Tools for Habit-Building

I got into a conversation about disciplines and habits as we head into the holidays (where my disciplines go to die) and into the new year (where my habits are often reborn for the fifth time…) While talking several of us reaffirmed how some form of accountability has been incredibly helpful for developing a successful habit… either a mental accountability to yourself (i.e. the streak method), a mentor accountability (i.e. coaches and trainers) or mutual accountability (i.e. a team or tribe)

The insight that helped me finally make changes in my discipline came from the excellent plan your year workbook: Choose one habit per month to focus upon. Make deliberate sacrifices to put off distraction in order to put on this habit. Forgive yourself when you fail to follow through, and always start again immediately. I'm excited to be a steward of twelve more months, twelve more opportunities to forge new habits in 2019.

As usual, there are apps for that… so I thought I'd pass on some good ones I'm researching as I plan on implementing my own personal habit-building machine for this upcoming year. I haven't used all of them, but they come highly rated from what I've read.

Here are some tools you can consider using to help you build habits that form the disciplines that shape your life:

Pen and Paper

There is no reason to add another app to the mix… especially if your phone is part of the distraction you are trying to overcome.

There are a myriad of gorgeous habit tracker examples on the Internet, but don't be overwhelmed by the illustrations and hand-lettering… for the past six months I've just written down the dates in the month, and put a little dot next to each day for each habit. At the end of the day, I put an x through the habits I complete. It's very satisfying to check them off… and you don't need anything more than a pen and paper.

You can read more about the method I used in a previous article about my journal.

I have found very little is better for a habit than to write it down… and show/tell one person. No need to get complicated at first, just start.

Your Task Manager

Many of us use some form of todo list or task manager like iOS Reminders, Omnifocus, Things, or trello… the list goes on. Wherever you go to track your progress, it's probably a good idea for your habits to be present where your attention is. It may help you sacrifice or change priorities in order to protect your habits.

I have just started using Things 3 as my task manager… I will likely use Things to handle my habits since it will stare me in the face all day.


Productive is a great tool for personal habits. The free version is quite full featured… especially if you intend to focus on two or three habits at a time.

It largely follows the streak methodology, with a few nice twists. I suppose the notifications are the nudge methodology… if you are willing to pay their subscription they give you neat features like location based reminders. (Stretch when I get home, take a moment to pray/meditate when I get to work, etc.)

This may be a good choice for personal habits that you may not want to share with anyone but the Lord… as far as I can tell it doesn't have a built in sharing/accountability feature other than texting people screenshots.

As I said… I would be very cautious about using your phone for habits if you tend to get sucked into social media or email in the tender hours of the morning. (This is a big problem for me.) I have been fighting this problem with some success by using the new iOS Downtime feature… I simply block all apps other than ones related to my habits until it's time to go to work.


I haven't used this one, but I love the concept. Pick a habit, and get connected with a tribe of people all working towards personally implementing the same habit.

This would be really handy for exercise habits or learning a new skill… some of us are isolated by location, schedule, or personality. This seems to be a way to ease into finding encouragement for your journey, as well as sharing tips for making your habit stick.


  • 2022-06-08 11:31:29 -0500
    Rename articles

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    Move everything to CST

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    Auditing the tags in the site...

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    Tags with only one child got yanked.

  • 2018-11-29 15:55:15 -0600
    Check in two blog posts