As small business owners, we all have good and bad habits. There are things we do that—for better or worse—we just seem to do naturally day-to-day.
As business owners, however, good and bad habits can come with a (literal) price. If you aren’t nurturing effective business habits, you may be depriving yourself of the efficiency your enterprise deserves.
Now, anyone who has tried to make a habit out of going to the gym knows that forming or breaking habits is often easier said than done. Habits aren’t just a matter of willpower, but consistency. A 2012 study found that forming a habit, one that will become a part of how you live your life (or run your business), can take up to 66 days.
Thankfully, as is often the case in our digital world, there’s help in the form of technology. Google Play and Apple’s App Store are full of apps geared toward building positive habits by offering reminders and guiding you toward your goals. Here are six of our favorite apps that can help you develop new habits to be a more effective small business owner.
6 Mobile Apps for Building Good Habits
1. HabitBull (Android, iOS): Accountability—with a bit of forgiveness.
HabitBull is inspired by a streak-based method of habit tracking attributed to Jerry Seinfeld. The concept? Complete a task day after day, and you form a streak. The longer a streak goes, the more you won’t want to break it, and the more likely you are to adopt the habit you want. HabitBull is especially good because, while it pushes you the way you need to be pushed, it’s also forgiving. Most notably, it gives you the option of setting some tasks as “should do, but not essential” so that if you slip up one day, it won’t completely ruin your streak—or your spirit. So, if you aspire to update QuickBooks every day, but miss a day, it doesn’t mean your goal to make it a routine is ruined. Now, slip up more than once, and you’ll start getting into trouble. But this app is built to understand the realities of life. It’s that more encouraging—but still effective—approach that defines HabitBull. A little fun and gentleness are welcome in an app that orders you to do stuff you may not always want to do.
2. Habitica (Android, iOS): Build good habits with your team.
What if tracking your habits were more like a video game? With Habitica, it can be. Evoking the look of old-school 8-bit video games like The Legend of Zelda, Habitica turns your daily tasks into Castlevania-like little monsters. When you defeat them by completing your tasks, you gain experience points to help you jump a level along with coins to better outfit your character. Don’t complete a task? You lose health and progress. But what really elevates Habitica is that it stresses social accountability. It’s not meant for you to use on your own, but ideally with other people. The app allows you to form guilds with other users and go on adventures together, including facing a big “boss”—like Mario facing Bowser. Here’s the catch: if you don’t complete your task to contribute to the battle, you’re not the only one who loses health. Everyone does. For small business owners with close-knit teams, that can be a highly effective tool not just to work together toward new habits, but also to create a sense of community and shared accomplishment.
3. Balanced (iOS): Get positive encouragement.
For those who prefer a gentler push to track your habits, Balanced is a good fit. The app is skewed more toward positivity, encouraging you to monitor tasks that lead to habits which make you feel happy and satisfied. It does so by rewarding you with positive feedback, fun animations, and gentle “Do Soon” or “Do Now” reminders. It also has an easy Tinder-like user interface. You swipe down to add a task, left to skip, and right to complete. Balanced comes with 50 pre-programmed activities like “Hit the Gym” or “Be thankful” to choose from; however, these activities tend more towards general lifestyle options. Small business owners aiming to develop the daily habit of tracking expenses in Wave or sending invoices to clients every Friday, for example, will have to enter those in manually. But once they do, Balanced will do a great job of keeping them on track.
4. Coach Me (Android, iOS): The digital personal trainer for your habits.
Coach Me supports and motivates you toward your goals. Complete a task and you get a “Woo hoo!” along with a virtual high-five. Continue a streak, and you unlock milestones. And Coach Me isn’t an app you use on your own. One of its major appeals is that there is a community built into it, made up of real users who can support each other. More common tasks that are shared by several users, like “Run” or “Take Vitamins,” have what is essentially a comment board where users can share insights, ask questions or provide inspiration. If you’re a small business owner with several employees, you could set up a task like “no unread email in inbox by the end of the workday” and get support from each other, or other users, towards achieving that goal. As you work toward that goal, Coach Me employs its robust data system to analyze weekly or monthly trends in your progress, which can be a big help in determining where you’re excelling and where you’re falling behind when it comes to improving your habits.
5. Streaks (iOS): Outstanding design with a focus on priorities.
If you like your apps pretty, this iOS Design Award winner is for you. Now, Streaks may only allow for six tasks to be tracked at any time, but that doesn’t need to be a limitation. Sometimes the ability to enter an endless number of tasks into a habit app can be overwhelming, making you lose focus, discipline and follow-through. Streaks allows you to hone in and prioritize key habits that will make a difference in your life and business. It’s never a bad thing to have to sit down as a small business owner and think hard about what select few things you need to do in order to improve your working habits. Streaks also stands out in that users have control over when and how they get reminded to do things. Some habit mobile apps can overdo reminders. Streaks lets you customize notification settings for each task your tracking. That way you can make sure reminders are effective, not nuisances you start to ignore.
6. Strides (iOS): Set S.M.A.R.T. goals and break them down into smaller achievements.
Strides is built around the concept of SMART goals, encouraging you to take on tasks that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. The “specific” and “measurable” aspects are what differentiate Strides from other apps. Strides allows (or forces) you to dig into the nitty gritty of what you’re hoping to achieve. A welcome feature is the ability to take a larger task and break it down into smaller parts. Say you want to build the habit of maintaining a certain cash flow each month. To make an action plan that helps you attain your goal, you could use Strides to break it into smaller parts like, “Pay all monthly invoices by [deadline] ” or “UpdateQuickBooks once a week on Friday.” That way, you’ll not only have a game plan to achieve a big habit, but will also lock in several supporting habits along the way. Don’t worry if that sounds overwhelming. Strides has a very handy dashboard that makes it easy to see everything you’re working on at a glance.