Developing Habits Over Time

Have you ever had trouble developing consistent habits? As we approach a New Year, many of us are about to make a bunch of commitments we will most likely not keep. Our inability to consistently perform a task over time is mostly our own fault. Whether it’s weight loss, Bible reading, family devotions, or some other resolution, we have a tendency to lose our way as time rolls on.

In Part 1 of this series, I recommended a powerful and simple app called Wunderlist. While Wunderlist is great for creating checklists, it lacks a certain ability to tell you how you’re doing over time. This is not so much the flaw of the app as it is the flaw of men.

Let’s be honest. We cheat.

If we miss a month in our daily Bible reading plan, we check off all the days in that month and try to “restart” our commitment to the plan. With Wunderlist, if we miss a few items on the list, we’ll just reschedule them for another day or check them off simply to eliminate clutter.

I have discovered a simple and free app that will help you keep track of your success. As long as you are willing to be honest with yourself, this app will help you evaluate how you’re really doing with developing good habits.

Loop Habit Tracker: Simple, Yet Effective

The Loop Habit tracker has a single objective: To help you track your progress on any given activity. At first glance, it almost seems too simple. In order to set it up you type in the name of a habit, set a reminder question (i.e. Did you wake up early today?) and you’re done.

That’s it.

What I like most about this habit tracker is that it keeps all your “habits” in a single column with really small rows. To the right of each habit is each day of the week for the past week or ten days. If you forget to mark a day as complete, you just hop in and check the box for that day. It’s super simple.

I also like their widgets which you can put on your home screen for each task you want to complete daily, weekly, or whatever. Instead of actually going into the app to check a box, you can do it right from your home screen.

So what’s the point?

Okay, so what’s the point of checking these boxes?

What makes habit tracker so powerful is not the simplicity of the setup or its user interface. What makes it so appealing is the amount of detail in the data it produces over time from such a simplistic interface.

As I mentioned above, if you check off your item on Wunderlist, it’s gone. You forget about it. With Loop Habit Tracker, you get to see how consistent you really are on any given activity. While its main page of check boxes may seem boring and unhelpful, when you click on a particular activity the app bears you the truth about yourself and your consistency…or lack thereof.

On the detail screen for each activity, it displays a percentage of your effectiveness over the last week and month. Below that is a year long, week-by-week, line graph of how you’re trending on your particular activity. Below that is a day by day, year long, history of how you’ve been doing. What’s neat about the history is you can always go back and modify a day (up to one year) if you forgot to check the box. Finally, there is a “streak” monitor which lists your three longest streaks thus far.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

What I love about this app is that it tells you the truth about yourself. As long as you aren’t lying to it (which, if you are, you’re only lying to yourself), it will tell you if you are, or aren’t, practicing good habits. While that may initially seem negative, it doesn’t have to be. For anyone out there who loves games where you have to beat your own previous high score, this app will motivate you without bogging you down in the process.

For example, if you’re a person who likes to beat their “streak,” you may not want to do an activity today, but to beat your streak you might just get off the couch and do it.

Also, if you’re that person who gets depressed when you miss a day or two, this app will remind you that a day in the course of 365 isn’t that big of a setback.

Last, if you’re the type of person who likes to see progress, the line graph is great. This is my favorite feature honestly. I love seeing the line graph (and my percentage) go up as I complete a task.

Some Minor Drawbacks

The Habit Loop Tracker does have one significant drawback: It doesn’t have a sync feature. If you’re looking for a habit tracker to cross over from multiple devices you may need to pass on this one. I don’t see this as a huge deal breaker because the app itself is designed to be quick and easy to update. The user can jump into their preferred device after the fact and check the box. It’s not a huge deal.

I recommend Wunderlist (Featured in Part 1) for all those day to day to-do list duties. Use Habit Loop Tracker strictly for tracking your consistency over time on a particular series of activities. (Note: If they could add a social component where people could compete on shared tasks this app would be epic. Still, for what it does, it’s pretty good as it stands).

How Does This Glorify God?

Are you trying to read your Bible every day? Yeah, there are apps for that but everybody who gets behind on those apps just clicks to the present and forgets the past. Loop Habit Tracker, if you’re honest with it, will let you know how much, or little, you’re actually reading the Bible. Do you hug, kiss, and compliment your spouse every day? This app will you remind you to do it, and tell you if you’re not.

Honestly, the possibilities are endless. Anything you intend to do for the Glory of God, consistently over time, this app can help you with. As long as you don’t lie to it, it won’t lie to you about how you’re really doing on any area of your life. If you increase your consistency over time, on something that glorifies God, then I’d say that’s win.

Photo via Flickr</h7