I have a lot of things I want to accomplish in the upcoming year. Some of them are really small things (like learning to make hashbrowns, a breakfast food that has confounded me for years) and some are really big, like learning to live a more minimalist life.

In the past, I have begun each new year with great intentions but found following through really difficult—like many of those who create goals for the new year.

I think that’s because change is hard. We all want to improve and become better people — healthier, more productive, a better partner or friend. But it can be tough to stick to new behaviors.

So this year, I decided to get a little help from technology and research around the ideas of habit formation and willpower. By examining things like how smokers quit, why student perform well and how New Year’s resolvers stay on track, researchers are starting to discover how we can create lasting change in our lives.

The key? Habits. Good habits, it seems, are the crucial building blocks of a better, healthier, happier way of life.

But where do good habits come from? How do you create them?

Building an awesome habit

We’ve written about habits before on the blog. One of the most beneficial posts for me was Joel’s simple method to create a new habit:

  1. Start so small you can’t fail
  2. Work on the small habit for as long as it takes to become a ritual (something you’re pulled towards, rather than which requires willpower)
  3. Make a very small addition to the habit, ideally anchored to an existing ritual

creating-habits

 

So it seems getting a little help building that initial habit could help a lot. Fortunately, there are tons of great tools and apps out there that want to lend a hand.

Here’s a look at some of the best free tools and apps I could find for building stronger habits. If I didn’t discover your favorite tool, add it in the comments and keep our list growing!

build stronger habits

Apps and tools to build strong habits

Web apps

21 Habit

The concept is simple: You pledge $21 that says you’ll keep up your new habit for 21 days, the time it takes to ingrain it as a habit. Each day you succeed, you get $1 back. Each day you fail, you forfeit $1, which 21habit donates to one of several charities.

21 Habit

42Goals

A simple tool for tracking your daily goals and keeping a log of your daily activities. Templates are provided for tracking all sorts of activities and habits, and you can also create your own custom goals. Data you collect is displayed in the style of chart you specify.

42 goals

Beeminder

Beeminder puts a little sting into habit formation by requiring you to pay up if you aren’t able to keep your goals. You commit to pay something — initially $5 — after the first time you get off track with your new habit.

Beeminder

Chains.cc

This motivational tool uses the “don’t break the chain” method to help build good habits and break bad ones. Each day you complete a task you want to keep up, a visual streak grows. Bonus: There’s also an iPhone app for on-the-go habit-building.

chains

Daytum

Whether you would like to tally a day or a year, Daytum helps you collect and visualize the most important statistics in your life—whatever they might be—and create an up-to-the-moment personal dashboard. Also has a companion iOS app!

daytum

Go F#^ing Do It

This site definitely doesn’t mince words! Nor does it shy away from its goal—helping you create new habits through accountability. All you need to get started is a goal, a deadline, some money and someone to act as your witness. If you don’t meet your deadline, there goes your cash.

Go Fucking Do It

HabitForge

This site is designed around accountability—a proven motivator in creating new habits. There are daily check-ins and progress reports, and a community to encourage you. You can even join or build a team of others working on the same thing as you.

Habitforge

Habitgrams

Set simple reminders to be sent through your choice of email or text.

 

habitgrams

iRunuRun

Focusing on a greatness method that zeroes in on tracking and quantifying focus on recurring behavior, this tool is a powerful performance and accountability platform. Also comes with an iOS app!

iRunuRun

Lifetick

This web app first focuses on core values and then breaks them down into smaller goals and habits, with tons of visual progress reports. Also cool is the “Dreams” feature, where you can create and add to your lifelong “bucket list.”

 

Lifetick

Momentum

So this one is not quite a habit builder, but still too cool not to mention! Momentum is a personal dashboard designed to eliminate distraction and provide inspiration, focus, and productivity. Choose your goal or focus for the day and Momentum will gently remind you of it each time you go to open a new tab.

momentum

 

stickK

stickK focuses on incentives, accountability and community to help you keep up your habits. Each user creates a unique Commitment Contract to achieve goals within a particular timeframe. If you are unsuccessful, stickK lets your friends know about it. You can also put money on the line for any contract.

Stickk

TinyHabits

BJ Fogg has studied human behavior for 20 years. His TinyHabits is a free, ongoing 5-day session in which you learn about habits, select 3 new habits you want and respond to a daily email. In less than 30 minutes total, he promises skills that will benefit you for a lifetime.

Both iOS and Android apps

HabitRPG

Life’s a game with HabitRPG, which rewards you for completing tasks and goals with gold, points, progress and more features. If you don’t complete tasks, your can loses health or even die and lose the progress you’ve made. You can also add friends to your group for community and accountability.

habitRPG

Lift Coach.me

I have really enjoyed using Lift (now renamed Coach.me). The app does a great job is facilitating habits by breaking them down into small pieces and getting you into a routine. Check in when you complete goals of your choosing (popular ones include floss, run, meditate and more).  For almost every habit there’s a great Q&A going on and an expert-led group that can help you come up with achievable goals.

