Build good habits for productivity and health with iPhone apps

What was your New Year resolution? To get fit, build your business, learn new skills? How is it going? Poorly? Use these iPhone apps to build good habits to help achieve your goals.

It is good to have goals and you do not need to wait until the New Year to set them. Anytime is a good time to improve your health, do better at your business or work, learn new skills, lose weight and so on. The sooner you start on the path to improvement, the better off you will be.

The problem with settings goals or those once-a-year resolutions is that we often fail to stick to them. We start out full of enthusiasm, but somewhere along the way, it wanes and we lose interest.

We have great plans for the future, but they often fail. Instead of losing weight, we put it on. Instead of going to the gym five times a week, we sit on the couch watching TV. We start, but never finish that course to improve our skills and knowledge.

What can be do? Build habits.

Habits are something we do regularly and often without thinking. They are just things we do every day and have become part of our routine. When we think of habits, we often imagine bad ones, but habits can also be good ones, such as eating five fruits or vegetables a day, going for a run every day, visiting the gym three times a week, or starting and working through an online course.

Good habits are not easy learn and we often start out with the intention of doing something regularly, but other things get in the way, we forget, or simply can’t be bothered.

What we need is some form of encouragement, something to motivate us and to keep us at it. Apps on your phone can provide this motivation by tracking your habits. You always have your phone with you, so when you perform some activity, you can record it on your phone. For example, you can tick off going to the gym, eating fruit, or completing a module of a course.

Notifications on the phone can also remind you to do something in case you forget. Even if you don’t forget, a notification can act to motivate you, to get you off the sofa and doing something more useful than watching TV.

There are many habit tracking apps for both iPhone and Android phones and here I look at five for iOS. They are all free, although some have limitations to encourage you to pay for additional features or to remove adverts.


Price: Free | By: Funn Media LLC | Size: 93 MB | iOS: 10.0 or later

HabitMinder app for the iPhone helps to build good habits

HabitMinder Good Habit Tracker and Motivator looks great with its dark skin and colorful icons. There is a light mode, but dark is best. The free app allows you to add up to three habits and an upgrade costing US $14.99 (UK £14.99) is required to add an unlimited number.

The app provides dozens of ready-made habits that can be added quickly and they are organized into Body, Mind, Health Habits, Appreciate and Commit categories. A custom habit can be created and you can specify the name, icon, color and sound.

Habits can be counted, such as drinking eight glasses of water, or timed, such as a 30 minute run. Their frequency can be set to daily, weekly or monthly, you can choose which days you must do them and set a reminder in case you forget.

When habits are performed, you set them as done and the app tracks the number completed, the current streak and longest streak (number of times without skipping or forgetting). You can view some current information, but historical data, such as the last week or month, is available only with a paid upgrade.

Some information can be pulled in from the Apple Health app, such as the number of steps walked each day. It also supports Apple Watch and you can view your habit progress on your wrist.

This is an excellent app that does the job well. However, three habits makes the free version too limited and for me, $14.99 is too much to unlock the extra features. If the price does not bother you, it is recommended.

Everyday Habit Tracker

Price: Free | By: Joan Boixados Sanuy | Size: 25 MB | iOS: 9.0 or later

Everyday Habit Tracker app for the iPhone

Everyday Habit Tracker is a free app that limits you to adding three habits. To add more requires a paid subscription which is US $29.99 a year or $4.99 a month (same in UK pounds). That is quite a lot of money for an app that is essentially quite simple.

The home screen lists the habits down the left side and across the top are the days of the week. When you perform a habit, you tap in the day column and the square is colored. When creating a new habit you can select the color to use. You can easily see which days you performed or skipped habits and if you missed a day, it can be filled in as easily as today.

The habits themselves need more features and they are once-only. You cannot track drinking eight glasses of water or spending half an hour walking. You can only say if you have done it or not. However, there is the option to take weekends off and you can break habits, not make them, such as giving up a bad habit you wish you didn’t have, like drinking or smoking.

A overview screen shows the current streak, longest streak, total, and so on. It shows it as numeric data and on a chart.

An unusual and useful feature is the Learn section and this provides numerous links to articles on the web about how to build new good habits and get rid of old bad ones. There is a lot of reading here and you can learn a lot if you want to dive into the library.

The app has some good points, like the Learn section, but other apps have more tracking options. If it wasn’t so expensive, it would be worth trying.

