I’m not big on tracking things (especially weight, calories, and all the other traditional dieting metrics), but I’ve found that the rise of habit tracking apps has made an immense improvement to my awareness and consistency.
For a while I was using one of the apps in the list below. I wanted to write an article on it, but decided I’d look into its competitors first. After testing out a bunch of apps, I created a list of five with a clear winner and I’ve now switched to that winning app.
Before we get to the list, let me tell you a little about how these apps work and what I was looking for.
How These Apps Work
All of these apps offer the same core experience. You create habits or goals you want to track (mostly habits—that’s where the power is) and then every time you follow through with that habit you mark it as “done.”
The app begins to show you patterns in behavior—where you’re taking action consistently and where you’re not taking action consistently. This allows you to make sure that you never forget about certain habits and that you can get yourself back on track if you find that you’re being inconsistent with certain habits.
Here are some of the core things I wanted in the app (that not all have):
- The ability to mark whether a habit is done daily (and even how many times per day), weekly, a certain number of days per week, monthly, a certain number of times per month, etc.
- The ability to track habits in different ways. It’s not always about completing the habit. For some habits, like getting 8 hours of sleep, I’m only concerned about the average. Am I averaging 8 hours of sleep? For some habits, it’s about how many times the habit was completed. For example, I want to create a habit of drinking 8 glasses of water a day.
- The ability to mark a habit as productive or destructive. This way I can make sure I’m engaging with productive habits and avoiding destructive habits.
- The ability to categorize habits or at least order them. I don’t want one one long random list of habits to wade through.
- A web interface that coincides with the mobile interface would be a bonus.
- A beautiful design. I love using beautiful software. Even if a software does everything I want, I will reject it if it’s not beautiful. It’s just me. I value aesthetics.
So let’s get to it…
The Winner: Strides
Price: Free (or $4.99/mo or $39/yr for power users)
After using all of the apps, there was a clear winner to me. It wasn’t a situation where I had to sit around weighing all the pros and cons. Strides was the winner, hands down.
The Difference Makers:
- Four habit/goal tracking types: Target value by date (set a goal to increase or decrease anything, and see your pace, projection, and daily goal), average over time (keep tabs on your average per day, week, month, year, or rolling (e.g. Last 7 days)), or project with milestones (break a project down, and always know if you’re on pace to complete it by the due date).
- Great web interface: Use Strides on devices or your computer.
- Customized Alerts: Have the app alert you to check-in with a custom time per habit/goal.
- Categorize Habits/Goals (premium): You can put goals into a health category, a finance category, a morning category, etc., or create a custom category.
- Best Design: They managed to pack more features into this app without increasing complication or busy-ness. It’s beautiful and easy to use.
- Beautiful graphs and charts. And they actually display relevant information.
Strides has all of the things I was looking for and I struggle to find any real cons.
I love that at a glance you can see daily vs weekly vs monthly goals and what your status is with each. Even though some of the other apps allow the functionality of daily/weekly/monthly, the way the habits/goals are displayed leaves a lot to be desired.
Runner Up: Way of Life
Price: Free (with premium upgrades)
This is the app that started it all for me and the one I used for months before switching. It’s simple, it’s easy to use, and it has the ability to mark habits as productive or destructive.
On top of that, it has helpful graphs and easily lets you track streaks (doing habits in a row without breaking the chain). Unfortunately it doesn’t have as much of the customizable functionality, nor does it have a web interface.
Alternative #1: Productive
Price: Free (with premium upgrades)
I really like the darker design in a sea of apps that are light. Besides the aesthetics, though, Productive has a great mix of features and simplicity.
I love the use of icons and it quickly shows you habits that are currently on streaks as well as completion goals based on number of times per day, number of days per week, etc.
The downsides are that you can mark habits as productive or destructive, there’s no web interface, and there doesn’t appear to be a way to organize or categorize habits.
Alternative #2: Streaks
I love the simplicity of this app, but this is a great example of where simplicity can end up lacking in critical features. For example, if I set a goal of drinking 2 liters of water per day (I can’t track the number of glasses with this app), I can’t keep track of that throughout the day. I’m confined to simply marking whether or not I did that (meaning I have to remember how many glasses of water I drank).
Habits can’t be marked as productive or destructive, there’s no web interface, and there’s not as much customization as Strides.
One of the big benefits of Streaks, however, is the ability to sync with Apple Health and fitness trackers you are using. This means that if you set a goal of 10,000 steps per day, the app will automatically sync with a tracker and keep track of progress on this habit for you. The same goes for sleep, etc. Anything tracked by Apple Health can be automatically tracked by Streaks.
Alternative #3: Habit List
Habit List has the most minimalist interface of all the apps I tried. Like strides, however, this can be a downfall. Not a lot of information is accessible at a glance and the app has similar downsides to the other alternatives.
The only real value to this app is its simplicity for those who don’t need all the extra features.
What About You?
Is there a great habit tracking app that you think needs to make the cut? Did I miss anything with the apps I reviewed? Leave a comment and chime in on this discussion.
Kevin Geary is the founder of RebootedBody.com and a respected expert on cravings, eating psychology, and long-term habit change. He’s worked with thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy and programs like Shut Down Your Sugar Cravings.