Lift app

iOS apps

Balanced

A simple way to celebrate daily successes that also creates motivation you may not even know you had. It starts you out with 50 suggested activities, so you’ll easily be able to find a new goal to work toward. Choose the ones that are right for you, or add your own to create your individual happiness list. Balanced gives you positive feedback, lets you know if you are on a streak, and keeps you aware of when you last did each activity.

Balanced

Good Habits

Another “don’t break the chain” habit builder based on Jerry Seinfeld’s famous advice— with an added visual emphasis.

good habits

 HabitClock

Need a wake-up call and a habit builder? HabitClocks not only wakes you up but also helps you perform morning routines that will improve your daily mood and productivity.

HabitClock

Loggr

If you want more control over how to create and track your habits, Loggr could be the answer. This app allows you to track, quantify, view and export any data—you choose what’s important to you.

Loggr

Logsit

An easy way to keep track of your time and activities in order to get more insight into your behavior patterns. Reminders adjust to your behavior, and progress bars show the time until your next reminder.

Logsit

Way of Life

Get the data you need to build better habits with Way of Life, which seems to track your habits in every visual way possible. As you collect more and more information, the idea is that you will be able to easily spot positive and negative trends in your lifestyle.

way of life

Android apps

The Fabulous

A habit-building app that focuses first on creating an awesome morning routine and then add other rituals to install healthy habits and mindfulness in your life. Users get tips for healthy living and a coach to motivate you to go further.

the fabulous

HabitBull

HabitBull lets you set reminders for each habit and displays them on days when you need to be successful, so you can use it as a to-do list, a calendar planning tool or checklist or a repeating reminder. Try to get a long streak for the habit you are working on by covering your goals—the longer the better!

HabitBull

Pledge

Pledge will remind you to do tasks you often neglect and highlight streaks and high scores so that you stay motivated and can focus on your goals. It also promises to “slightly judge you” if you don’t keep your promises, in case you might find that motivational. :)
pledge

I’m excited to try more of these tools to help me build strong habits in the new year and beyond. Maybe one of them could work for you, too!

As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit.”

What habits are you working on building right now? What tool, technology or lifehack helps you create new habits? I’d love to hear all your tips! And once again, if I didn’t discover your favorite tool, add it in the comments and keep our list growing!

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Written by Courtney Seiter

Courtney writes about social media, diversity and workplace culture at Buffer. She runs Girls to the Moon on the side and pets every dog she sees.

  • Ryan Vanderbilt

    Great list! One quick thought that I’ve had for years is to think about doing ‘New Day Evolutions’ vs. ‘New Year’s Resolutions.’ The reason is that we all make grand plans in the new year, but it’s super hard to achieve big and epic ideas, so many of us fall off and lose our inspiration to keep going. I think we also feel like if we don’t get off to a great start on those resolutions in the first couple of weeks that we have failed and we just let them go. I think there is some power in thinking ‘small and epic.’ Making small steps and knowing you are making progress towards the big goal, if it’s even big. The other problem with the New Year’s Resolutions is that they happen at the hardest time of the year to make any changes and stick to them. Peoples’ schedules are usually all over the place with travel, lot’s of parties, less healthy eating, etc. The thought behind a New Day Evolution is that you can do it every day, and it doesn’t have to be a big change. No pressure to tackle all those things you want to do or change once a year, you have a chance to address it every single day.

    • Wow, I really love this idea, Ryan! Makes so much sense, and “evolution” feels like a super healthy way of viewing change in our lives. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  • Extensive list.. who would think there were so many ways to help people with a habit. Personally new years resolutions never worked for me as well as say July or August resolutions. Possibly all the hype about how many fail within the first month. Any habit takes repitition.. goal setting helps too .. thanks for the tips n tricks will check them out. Have a Happy New Year!

    • Kudos to you for making change happen in your life at any time, Charles! It’s not easy. :) Repetition and goal setting are great tips, thanks for adding that to the discussion! Happy New Year to you, too!

  • I use Life (free) and it’s totally changed things for me with regard to doing habits. I also use ToDoist to track my daily to-dos. The interface on both is super clean and very friendly on mobile. HabitRPG looks SUPER fun.

    • Thanks so much for adding some new tools to the list, Brendan!

  • Courtney, Great work pulling this together! Extensive and insightful. And, thank you for including irunurun in your list. Run hard! -Travis

  • Holy cow, so proud to be on this list! We’re huge fans of Buffer. I mean, we use it of course (who doesn’t?) but especially your radically transparent company philosophy. In fact, we’re listed right next to each other in the open company directory: http://www.opencompany.org/directory/

    I also wanted to point out that Beeminder and HabitRPG have an integration. So you can start with gamifying habits and then for the stubborn ones add Beeminder’s kick in the pants — without having to enter things in two places.

    Thanks again for including us!
    Danny of Beeminder

    • Oh, cool! That’s great to know, Daniel. Thanks a bunch for sharing! Beeminder has an awesome blog, BTW!

  • Thank you for the list Courtney.

    I completly agree with Ryan’s comment about small steps. I think it is effective to decide what specific and measurable actions need to be taken on a daily basis to achieve a worthwhile goal. Then build those actions into a habit. This way you are not focused on a huge goal that may seem virtually impossible to achieve but, rather just one action to be taken today.

