“What gets measured gets managed.”
That’s a quote from Peter Drucker, considered the father of modern management. Contrary to what you’d think, he wasn’t a big fan of complex business models or convoluted strategies. He mostly talked about habits. Businesses are run by people and people run on habits. That’s why managing our habits is important. Measuring them, however, is hard.
That’s where habit trackers come in. A habit tracker is a tool that allows you to quantify your behaviors and track how consistent you are in acquiring or removing specific ones. This means habit trackers can take many forms, such as a simple pen-and-paper checklist, an app on your phone, or even a specific gadget, like a big bottle of water on which you mark how much you’d like to drink each day.
With this guide, I hope to achieve three things:
- Show you my favorite habit tracker, coach.me, why I like it, how it works, and convince you to give it a try.
- Give you suggestions for which habits to track, backed by real data.
- Present you a range of alternatives you can explore to find what works best for you.
Below you can find a table of contents, which allows you to jump to any section that interests you. Let’s get to work!
The Best Habit Tracker For 2019: coach.me
Originally founded in 2011 under the name ‘Lift,’ coach.me is a New York based startup that helps people change their habits through tracking, community support, and coaching. Their habit tracker app is free and available on all platforms:
I’ll use the web app as an example. Once you’ve signed up, your redirected to your dashboard, to which you can immediately add habits you want to quantify and measure. For each goal, you can see how many other people are tracking this habit, how many questions the community has answered, and how many coaches are available to help with it.
Once you add a habit, you’re prompted to set how many times you want to check in each week, whether you want daily alerts, and decide if your commitment should be public, which I highly recommend. The community is both helpful and encouraging.
As soon as you’ve added a list of all habits you want to keep track of, you’re good to go. Now, all you have to do is pull up the website or app once a day and hit the check mark for each habit you’ve completed. You can even leave notes for individual check-ins and see who else did the habit with you that day.
If you check in multiple days in a row and build a streak, the app will continue to motivate you by handing out high fives at major milestones. You can even share these on social media to show your friends how well you’re doing.
Why Coach.me Is The Best Habit Tracker
In a nutshell, these are the features that make coach.me great:
- The habit tracker is and always will be free.
- It works on all devices and your progress is saved and synchronized across all of them.
- You can set individual targets, reminders, and notes for each habit you want to cultivate or get rid of.
- Visual weekly and monthly progress reports are built in.
- Checking in is seamless, you can do it from your iPhone’s ‘Today View’ without even opening the app.
- You’ll stay motivated, thanks to automated milestone celebrations and community support.
- The community also keeps you accountable, your fellow habit builders will check in on you if you vanish.
- Each habit has a Q&A section where you can ask any question or share a struggle, then get help for it.
However, there are two aspects in which coach.me beats any other app, gadget, book, or tool you can use to change your behavior:
- Community. Other apps might look flashier, but they won’t have as many users, and even if they did, the community wouldn’t be as active, optimistic, and supportive. I’ve never seen a group of people lift each other up so much.
- Expertise. No matter what your habit is, whether it’s dropping alcohol, quitting internet addiction, eating healthier, journaling daily, running, or weightlifting, there is someone with deep expertise on the platform. And you can hire them as your personal coach for as little as $15/week. A lot of them also have made step-by-step plans with daily instructions, like the ones I made for studying or breaking a bad habit.
The Top 100 Habits To Add In Your Habit Tracker
While most of us have an idea of what we’re good at and what habits we could improve, it’s important to go through the full list and prioritize before we start tracking. If you track too many habits, it becomes a burden that you’ll collapse under, if you track too few, you won’t make any significant progress. I suggest you start with one keystone habit, a habit that causes more good habits to follow, but is hard to cultivate, and 2-3 smaller, less significant ones.
Below is a list of the top 100 habits that the hundreds of thousands of coach.me users are actually tracking, not just having signed up to track. The top 5 are big ones, so maybe pick only one of those to start, then add some from the rest of the list. You can click on each one to go straight to the habit on coach.me and join the community.
- No Alcohol
- Wake up early
- Write In Journal
- Be Grateful
- Drink more water
- Set priorities for your day
- Meditate For At Least 10 Minutes
- Read a book for 30 minutes
- Go to gym
- Write Three Positive Things About Today
- Take Vitamins
- Brush Teeth in the Morning
- Take a walk outside
- Wake Up On Time
- Make Bed
- No Sweets
- Eat Breakfast
- Brush Teeth at Night
- No Smoking
- Cold shower
- Weigh In
- No Soda
- Learn To Speak A Foreign Language
- Clean for 15 Minutes
- Sleep by Midnight
- Eat Fruit
- Inbox Zero
- Slow-Carb Diet™ from The 4-Hour Body
- Take Multivitamin
- Keep in touch with friends
- Take Medication
- Yoga or Stretching
- Save Money
- No Fast Food
- Write To Do List
- Develop A Writing Habit
- Walk 10,000 Steps
- No Screens After 10pm
- Practice Musical Instrument
- No Biting Nails
- Good Posture
- Wake up by 6:30
- Read Bible
- Quality time with my children
- Track Food
- NoFap habbit
- Learn Something New
- The Five Minute Journal
- Stop and enjoy life
- Call mom/dad
- No Coffee
- Drink water first thing in the morning
- Intermittent fasting
- Eat More Vegetables and Fruits
- No Sugar
- Tell my wife I love her
- Get Out Of Bed The First Time The Alarm Goes Off
- Sleep at least 8 hours
- 30–60 minutes reading
- Daily Gratitude List
- Watch a TED talk
- Eat Vegetarian
- No PMO
- Listen more than talk
- Lift Weights
- Sleep at least 7 hours
- Stretch in the morning
- Cook Dinner
- The Calorie Counting Diet
- No email before breakfast
- Random act of kindness
- Consistent Prayer and Bible Reading
- Spend time outside
- Bring Lunch To Work
- Talk to at least one stranger
- Gratitude Journal
- Do not watch porn
- Listen to podcast
- Quit Watching Porn
- Write For 30 Minutes
- No Facebook
While I’ve made my choice of habit tracker quite obvious, I don’t want to hide the competition.
