Best app for habits?

After listening to the MPU show this week for “working at home,” I’ve realized that now I finally have all this “time I never had” to do the things I’ve been putting off. A lot of these are daily habits that I would like to try to get in place - intermittent fasting, stretching, reading, etc. Wondering if you guys have any experience or favorites for a “Habit Tracker” of choice? I read a very nice detailed article on TheSweetSetup which seems to think that Streaks should be the winner (but does cost $4.99 - but the cost is minimal to me if it truly will help me become a much better person with these habits). They also mention Productive (free), Momentum Habit Tracker (free version with up to 3 habits), and a few other ones. Of note, I do have an iMac and MBP, iPhone, and Apple Watch - so any ability to integrate within all of these platforms is a major bonus… especially the Apple Watch so I can easily log habits. Anyways, just figured I would see what the community favorites were.

1 Like

Honestly, none of them have worked for me.

One of the problems has been that many of the things I want to do more of are not all-or-none. I want to read more—there isn’t a right number of how many articles I should read in the day, though. So a good habit tracker should let me key in every article I’ve read in a day.

The second problem I’ve had is with streak-based motivators. I don’t really feel a connection between the number of days I’ve done something for and whether I do it today.

I have been tempted to buy into Fabulous. The narrative and progressive structure of the habit-building is really interesting… but it is quite expensive.

I really liked Done, because the amount you fill up its bars is arbitrary and fits most habits of mine better than a checkbox:

The most success I’ve had with conventional habit tracking has actually come from Habitica, because there are a variety of different kinds of habits. It just seems to fit reality better than the alternatives. However, I could care less about the game layer they add on top. If I ever dust off my programming skills and do app development, I’d love to develop something like Habitica without the shallow gamification. (It’s possible to ignore the game stuff, but it’s ever-present.)

The most important app that’s led to my habits success? Due. You can’t stuff it with things or it’ll be useless, but it works wonderful for those things that really need to happen but that you sometimes miss the opportunity to do.

Finally, a shout out to ShineDay, which is just gorgeous and actually is localized to English (even though it doesn’t look like it from the screenshots):

It looks like people keep pumping out habit trackers, so I haven’t explored some of the releases that have come out in the past six months or so. Maybe there’s something new out there that is better than these options.

3 Likes

Oh! Sorry for the double reply, but if you’re serious about trying to build better habits, James Clear’s Atomic Habits is a book that’s as good as everyone says. If you haven’t read it, my bet is that picking it up and starting to read it while you’re on your isolation vacation will be pretty motivating. (I might reread it, now that I think of it…)

6 Likes

I’ve looked at many different habit tracking apps over the years and keep coming back to Streaks. It’s available for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and most recently the Mac. Data syncs over iCloud.

Streaks is simple, yet still very flexible. Habits can be things you aspire to do daily (or even multiple times a day). You can also build habits based on specific days of the week or you can choose, for example, to do something x times a week, without it being tied to a specific day of the week. I also appreciate that Streaks has a built-in timer (useful if you have a habit such as “Read 15+ min”) and that it integrates with Apple’s Health app.

The Sweet Setup also recommends Streaks. Here’s the post that you referenced.

1 Like

Thank you to you both - extremely helpful information. I’ve actually read James Clear’s Atomic Habits and really enjoyed it. After reading that, it sparked all these ideas for different ways to improve myself and get that 1% better each day. Yet now that I finally have the time to do a lot of these things, I need to hold myself accountable and I find that some sort of tracking app with a bit of cool tech/graphs is a good way for me to do that (while having fun along the way).

3 Likes

Oh! Fabulous looks neat. I didn’t realize Dan Ariely’s lab had another app out. I’m going to give it a try and will report back.

I worked with Dan on a project once and when you visited his office he was always offering little chocolates. We always wondered if it was some sort of experiment!

3 Likes

Another vote for Streaks. I’ve been using it daily to track calorie tracking (so to speak – any day I stay under my daily calorie quota gets added to Streaks), as well as walking 7,500 steps and 10,000 steps.

Also, another vote for Atomic Habits.

I use Strides for quite some time (from before there where subscriptions; I got grandfathered in):

https://www.stridesapp.com

(my longest streak in there is almost 1,500 days now)

I have found that all halfway decent habit tracking apps prioritize streaks. Unfortunately, I find the concept of streaks to be demotivating. I now use Tally:

It is pretty (but not as good as streaks, because no icons) and easy to log, but the data visualizations aren’t the best and the interface is definitely too obscure. Once you learn it, it’s pretty good. But the dang typeface is too small at times.

I just do it in OmniFocus. Under my “steward” role, where I keep my chores, maintenance actions, and the like, I have a SAL for habits I want to form. I pick a habit, and have it repeat daily for 28 to 42 days (depending on how hard the habit might be for me to form. If I miss a day, I re-set the clock and start over. After the prescribed period of time, I create two other tasks. One asks me about any friction points that got in the way of accomplishing the particular habit (so I can re-engineer the applicable process if necessary), the other is a 30-day check-in to see if I’m still keeping up with the habit. Then I check in after another 2 quarters. Since there is no end-repeat in OF, I have to monitor the end date with an action. But I have used Apple reminders for this, where you can have an end date. That’s nice because it separates my habit-forming activities from my regular things to do, but ultimately, I lik to have everything in one tool.

