I am both highly ambitious and easily overwhelmed. If I’m not careful, I become wrapped up in goals in an unhealthy way. I often set large goals in a burst of confidence, then crumble into procrastination once they overwhelm me. I also have a tendency to set more goals than are humanly possible to achieve, then feel like I’m always behind or not measuring up.
Years ago, after reading the zen habits blog, I realized that focusing on habits rather than goals is a much healthier and easier way for me to manage my time and gauge my success. I view a habits focus as a bottom-up rather than top-down approach, and an emphasis on process over outcome. Habits are a way for me to be productive and engage in personal development without becoming attached to ideas of accomplishment or busyness.
Recently, I’ve been reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. Reading this book is forcing me to realize that over time, I’ve shifted from focusing on habits to focusing on goals. The book is reminding me that goals don’t work well for me, and reinvigorating me with enthusiasm for habits. In 2019, I plan on focusing on one habit per month.
What better way to kick off a renewed focus on habits than with a habits app? In the past, habits apps have helped me immensely. I thought a review of habits apps would be a nice follow-up to my review of Pomodoro timer apps. In combination, a habits app, timer app, and to-do app help me stay organized and on top of things.
This review is focused on free habits apps found in the Apple app store. Note that I didn’t review the very popular Productive, because it only offers a free 7-day trial, not a free version. I didn’t review Habits Wizard or HabitShare because they required a login. I didn’t review Fabulous because it was too weird and I quickly knew it wasn’t what I wanted.
I listed Done and Tally first, because I was instantly drawn to these two apps due to their aesthetically-pleasing, simple design. Unsurprisingly, they are made by the same development company: treebetty. Habit List is another app with a minimalist design and simple, straight-forward features.
I’ve been using Done for over a month now, and expect I’ll be using it for a long time. At first, I almost opted against using it, because my original intention was to use a free app–Done costs money if you want to track more than 3 habits. After about a week of using Done, I decided it’s worth paying for.
I chose Done over Tally because it seems slightly more robust, and more appropriate for habits. Tally seems to be more fitting for anything you want to count, while Done is better for developing streaks. I’m not sure why someone would choose Tally over Done to measure their habits.
Although Tally says it allows you to track bad habits (habits you want to do less often, rather than more), it doesn’t really function any differently for bad habits. I’m not tracking bad habits, however, so this didn’t matter to me much.
In an effort to honor my time, I’ve decided against taking screen captures and writing full details of all the other apps I looked into. Still, I will write a few notes about the various apps, in addition to the information provided in the table earlier in this post.
I like the Good Habits app and felt nostalgic using it, as it was the first habits app I ever used, years ago. I eliminated it, however, because it doesn’t allow for tracking habits that you want to do more than once per day. Also, for habits that you want to do less than once per day, you must specify which day(s) you want to do the habits on, which doesn’t work for me either.
Way of Life and Momentum operate almost identically. I’m sure someone copied someone’s idea. They have an interface that shows habits as red when you don’t do them, and green when you do, which makes it very easy to notice when you’ve broken a streak. It’s also an ugly interface, and as I wrote when I reviewed timer apps, design interface matters to me. I don’t want to look at something unattractive every single day. Another thing I didn’t like about Way of Life and Momentum is that you must “skip” a habit if there’s a day you don’t want to do it. That means, if there’s a habit you only want to do once a week, you’d have to “skip” it the other six days. That doesn’t work for me. These apps are better for daily habits.
Today confused me. It had a lot going on. You can pick “covers” for each habit, which I guess might motivate some people, but felt clunky and unnecessary. I don’t need to see a photograph every time I want to track a habit.
Strides and Habit Minder have many features, and I can easily imagine those being the best habits apps for people who want something more detailed and less minimalist than what I want. Strides has a lot of features in the free version, and I actually used it for months before switching to Done. For some reason, however, it stresses me out. It feels very corporate-looking and serious, and that doesn’t fit my needs. Strides allows you to tag your habits and group them (something I later realized Done also offers).
Habit Minder can be customized in interesting ways. It has too much going on for me, but I can envision others enjoying it. Not all habits have to be entered as yes/no, as habits are usually set up in most habits apps. You can have habits associated with counting (squats is an example–maybe you want to do 50 a day, but only do 20), or time (meditation is an example–maybe you want to meditation for 15 minutes but only do 5). So Habit Minder allows a level of detail no other app I’ve seen accommodates.
Better Habits has a fun design, and confetti explodes across the screen when you complete a habit. It also displays affirmations as you continue a habit streak. I’d see this one working well for people who want encouragement. It also has a feature of rating your habits by difficulty, to help you determine how long it’ll take to adopt them.
Habit Hub offers the unique option of many reminders. Most habit apps giving you a reminder at whatever time that you choose. You can set Habit Hub to continue reminding you to do a habit until you’ve completed it. So you could have it remind you ever hour, or every 5 minutes during a specific time frame.
Daily Habits has a unique feature that allows you to associate habits with time of day. This feature would be useful for someone trying to develop a morning routine, evening routine, or any time-based chain of habits. I used to use Daily Habits years ago, and almost didn’t recognize it because of how much it has changed. It now also allows you to join groups (paid version only), which could be great for accountability.
I enjoyed sifting through all of these apps, and am pleased with the one I chose–Done. I only have one complaint: when I set a habit that I am doing less than daily, the app shows the icon indicating the habit hasn’t been completed even if I’ve completed it that day. So, for example, I want to exercise 5 times a week (but only once any given day). If I mark that I’ve exercised one day, I want the icon to be gone for the rest of the day, but it’s not because I haven’t reached the 5/week amount yet. I will probably message the developers about this.
What habits app do you use? Have you tried any of these? I’d enjoy reading about your experiences in the comments.