17 Best Tools and Apps for Building New Habits and Goals

These online tools will help you stick to the new habits and goals you made over New Year's.
February 29, 2012

Change is tough. Making new habits stick is tougher. Now that the New Year’s Resolution frenzy has quieted down, I thought I’d share 17 Web tools to help you create and nurture new habits and goals. There is no shortage of systems and approaches to guide you to successful goal completion and healthy habit building—but this post is meant to steer you to the Web-based services and tools that can help you stay accountable to those lofty ambitions.

You can use these for personal or business goals, but I tried to find ones that could help the small business owner. Most of these are free, unless otherwise noted.

1. Stickk was developed by Yale University economists to test "Commitment Contracts" and you can enter your goal or new habit within seconds of landing on the homepage. Then you register and start committing. They have exercise, quit smoking, race and custom goals. Price: Free.

2. 21 Habit is named after the standard (or not so standard) wisdom that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. This is the neat part: You can create your own 21 day challenge and deposit $21. For every day you are successful, you earn your dollar back. If you don't succeed, 21 Habit donates your dollar to charity.

3. 43 Things is one of the more popular goal-setting and new habit sites with over three million users. Their tagline says it all: "Changing your life is hard. Doing it by yourself is harder." You set three goals, share your progress and people cheer you on. Simple, right?

4. Joe’s Goals works like a log book. You list out what you're doing, positive or negative, and keep track of your progress on this super simple checklist. There are lots of positive reviews about it.

5. Beeminder calls itself the "Stickk" for "data nerds." It is also similar to 21 Habit in that you can pledge real cash to keep you on target. It then displays a cool, colorful chart to show your progress.

6. Lifetick looks like a project manager's way to new habits and goals. You chart out all the tasks that you need to complete to reach the goal or establish the new habit. Free, but has a $20/year version. It uses the S.M.A.R.T. approach which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Specific.

7. Habit Forge lets you go solo or join a group. It is a 21-day challenge and they send you an e-mail every day to keep you devoted to your task. You have to respond to the question: "Were you successful; yes or no." Free version is ad-sponsored. $9.95/year to go without ads and unlimited new habits.

8. Commitie (pronounced committee) lets you set your new  habits, commit, get e-mail reminders and earn points. It wasn't quite clear what these points do, but who cares—you get points. Everyone loves points. Make sure you check the boxes to keep commitments private; default is public. I liked the dashboard, site setup and that it shows how many other people are working on that same or similar goal.

9. Goals on Track starts with "A systematic approach to achieving more by doing less." It uses the S.M.A.R.T. approach and has a lot of tips and ideas on it's blog. $68/year with 60-day guarantee.

10. Don’t Break the Chain catches your attention because it allegedly comes from comedian Jerry Seinfeld who would use a big red X on a calendar to show his progress. Because he, and you, wouldn't want to break the chain of success, you keep at your new goal. It appears to only work with Google Chrome or iGoogle.

Not to miss out on the mobile apps, here are several iPhone and iPad versions as well as Android ones that can keep you on track. There’s even a Kindle Fire app for those folks on the Amazon Android platform.

In the iTunes store, you can find The Habit Factor for $6.99 and Habit Maker Habit Breaker for free. If you want to peruse a bigger list, AppAdvice offers its list of habit building apps. You can also get The Habit Factor on the Kindle (Android version) for $4.99. Plus, there's Habits Free by Doboko for $2.00 in the Android Market.

I was mostly looking for apps and tools, but I couldn't resist adding this time management technique called Pomodoro. I mean, after all, it's a cool name and you can mystify co-workers with "I can't talk now I'm doing my Pomodoro." The premise is you use one of those tomato looking timers to stay on task for a set amount of time. So, if you're goal is to read email for only 15 minutes you might use this method. There's an app for it, too.

If you need even more ideas and inspiration about creating new habits and setting do-able goals, then you’ll want to check out these excellent OPEN Forum posts:

What tools and apps do you like for starting new habits and breaking old ones?

Photo credit: saulalbert/flickr.