Calendar Planner & To do list

Price: Free | By: Sunny Balcony LLC | Size: 85 MB | iOS: 11.0 or later

Calendar Planner & To Do List is a habit tracking app for the iPhone

Calendar Planner & To do list is not what you would expect from the title and there is no calendar or to-do list. It is a habit tracking app. This makes it a bit hard to find in the app store and it’s best to search for ‘Calendar Planner Sunny Balcony’. The app is free, really free, as in no charges, no limitations and no adverts.

Any number of habits can be added to the app and dozens of ready-made ones are provided that are organized into categories like Hobbies, Grateful, Healthfulness, Mindfulness, Fitness, and Appointments. You can also create your own or edit one of the provided ones.

Each habit has a goal, which could be a counter, timer, distance, quantity and so on. A schedule can be set, which can be daily, weekly or monthly, every day or only certain days. A time or location can be selected for reminders so that you do not forget.

The home screen shows habits are cards with an icon, title and percentage complete. Tap a title and you can enter your progress, like the number of glasses of water you have drunk, if you have been to the gym and so on. Completed tasks are moved to a separate section below.

Some activities, like walking, are tracked automatically can the number of steps taken is pulled in from the Apple Health app.

Your history is tracked and several views are available, such as all habits or individual ones completed, current and longest streak, and so on. It is all very useful and you can see your progress, wins and fails.

Calendar Planner & To do list is a great habit tracker. It is so similar to the HabitMinder app that it makes me wonder whether the two are related. This app is recommended and provides most of the features of the other apps free of charge. Free is nice of course, but apart from a dull home screen, it is a good app that provides all the features many people need for building good habits. It is recommended.

Habit Daily – Habits Tracker

Price: Free | By: Davetech Co. Ltd | Size: 261 MB | iOS: 10.0 or later

Habit Daily, a habit tracking app for the iPhone

Habit Daily is a free habit tracking app that has no adverts or limits. It just tracks your habits and it does it rather well.

As is common with these apps, there is a collection of suggested habits that are organized into categories like Sports, Thought, Health, and life. They range from walking to meditating to contacting parents to laughing out loud. You can also add your own custom habit if it is not on the list. A number of habit ideas are provided too.

The number of options is good and you can select the color and icon or emoji, set the goal, the time of day to do it, enter a motivational message and set a start and end date for the habit.

Some habits use counters, like eating fruit or drinking water, some use time, like exercise and meditation. The home screen lists the habits and you can set counters or add time by dragging a finger over a habit, which makes them very easy to check off each time. Some have timers that you can start and stop too.

Habit histories are available and a calendar shows the days you completed habits, current streak, best streak, average per day and more. There are also charts showing week, month and year data.

There is a social side to the app and you can invite friends to join you. I don’t want to impose my habits on others, so I didn’t try it, but it’s there if you want it. The interface has some useful customization options, so you can choose light and dark modes, change icons, the home screen display, and other things.

Habit Daily is an excellent free app for building good habits. It has a comprehensive range of features and does everything I want. It is large, which may be a problem if your iPhone storage is nearly full, but otherwise it is recommended.

Persist- Planner&habit tracker

Price: Free | By: Lijie Chen | Size: 16 MB | iOS: 10.0 or later

Persist: Habit tracking app for the iPhone

Persist is a free app that is supported by advertising, which is a bit annoying and there is no option to pay to remove it. You just have to put up with them.

Create a new habit, of which there can be any number, and you can choose a simple habit from a collection of around 30 ready-made ones like eating fruit, swimming, writing, learning, and so on. You can also create your own habit.

The frequency of the habit is limited to weekly, monthly or yearly, so if you want to do something every day, you must set it to seven times a week. You cannot do something several times a day, such as drinking a glass of water. This is a severe limitation that could put you off this app.

The home screen is straightforward and there are tiles for each habit. Numbers show your progress, so 3/7 would indicate you have done something three times out of seven this week. The tiles are colored to show the amount completed.

A statistics screen shows a calendar and which days habits were completed using colored dots, but can you remember which color is which habit?

This app is too basic compared to the others and it is not one I will keep on my phone.

The best habit apps

Only five apps were looked at here and there are dozens in the iOS app store, but it does not take long to find great apps and there are some outstanding ones here. HabitMinder is good, but Habit Daily and the oddly named Calendar Planner & To do list offer a similar range of features for free, so I will be keeping them both on my iPhone. Both are good and it is hard to choose between them.

One thing I noticed with all the apps is that reminders were more irritating than useful. This is because habits were often performed at different times of the day. For example, sometimes I finish work early, sometimes on time, sometimes late. I therefore visit the gym at different times, depending on work. A reminder to visit at a specific time didn’t really help. I used reminders more to remind me to update the app with what I had done at the end of the day.