creed III. You begin by walking through some assassin-related tasks that you’ll eventually use all the time, but right now they’re brand new. It’s a starter course, as it were, so you don’t risk too much or get in too deep too fast. Carrot does the same thing, just with your to-do app. It’s weird, yes. But strangely motivating. Most of the time.

Intro to Gaming

When comparing Carrot to any of the two million to-do apps in the App Store (OK, I may be exaggerating a little bit), this one stands out because of the concept. But as far as features goes, Carrot — particularly at the beginning — is fairly light. That makes it perfect for the casual user, but not so much for the hardcore GTD enthusiast.

Two of the early upgrades.

Two of the early upgrades.

There’s no way to set deadlines that I could find, and since the upgrades come kind of slowly, it becomes frustrating to have to wait to get your features. I mean, yes, it’s cool that you have to work to accomplish these things, but do you really want to have half an app until you do?

The Good and the Bad

I like Carrot as a concept. It’s kind of like that teacher in high school that treated you like crap but would pull you aside every so often and tell you what a great job you were doing. You crave that person’s approval, but sometimes you just feel like they’re a jerk. To me, that’s Carrot. I want to like the app more than I do, but I also don’t feel like it has enough power at its disposal from the start. That, and it can be mean to me.

But I’m also a power-GTD user, meaning that I’m not in this app’s target demo. My wife, who isn’t quite as into the GTD thing as I am, loves Carrot. It’s exactly the type of things she can use for her daily tasks without getting hung up on projects and contexts.

So which side of the fence do you fall on? Well it depends. Do you prefer to get the carrot as motivation, or do you need the stick?


Want to get your tasks done in a fun and unique way? Pick one of those, and you've got Carrot.