Over the past few years, the idea that building good habits—or breaking bad ones—is one of the keys to a happier, healthier, longer life has gone mainstream. Books like Atomic Habits by James Clear and Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg argue that the sum of many small daily behaviors is far more important than the occasional dramatic gesture.
But building new habits isn’t always easy. If that were the case, everyone would brush their teeth twice a day, indulge in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio and two strength training sessions each week, and never miss a work deadline.
One of the most effective ways to build new habits is to track when you do them. While you can use a wall calendar or journal to record your habits, a habit tracker app may be a more convenient solution. You always have your smartphone with you, it can remind you when you haven’t done something that day, and there’s more room for nuance in how often you need to do a certain habit.
There are many different habit tracker apps that offer some kind of habit testing. Most of them are based on building a daily streak or not breaking a string of X on the calendar, although most also allow you to set a target number of days per week or month rather than just forcing you to do each habit every day. I considered, researched, and tested nearly 40 habit tracker apps for this article—and here are 3 of the best habit trackers.
The best app for tracking habits
- Journy for Android and iPhone users
- HabitNow for Android users
- Way of Life to collect a lot of data about your habits
What makes great habit tracker apps?
Habits tracking is an inherently simple idea. Did you do the habit you were trying to build today? If yes, check the box. If not, do not check the box. It’s easy to see why a wall calendar or a small notebook and red pen have been the default options for so long.
- However, this simply means that there are a huge number of apps out there that claim to be able to track habits and are really terrible to use. I set the bar really high for this list. In order for a habit tracker app to be great (and beat a wall calendar), it needs to:
- At a minimum, have a mobile app. A desktop app or website that syncs are a bonus, but a smartphone app is a must. It’s the one device you can count on to always have at hand, meaning you can mark off your habits as soon as you do them. Brushing your teeth in the morning? Let’s be honest – you already have your phone with you in the bathroom, so you can check it off right then and there.
- Enable flexible habit tracking. A big advantage of using a mobile app is that you can keep track of things in more subtle ways than with a calendar. The best apps should let you set a goal for how many times per week or month, track the habits you’re trying to break, and otherwise offer much more control over how you track what you want to do and when.
- Be under active development. Because habit tracker apps are so simple, there are a lot of unmaintained apps that seem to have been created by developers as a side project or just for fun. Habits Tracking is a long-term plan, so we’ve only included apps that are still actively supported and have been updated in the last year or so – so you can be sure they’ll work for at least the next few years. There’s nothing worse than being stuck with an outdated app you love.
- Be fast, intuitive and easy to use. Tracking your habits should be simple and take no more than a few seconds. If it’s awkward, it won’t fit into the good routines you’re trying to build. No app that adds friction to the process made this list.
- Offer statistics, bars and data. If you use a smartphone app, you can also get the benefit of instant data analysis. All of the best habit tracker apps offer stats that break down things like how often you do each habit, how long your current streak is, and more.
I’ve been writing about self-improvement, habit-building, and apps for almost a decade. If there’s an approach to tracking habits, I’ve probably tried it—and I really think a well-designed app offers the best balance between simplicity and effectiveness. I use one of the apps on this list myself, though I’d be happy to use the other five if I needed to (or switch smartphone platforms).
To test the apps on this list—and a lot of the ones that aren’t—I signed up for any free account or trial that was available. Then I added a few habits and used them over a few days to see how nice they were to use, explore all the quirks, and look at their claimed features. After all, the mechanic’s side of habit tracking is simple – the real challenge is making a nice app. (I’ve been updating this list for two years, and I’ve done habit tracking for other publications in the past, so I’ve tried most of these apps at least a few times.) From that, and relying on my experience with similar apps, I’ve narrowed the list down to just 3 great apps for tracking habits.
Best habit tracker app for iPhone
Journy is the standout habit tracker app for iPhone users (and the one I use daily). It’s super simple and quick to use while offering enough options for tracking any kind of habit. Given the name, it’s somewhat obviously based around the idea of building and maintaining a habit streak.
Journy enables you to track daily, weekly, and monthly habits. When you tap the big Add Task button, you can choose from a preset option like “walk the dog” or “eat a healthy meal” or create your own custom habit. Whichever way you go, you’ll be able to set the habit as due on a certain number of days per week or per month, on specific days of the week, or recurring every few days. You can also set it so you have to mark the habit off multiple times per day, like, say, brushing your teeth twice.
The best habit tracker app for Android
HabitNow is a great, good-looking habit tracker for Android users. The free plan lets you track up to seven habits, which is more than enough for most people. If you want to watch more, Premium requires a one-time payment of $9.99.
With HabitNow, you can track daily, weekly, and monthly habits, as well as add recurring tasks (which are not tracked) and individual tasks (one-time tasks). To create a new habit or task, tap the + icon. Once you’ve selected a name and category, you can set which days to repeat, whether you want to be notified about it, and whether you want to mark it by checking yes or no, or by recording a numeric value. (If you have a Premium plan, you can also set up a checklist of sub-tasks that need to be done.)
Best habit tracker app for gathering lots of data
Way of Life (iOS, Android)
Most habit tracker apps are pretty binary: either you do the habit and keep your streak going, or you don’t do the habit and break your streak. While this can be great for creating new habits, it can be too strict for some things. This is where the Path of Life comes into play.
In Way of Life, each habit has its own journal. On any given day, a habit can be marked as done, not done, or skipped (which doesn’t break any waves). You can also swipe right to add a note explaining, say, why you broke a habit or what workout you were doing. This way you can get a much better idea of what habits you stick to and when and why you don’t – all of which can be explored in the Trends tab.