    My Android app, “List – Daily Success Checklist” builds on this idea that achieving small daily actions results in big success over time. The app tracks your daily successes and displays them on a calendar. This helps motivate you to keep completing your daily actions.

    If you would like to try it the app can be downloaded from the Play store here:

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dancingdroid.dailysuccess

  • I started using SimpliFit to start building better health habits and MyFitnessPal for food tracking. I’m excited to check these other apps out! :)

  • I started using Noosfeer.com. It’s a beautiful way to keep focus while reading articles, blog posts, etc…

  • Dave

    I started tapping the power of Habit a couple years ago and the affect on my productivity and focus has been unreal. You’ve clearly done your research on some of the top apps out there, but I was very surprised that you missed what I’ve found to be the best of them, which is The Habit Factor. The app is tied to a book by the same title which I highly recommend too.

    • Oh, I’m excited to check that one out, Dave! Thanks for adding to our list!

  • Oh my, what a fabulous list. There are so many options to check out it’s almost overwhelming! (But in a good way.)

    I absolutely agree about starting small. Too many people say, for example, “I want to lose 20 pounds” and then hit the gym way too hard. Then they take a break to recuperate, and it’s harder and harder to get back into it.

    It’s beneficial to start small, cut yourself some slack, and build habits to reshape your overall lifestyle. That can go for anything. These apps seem to help a lot with accountability–provided you can actually remember to log in and track things.

    Happy new year, and may we all see success in reaching our goals :)

    • Hear, hear! Thanks for checking out the post and adding your thoughtful comment!

  • Athena Lam

    Thanks for this Courtney! I have low-tech ways of doing my daily habits (sticky note stuck to my smartphone), and it works fine, but appreciate being able to see something more visual. Feels like a great bonus!

    • Low-tech is awesome too! Whatever works. :) Thanks for reading, Athena!

  • Petar Petrov

    Hi, Courtney, hi all.

    Pledge developer here.
    Thanks for this awesome article and for featuring my app as well :)

    I hope it helps everyone to make some great new habits.
    Feedback and new ideas are always welcome.

    • Hi Petar! I am very happy to! It was neat to discover lots of new apps like yours to help people improve. I thank you for creating it!

  • Joshua Gill

    This is awesome! I didn’t even know it was that many. Kinda hard to choose. I like that font break the chain app.

  • Ivo

    Great list! I found ambition.me and love it because of its simplicity/design.

    • Allan Lund Hansen

      Is there any info on what it actually provides without having to sign up? Also if the ambition guys are listening in on the conversation please, please, remove the browser backbutton hijacking from your code, it is a rather annoying feature and sends a signal to me personally that the users experience is not taken seriously into consideration.

  • Parthesh Raval

    Can i suggest one more Habit Tracker Application-Ipro Habit Tracker for android and iPhone,I used it in real life,its best one for my fitness.

  • You may want to check out http://www.GoalsOnTrack.com/, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals, habits, and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, and most of all, really works!

  • Bart van der Laan

    Nice article! I’m using Bucketbulb right now for creating my own bucket list. So I tend to focus on the most important part of life.

  • Great tools Courtney. Do you have a favorite from this list?

  • What kind of app source codes are you looking??? coz there are plenty of source code selling sites out there. Search at Buysourcecodes.com you can get plenty of open source apps there

  • I user rewire an android app to track my habits, it is the most beautifully designed habit forming application i have come across.

    You can download the android application from here
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rstudioz.habits&hl=en

  • David Le

    Great list Courtney. Do you have a favorite?
    For iOS I like the BeGoals (free) for the great reports but for Android I’m still searching. Lift is almost too simple as I don’t use the social aspect of it. However I will checkout Bledge now, thanks.

    BeGoals: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/begoals-goals-habits-task/id1034927928?ls=1&mt=8
    Lift: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.liftworldwide.lift&hl=en

  • Jigar Pansiniya

    This is nice aap list for iphone but i found “IPro Habit Tracker” is best application for tracking the habits. Also its streak representation is best based on filter.

    I like database backup and restore functionality of the application. Specially see backup file from document directory which is in decoding format, it is best for security purpose.

    If you want to use then refer https://itunes.apple.com/app/id970423328

  • Oliver

    Try Plan & Do. It is another great choice. Have widget like gantt chart on homescreen. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=pro.tsov.regulartracking

  • I know this is an old article but its pretty comprehensive. Perhaps you would consider adding Habit reCode to your next article?
    Habit reCode is the only daily coach and accountability partner to help you build specific success habits. Its really new and only available on android atm.

    Ps, i referred to this article during my research phase. Love it.

  • SR

    I read this post over a year ago and adopted loggr which quickly became my most used ap. It’s no longer supported/available so I’m now seeking an alternative. Almost all of these operate on a Boolean (true/false) method. Loggr was able to capture at a quantitative level which was pretty useful (i.e. “number of cups of coffee”)

    42Goals appears to have this but is web based only. I may give this a try. If anyone has any newer alternative suggestions, please post.