Maybe a different metric would be more suitable. Say, read x hours per day. This would help because some articles take longer than others. You could also quantify how much you read - rather than, say, 1.25 articles, you could record 2.5 hours.

1 Like

Over-quantification seems like a trap to me.

To get things done - habits or not - I use two apps: a task manager with repeating events (everything from replacing my toothbrush and turning the mattress every six months) to doing daily chores like planks, and Due to give set, noisy, repeatable reminders at specific days/times.

Anything I want to do at a particular day/time goes in my calendar, and I get things done by checking in with my calendar and task manager on a regular basis (not just when I get an alert). And that’s the first habit you need to build, on your own.

3 Likes

I hear you. I have trouble with that, too, though. If you have too many hours of meetings on a given day, you’ll “fail” your streak. I’d prefer a judgment of “I did good today” rather than a fearsome absolute number.

This is also why I like Habitica, which features both “Dailies” (things you should do on a regular schedule) and “Habits” (things you can do as much as you want). If I read a particularly arduous article, I could tap the Reading habit a bunch of times to correspond with the actual effort that went into it. It’s a neat model. Just too bad it can’t be disconnect from the trappings of the pseudo-video game it resides within.

1 Like

Anyone a former Joe’s Goals user? :slight_smile: I used to have a little always-on-top HTML widget on my desktop for it. It’s still around. http://www.joesgoals.com/

Just a word on Fabulous after three days use, it’s definitely not meeting my expectation of a $50 app. I will continue to play with it a bit longer, but the UI is clunky and features/pop-ups are repetitive or unpredictable and kind of corny. I’m pretty confused by the high ratings on the App Store. I also see that it’s not from Ariely’s lab, but that they consulted him (unclear to what extent).

1 Like

Streaks is lovely on many fronts. I’ve trialled a fair number of the habit formation/tracking apps around and Streaks definitely ticked a number of boxes for me. But I still ended up falling out of using it regularly. I regularly fail to establish the habit of tracking my habits.

Treebetty’s apps are solid and beautifully designed (Done, Tally, Moody, Last), I just wish they had iPad versions and syncing.

Casting a vote for Nomie (https://nomie.app/).

I suspect that the best solution for me personally is in Drafts. I write in Drafts daily, and it’s the best place for me to log things with the least amount of friction. I built a little Seinfeld/streaks action to visualise patterns of activity based in specific/selectable tags; my next project on this front would be to feed data from Drafts into Nomie via the API for trends and visualisation. Somewhat niche, I know, but there’s a way in which being more responsible for my tools and workflows makes me more inclined to actually continue using them. I built my own workout logger in Drafts and that habit has been going strong for years…

Tangential quasi-philosophical ramble: maybe there’s value in asking ourselves what we’re hoping to gain from tracking habits? If we’re clear on that, maybe the challenge of selecting the right app for our efforts becomes easier? Is the sense of achievement that comes from an unbroken streak always worth the overhead of tracking your activity in the first place? I love a good graph, and I pretty much wanted to be capable of producing my own Feltron report (http://feltron.com/FAR14.html) but I never did muster the dedication to do so. For some of us, in certain contexts/efforts, habit tracking isn’t even as essential for the formation of new behaviours as something like habit chaining can be… (I’m probably talking to my previous self more than anyone else at this point…;))

Speaking of Nicholas Felton, I believe Daytum (https://daytum.com/) still runs, albeit via the website only. It’s more about Quantified Self than habit tracking, and it’s a bit dated now, but still has function. In a similar vein, also by Felton (but not so dated): reporter-app.com.

1 Like

I started using https://www.habitify.me after doing some research and I love its iOS and macOS support. I admit I may have started out with too many habits but it was way better using the app for that kind of thing instead of the todo list apps I tried to implement initially.

Check it out. It has quite a few useful features without being overwhelming.

I’ve been trying to use Streaks, which is a well designed app, but I found that I became numb to its constant reminders. I think several things are important about habits:

  • Don’t try to take too many at once, or you will get discouraged quickly
  • Allow yourself some slack, missing a day or two in a week is not that bad as long as you try your best (better to do this than considering you must be “perfect”, as that’s a more difficult bar to clear)
  • Batch the little things you need or want to do around sessions where you knock several at once, making for only one longer distraction rather than many

I keep mine in OmniFocus. That’s where all my tasks live and they’re not different than daily tasks. Works a lot better than Streaks.

1 Like

I used to buy into their promise, but not a lot of progress has been made in the last months beyond bugfixes.

On their website they state:

A habit tracker you can trust.

For the last 4 years, Habitify is the one and only app we have been, and will be, working on.

Which is a lie, as the team worked on “Summerian”.
Also the team was somewhat split recently and members left.

Also, the team has iterated a lot in that space. Often abandoning the entire previous project.
Habitify uses Firebase under the hood. If you are not comfortable with your data being stored on Google’s infrastructure, be warned. Encryption and iCloud sync has been requested for almost two years now.
The app is solid in its function, clunky in its interface, but that’s about it.

Not trying to per se speak against it. Just speaking out what one should know about the background.

Cheers

3 Likes

There’s a new one on the block called Focuses. I really love the simple UI for this one. Reminds me almost if Apple itself made a habit tracking app. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/focuses/id1492385864

1 Like