What Other Habit Trackers Are There?
Habit trackers fall into three basic categories: digital, paper-based, and devices. Digital ones come in the form of web and mobile apps. Paper-based solutions can be printed templates, your own, custom variant of a spreadsheet, or a set structure you fill in each day in a journal. Devices are tech gadgets often aimed at helping you track, measure, and manage specific habits, mostly related to health.
Here are some of the most popular ones in all categories.
Paper-Based Habit Trackers
The Bullet Journal. This is a journaling method created by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer. It uses a system of different time logs and symbols for your bullet points to make journaling comprehensive and easy. The Leuchtturm1917 is a popular notebook people use for bullet journaling as you need one that’s dotted, not lined. You can then dedicate one as a monthly habit tracker in a simple table format.
Other journals: There are lots of journals with different themes out there, some more geared towards productivity, others towards accomplishing goals or gaining self-awareness. However, all of them include habit tracking in one form or another. Some of the ones I’ve tried and like are The 5 Minute Journal, The SELF Journal, The Productivity Planner and The Freedom Journal.
Printable templates: If you google around, you’ll find lots of free templates for monthly habit trackers. Just fill in your habits and cross off the days on which you did them. I like this one by Sarah Halstead.
The Habit Calendar: This is a full-year calendar that allows you to set daily and weekly habits, as well as monthly goals. It’s neat for keeping an overview in a small format.
Digital Habit Trackers
Productive (iOS): This app is a good mix of clean UI, easy usability, but lots of tracked data. However, if you want to track more than five habits, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee.
HabitBull (iOS/Android): HabitBull visualizes your data in lots of different ways, but it’s a bit more of an effort to set up new habits than in Productive. They’ve also recently switched from a one-time premium upgrade to a monthly fee, at least on Android, which costs $7.
Strides (iOS): With a focus on numbers and the ability to add milestones and sub-milestones, this app is for quantified-self nerds that want to get serious about breaking their behaviors down to a tee.
Streaks (iOS): This one has a very clean UI and is simple to use. However, it costs $4.99 and is mostly focused on health goals. On the other hand, it pulls the data from your Health app and thus gives you a full picture of how much you’re moving, sleeping, etc.
HabitHub (Android): An Android alternative to Productive, but it also costs $4.99 to unlock the unlimited version with more than five habits.
Stickk (iOS/Android/Web): Stickk was created by Yale professor Ian Ayres, author of Carrots and Sticks, to help people stick to their commitments. The idea is to put some actual money on the line, promise to do something, have a friend act as an objective judge, and then follow through on your commitment. It’s a specific way of building habits that won’t work for everyone, but if you react to stakes well, this might be for you. It’s also free.
Habitica (iOS/Android/Web): This used to be called HabitRPG and is probably the largest community next to coach.me. It takes an interesting approach in which you create a character, earn points, and level up. It’s a way of gamifying your life.
Devices As Habit Trackers
Fitbit Charge 2: Probably the most popular wristband out there. It tracks your heart rate, steps, calories, distance, floors climbed, etc. It also allows you to receive text and call notifications, but generally, is aimed at helping you optimize workouts.
Moov Now: This one sort of looks like a watch, but not really. It’s waterproof, comes with an audio coach and has a built-in sleep tracker. It’s specifically targeted at athletes in certain disciplines, like swimming, boxing, and running, and might be overdoing it for generic use cases.
Garmin Vivosmart HR: My weapon of choice when taking my 10,000 daily steps. I like it because it’s slim, but tracks everything I need and is waterproof. Like all of the above, it comes with an app which you can sync once or twice a week in order to continuously monitor and store all your data.
How Can You Get Started With A Habit Tracker Today?
Tracking your habits is the single greatest way to manage them, and thus, actually have a shot at changing them for the better. Therefore, the most important thing you can do after reading this guide is to start tracking. Here’s how to make sure you do that today:
- Sign up on coach.me.
- Add 3-5 habits from the top 100 habit list to your dashboard.
- Check in for the ones you’ve already performed today.
To make sure you have a reason to come back to the app tomorrow, I recommend you also post a few questions in the Q&A sections of your habits. Once you’ve built some momentum, you can figure out the specifics of your habit tracking routine on the go. If you’re sure you want to tackle a habit you’ll need help with, you can also jump in by hiring a coach, who’ll make sure you get into using the app regularly. But that’s for bigger commitments.
Note: If you use the coupon code NGOEKEWEEK, you’ll get your first week for free, regardless of which coach you choose.
If you think you might be more of pen-and-paper person, I suggest you order a journal and run that as a separate experiment, because signing up for a digital habit tracker has less delay. You can do it right now, and that’s important.
Peter Drucker died at 95 years old. He lived through not one, but two world wars. The man may have been all about business, but he sure did his homework when it came to people’s habits, including his own. The sooner you start measuring, the earlier you’ll succeed at managing.
And there’s no reason you can’t begin both today.