For the past couple of years, I have had a list of lofty goals I want to achieve, mostly all in the arena of self-improvement. But here’s the catch – I don’t have a single ounce of willpower. I tell myself to lose weight, then I buy a week’s worth of burgers, chocolate and Coca Cola, making the scales groan and wheeze in protest.
But weirdly enough, having some kind of a phone app to harass me actually helps. Since we have our phones with us in our pockets virtually 24/7, they know more about us than we may realise.
Here are some apps that will get all “Full Metal Jacket” on you if you try to back away.
I have never tried smoking, but anyone who is addicted will be sure to tell you that quitting is really difficult. Nicotine patches, nicotine gum, cold turkey (stopping suddenly, not the bird), hypnosis… there are various methods of stopping, but each one doesn’t work for everybody.
MyQuit is an app which makes you remember why you are quitting in the first place. Is it for your family? Your health? Your bank account? If you formulate a reason, then enter it into the phone, you will know what you are fighting for when times get tough.
After you have set it up, press the “I Smoked” button when you lit one up, and press “Having a Craving” when you are clawing the walls in despair.
The app keeps a tally of how many times you said you smoked, along with a running tally of how much you have saved by getting through days smoke-free. If you hit “Having a Craving“, it ensures that craving stops dead in its tracks, by giving you a little horror bedtime story. I’m not sure why that woman is jumping for joy after reading that.
There are plenty more quit smoking apps in the iOS App Store. Here are just a few of them:
Now we move onto general motivation apps. The aptly-named “Momentum” is an app where you specify what you would like to accomplish. Maybe exercise? Save money? Lose weight? Whatever it is, Momentum can help. Simply specify which days of the week you want to accomplish your goal (maybe if you are losing weight, one day can be a cheat-day?).
If you manage to achieve your goal for that day, you simply tap on the day in the calendar. A big “ping!” will turn the day green. You will want to try and have an unbroken line of green. Having a grey gap signifies failure, and that is definitely not good for the ego. So it is safe to say you will go the extra mile to get through the day and turn that sucker green at midnight.
Gamifying apps are becoming all the rage now. People tend to do things when they are challenged, and when they want to win at something. That is the whole concept behind Habitica.
All of your goals are turned into monsters, and when you finish a task, you conquer the monster and gain experience points, and “gold”. If you fall behind in your tasks and start missing deadlines, your avatar’s health begins to suffer. Just like other role-playing games, you can gain experience points to unlock new features.
You can do it on your own, but it’s even better when you are collaborating and fighting against friends.
Another gamification habit-breaking app you can try is PromiseUP.
Hit Your Targets: Goalify
Goalify is a bit of a simple no-frills app for making targets, and also has a professional version for coaches, teachers, and managers.
Simply add your goals, and the app will remind you every day to make sure they are done. You then tell the app if you managed it or not, and it records your success or failure accordingly. So it doesn’t exactly hit you in the face with a boxing glove if you admit failure, but it does nag you relentlessly every day to get it done. Just like being married.
You can pause a goal if you don’t have time to work on it (a bit dangerous if you’re a serial procrastinator), and you can set up daily and weekly training plans.
According to the website, HabitBull is based on the Seinfeld Productivity Secret. Namely that you reach your goals every day so you can mark that day as a success, creating a line of wins. Eventually you will not want to break that chain and you will keep going.
When entering a habit, go to the relevant category, find the habit you want to break or the goal you want to reach. Then when you have managed to do it for that day, tap on it and the day turns green. Now make sure all subsequent days are green too. Don’t break the chain!
From a visual point of view, Productive is the smoothest and slickest of the lot. Adding a goal is very easy – if it isn’t in the list, type it in yourself. Give it an icon and when you want to do it, and you’ve got your first target set up.
Want to add another one? Man, you are so productive! Just pull the screen down and it will instantly take you to the categories again.
As you can see from the screenshot above, you simply have to swipe left to skip the task, and swipe right to mark it as done. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. As you mark them completed, the days turn green, and you start a chain. Do you see a pattern emerging here?
You even get a passcode lock so nobody ever finds out you are trying to kick your Backstreet Boys addiction.
Put Money On It: stickK
Stickk takes things a bit more formally with you being required to undertake a “commitment contract”. After specifying what habit you want to kick or goal you want to reach, it then asks you if you want to stake money on its success. And yes, that’s real money, not Monopoly money.
It also asks you if you want to nominate someone as your referee or if people should take you “on your honor”. These two extra options are supposed to vastly increase the chances of you succeeding. After all, who likes to lose money and be embarrassed in front of friends?
Go Premium: Habit List ($3.99)
Habit List is also a rather visually pleasing app, but it is also the only paid app in the list, at $3.99. With all the free alternatives out there, you may feel disinclined to pay, but personally I found it great to use. It is also highly rated in the App Store, with over 500 ratings.
You can clearly see what you have to do today, compared to what you would do in say a week or a month. That green chain is back, motivating you not to break it up with red days. You can also look at your trends over a certain period of time and see how you are doing, to decide if you should have that deep-fried Mars Bar or not.
We end with something which works slightly differently. Coach.me’s Habit Tracker doesn’t help you kick habits – it merely helps you form new ones, which is always good, right?
This is done by first adding your desired skill as usual, but if you trip up, you can see who else is using Coach.me for that particular skill. Join the community and ask them questions to help you figure out what you’re doing wrong.
If asking the community still doesn’t fix the problem, you can hire a coach to help you, with prices starting at $14.99 and up.
How Do You Kick Your Bad Habits & Form New Ones?
Everybody has their own way of dealing with bad habits — smartphone apps, peer pressure, financial pressure, denial….
I would really like to know in the comments – how do you maintain strong willpower and fight those urges? Give me suggestions quick. The Ben & Jerry’s extra-large family-size tub is giving me the eye.