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Why most habit apps don’t work for me

Aug 22, 2022
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Table of Contents

I’ve tried a lot of habit apps:

  • Todoist (checklist of habit todos)
  • Habit Bull
  • Time blocking in my calendar (e.g.
  • Habitica

None of them have really worked for me. Habit apps (Habit Bull, Habitica, don’t work because they are generally only about tracking habits. They might send me a push notification reminding me to do my habits at a certain time but push notifications are too easy to ignore. Most of the time it gets to the end of the day and despite my high intentions, I remorsefully log that I haven’t done the habit. did work for a bit but I felt bad using them. The fear based approach (do the habit or donate money to an anti-charity) increased my motivation but didn’t help me actually do the habit. I got to a point where I started cheating and logging that I did the habit even if I only half did it because I really didn’t want to donate money to Donald Trump’s election campaign. Having a third party judge might’ve helped but I probably would’ve tried to convince them to accept my excuse for why I only did 5 minutes of meditation instead of 15.

What does work for habits

The only tactic that reliably works for me is to have someone do the habit with me. For example, I did yoga with my wife every morning for a while. That worked really well. However, sometimes she’s busy and she doesn’t have the same habit goals as me (e.g. I want to learn Chinese and she already speaks it so wouldn’t want to do Chinese flashcards with me).

I wanted a similar experience to having someone there with me. I remember reading a Star Wars book where C-3PO helps Jacen do his homework every morning. I longed for a friendly robot like that who would sit next to me and guide me through each of my habits. A real life robot seemed a bit tricky but an app would definitely be possible.

Focus Bear — habit guide app

Focus Bear is that app for me. It takes over my computer (and soon my phone) first thing in the morning and guides me through each of my habits one at a time, blocking all other apps.

Where appropriate, it shows me a relevant Youtube video (e.g. for Yoga/HIIT) — I find following along to a Youtube video makes doing habits much more fun. However, if I browse Youtube looking for workout videos, I’m likely to get distracted so I really like the Focus Bear approach where it embeds a relevant video meaning that ads and related videos are not shown.

The other big benefit is habit sequencing. With Habit Bull/Todoist/Habitica, there’s no real order to the habits. I have 30+ habits I do every morning. With that quantity of habits, the “Anchor Habits” approach from Tiny Habits doesn’t really work. Locking in my habits via Focus Bear means I don’t have to think about it. There’s no decision fatigue because the app shows me the next habit to do. (It does still prompt you to guess what the next habit should be so you don’t become completely dependent on the app).

If you’ve tried a lot of habit apps and still can’t make them stick, try out Focus Bear 🙂

This blog post was first published in Medium

Aug 22, 2022

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