Achieving our goals takes more than good intentions. You have to take action and then systematically measure your progress. There are numerous apps designed for just this purpose, but which one is right for you?
Recently, I went on a search to find an app for my own use. I want to share with you what I found. But, before I do, let me define how I use the various goal-setting terms. Different people use these terms in different ways.
- Goal: “Something you are trying to achieve.” I sometimes use objective, target, or even project as a synonym.
- Milestone: “A significant marker that indicates progress toward a goal.” I sometimes use subgoal as a synonym.
- Habit: “Something a person does often in the same way.” Habits are not usually an end in themselves; they are a way to achieve a goal. I often use rituals, disciplines, or practices as synonyms.
- Tasks: “Actions a person takes that move them toward a goal or milestone.” I often use actions or to-dos as synonyms.
Some applications track all of these items. Most only track a subset. Regardless, there are hundreds of apps for helping you achieve what matters most to you.
I have not reviewed each of these extensively. This is a high-level flyover. I wanted to share my notes and give you a sense of what is available, so you can get started now. Here are seven of the most popular.
Nozbe is what I use for tracking my goals, habits, and daily tasks. I set up each goal as a project and then create milestones, tasks, and habits related to each goal.
Admittedly, it is not a goal-tracking or habit-tracking application per se. It is a task management system. It is also a little more difficult to learn than other task management systems (e.g., Trello, Wunderlist, Remember the Milk, or Things), but it is also more robust than the others.
It has multiuser support built in, full integration with Evernote and Dropbox, and a very responsive development team. While I wish it had some of the features I found in other apps, I am sticking with it.
Nozbe is available on nearly every platform, including mobile devices and desktops. I most often use it on my Mac desktop.
Without question, GoalsOnTrack is the most robust goal-setting program of the bunch. It allows you to record the goal, the purpose (in my terminology, key motivations), start date, end date, metrics, subgoals, habits, and action plans.
I particularly like it because it allows you to think and plan hierarchically, which is how my brain works. Even Nozbe doesn’t do that. Instead, it uses labels and tags.
It also syncs due dates with Google Calendar and Outlook. You can even create goal templates. I only wish I could track non-goal related projects and tasks, but maybe that is too much to ask. (That’s also why I am sticking with Nozbe.)
While this app is powerful and easy to use, it falls short on aesthetics. It is badly in need of a design overhaul to compete with newer, iOS 7-inspired apps.
I really like the philosophy behind LifeTick. You start by defining your Core Values. (Unfortunately, I think the program isn’t quite clear on the difference between “Core Values” and “Areas of Focus.” These are two different lenses.)
Once you’ve defined your values, you define goals and then add the tasks or steps required to achieve the goal. LifeTick recommends SMART goals. In my 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever course, I recommend an improvement I call AACTION goals, but you can adapt it.
LifeTick even provides an activity feed, so you have a date-sequenced journal of all your goal-related activities. You can also add freeform notes and sync to your calendar.
I also like the fact that it provides multi-user functionality, so you can invite others into your goals, either globally or selectively. This is something that even GoalsOnTrack doesn’t have.
Let me say at the outset, the Strides app is beautiful. It’s really my favorite in terms of design. The graphs are particularly compelling, giving you the sense that you are looking at a dashboard for your life.
However, the program isn’t so much a goal planning program as a goal and habit tracking program. You first decide what you want to track and then choose the appropriate tracker:
- Target Tracker
- Habit Tracker
- Average Tracker
It’s one of the few programs that understands there are different kinds of goals and each requires it’s own tracking system.
Formerly the Lift app, Coach.Me is the granddaddy of habit-tracking programs. It started with the premise that you have a better chance of reaching your goals and establishing new habits if you crowdsource feedback and encouragement.
However, this is the very reason I don’t use it. I want to share my goals but only selectively with people I trust. Coach.Me enable privacy on any goal you don’t want to share with the wider community, but that’s not the same thing.
One of the best features of Coach.Me is the ability to create plans. These are a set of actionable steps designed to accomplish a specific goal. Once designed, you can share them with the community. As a user, you can also join plans created by others. There are hundreds. Just the list will stimulate your creativity and expand your sense of what is possible.
But the key distinguishing feature is how it integrates personal coaching. For $15 a month you can hire a coach to help guide and encourage you.
Coach.Me is simple but too limited for my use. If you simply want to track a few habits, it’s fine. But as a goal-tracker, I have not found it useful.
6. Habit List
If you simply want to track habits, and don’t care so much about goals (as I have defined them above), give Habit List a whirl. It helps you track “streaks”—how many times in a row you have completed an action.
The program provides the ability to create flexible schedules with habits that are to be done on specific days, non-specific days, or intervals. For example, you could schedule a run for M-W-F, eat dinner with the family three nights a week, or write a blog post twice a week.
You can also skip habits when you are on vacation or simply want a break. You can resume when you already.
Unfortunately, this is an iPhone-only app. There is not a desktop or iPad version. It also doesn’t harness the power of community to achieve your goals.
Of all the habit-trackers I tested, I found irunurun to be the easiest and the most intuitive. As an added bonus, it “gamifies” the process of building new habits, making the process fun.
You begin by entering the action or habit you want to track. You then weight the action, assigning it a point value. Once all your actions are entered, the game begins.
You start each week with zero points and then work to add points each day. If you did each action at the appointed time, you would earn a perfect score of 100 for the week.
You can also invite family, friends, or colleagues to any action and build an accountability team. Unlike Lift, where the action is either public or private, irunurun proves the opportunity for selective sharing, which is what I teach in my 5 Days course.
The app is available via a browser interface or on the iPhone and iPad. The company also makes available personal versions, team versions, and enterprise versions.
One That Works for You
Will you find the perfect app? No. But any of these apps will help you improve your life and accomplish what matters most to you. Pick the ones that meet your criteria and get started. Experiment until you find one that works for you.
Question: Which of these apps have you tried? What did I miss? You can leave a comment by clicking here.