It happens every year. Jan. 1 rolls around and we make plans for a better life—for a self-improvement. A New Year’s resolution.

This year I will (fill in the blank).

If you’re like me, every year you make one of these. And every year, by the time February rolls around, you’ve completely forgotten about it.

Often our resolutions bite off more than we can chew. We set some huge goal, sure that this will be the year that we are able to change everything about ourselves.

Research has shown that we do better with small habits than we do with a huge goal. For example, it is easier to establish a new habit such as, “I’m going to play guitar for 10 minutes each day” than it is to reach a goal like “This year I’m going to learn to play guitar.”

Habits are small, concrete ways to make a change in our lives. Whether it is related to a new skill, a new spiritual practice or becoming healthier, huge change in our lives comes not from huge goals but from the accumulation of small habits.

And it turns out that the mobile devices we carry around with us every day can help us live into new habits.

There is a class of mobile apps called “habit-tracking” apps. These programs do exactly what they say—they remind you of the things you need to do and help you track how often you do them.

Perhaps your new habit is to drink eight glasses of water per day.

Depending on which app you choose, the habit-tracking app can remind you of the goal at various points during the day, let you know how close you are to achieving that goal and keep track of how many days you have reached that goal.

There is a sense of achievement in looking back and seeing that you’ve completed a habit every day for the last week.

There is a huge variety of habit-tracking apps out there—ranging from free to expensive, from simple to customizable. Go to your app store and search for “habit tracker” and look for one that suits your style.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Streaks (iOS only, $4): Simple design, limited to tracking just four habits at a time.
  • Habitbull (iOS and Android, free): Detailed tracking of your habits.
  • 7 Weeks (iOS and Android, free with upgrades): Focused on daily habits and reaching the point where the habit becomes a part of life.
  • Today (iOS only, free with upgrades): Attractive design with customizable goals.
David L. Hansen
Hansen is pastor of Spirit of Joy! Lutheran Church in The Woodlands, Texas.

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