I recently achieved something I am very proud of: a 300-day Italian streak on Duolingo, and still going strong.

Other than a real knock-down drag-out fight with the module on ‘present perfect’ (I don’t even know what that means in English), it has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in a long time. In fact, I would go so far as to say it has been ‘molto bene’. See, it’s paying off…

A major part of the enjoyment factor for this has undoubtedly been the once-a-day compulsion hardwired into the Duolingo app. The gamification of learning by applying limited lives, experience points and win streaks has led to me setting daily reminders on my phone to make sure I don’t crash and burn as life throws other distractions at me. I also increasingly find that the end justifies the means, as I sneakily translate fruit and veg under the table during a family meal out or walk into a signpost because I was perfecting my plurals on the way to the station. The streak is king, and I am now officially a slave to it. Long live the streak!

In turn, the satisfaction this brings has found me shoehorning other once-a-day tasks into my life. For example, I recently read all 193 issues of The Walking Dead comic one-a-day for 193 days. That was a cheery way of starting each morning, I can tell you. I have even employed a new approach to my work to-do list which is more akin to a daily achievement list, with tasks ranked by importance and front-loaded with some easy wins. Check a quick email? Don’t mind if I do… It’s probably only a matter of time until I start adding things just to tick them off:

Come into the office ✅                  
Eat lunch ✅                                
Be personable to people ✅          
Avoid the biscuit cupboard ❌

hide the octopus 2But my most enjoyable daily task by far is Otto Rosso.

For those of you without the benefit of a 300-day streak in Italian on Duolingo (did I mention that already?), Otto Rosso translates as ‘red eight’, and in this case it refers to a soft toy octopus I bought in Lignano Zoo this Summer. Yes, I bought it. For me. Not for my kids. But in my defence, he is very cool. Here he is on my head to prove it.

And in fairness he does bring much joy to the kids. You see, my daily task for Otto Rosso is to place him somewhere different every single night, for the kids to find in the morning. Sometimes he is hiding, waiting for the exciting reveal. Sometimes he is performing a task, the more menial the better. Perhaps he is wearing something hilarious. Once he was creepily watching them sleep. They can’t all be winners.

You can see from some of the examples included here that he is a very busy red octopus indeed.

hide the octopus


The beauty of this is that it is already instilling my children at a young age (four and six) with a sense of the joy the once-a-day task can bring. That thrilling compulsion. Every morning, they can look forward to what Otto Rosso is doing. Maybe he’s in the kitchen? No, he’s on the toilet! Ha ha ha. Oh, how we laugh. There’s no reward for finding him – finding him is the reward. It’s the gamification of the morning routine. Long live Otto Rosso!

I know what you’re thinking (apart from, ‘I’m so glad he’s not my dad’): how can this be applied to pension saving?

I’m glad you’re thinking that. I am too. That’s why I chose a blog title that sounds like a finance student’s cheese dream; I wanted to lure in like-minded people who sit with me in the middle of the octopus/pension savings Venn diagram.

Well, we all know that most people aren’t saving enough into their pension, no matter how much they are told they need to engage. The compulsion to save just isn’t there. The figures are too high, too depressing. How old are you? 38? Oh, in that case, you need to save approximately 75% of your salary every month for the rest of your working life to afford a holiday in retirement. A single holiday.

The common suggestion is to put the money you usually spend on your morning coffee into a pension instead. The problem there is that I need the coffee in order to make it through the day to earn the money to put in the pension so that I can keep buying coffee when I’m old. Maybe, instead of taking people’s coffee away like monsters, we simply need to get them into the mindset of saving something small every single day? Work on that compulsion angle, apply some gamification. Devise a savings streak, with rewards for saving for a certain number of days in a row, regardless of amount. We could have an app. Heck, we could have a checklist!

Go to work ✅
Drink coffee ✅
Do Duolingo ✅
Save some money ✅
Hide the octopus ✅

I don’t really know how an app would work exactly. That’s not really my skillset. Besides, I’ve usually exhausted my creativity for the day shoving a soft toy in the microwave or dressing it in a trilby. But I’d definitely be first in line if I could start another one-a-day compulsion streak. Even more so if I could do so under the guise of personal betterment. So, I’m open to any and all suggestions for making this work. Equally, if anyone has any good ideas for hiding octopuses, I am all ears…

Posted by Richard Booth

Topics: Savings And Lifestyle, Workplace Savings, Friday Fun


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