Goal Trackers That’ll Help You Make Sh*t Happen
Use these apps and journals to shape your goals and keep track of your progress.
If you're not the journaling type, goal tracking might seem like an unnecessary step. But writing down your progress while working toward a goal might actually help you stay on course. A review of studies from the American Psychological Association found that people who were prompted to monitor their process were more likely to reach their goal. Translation: Keeping a tally might mean the difference between wanting to stay hydrated this year and actually drinking more H2O. (Need some inspiration? Consider adding these fitness goals to your bucket list.)
Don't force it if goal tracking feels like a chore, though. "Goal tracking apps or journals are not essential to create habits," says BJ Fogg, Ph.D., founder and director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford and author of Tiny Habits. And not all trackers are created equal. "If whatever you're using to track helps you feel successful in creating the habit and making progress, then yes, it's a good idea," says Fogg. "Some tracking systems don't help motivate you as much as show you how much you're failing." Yep, choose the wrong goal progress tracker and it could actually hurt your efforts. (Related: The Best Running Apps to Help You Train for Your Next Race)
With that in mind, if you're able to find a tracker that functions as your cheerleader, you'll stand to benefit from plenty of perks. "Some tracking tools will help you go from an abstraction to something specific," Fogg says. For example, if you have a broad goal of wanting to work out more, an app might prompt you to fit in a 30-minute run. Sometimes, goal trackers will make something easier to do, Fogg notes. Diet apps (such as these free weight loss apps) might equate foods with points or red, green, and yellow, which frees you from having to make sense of macronutrient counts, for instance.
Convinced you should try writing—or typing—out your progress in pursuit of your latest goal? Get some help from one of these tools.
Goal Tracker Apps
One advantage of online or mobile app goal trackers is that they'll often give you a perspective on your stats that you wouldn't get otherwise, like the streak of how many days in a row you've completed a task. Plus, goal progress apps are often compatible with other tools like the Health App on iPhone or wearable fitness trackers. Some apps can track your activity in the background without you actually taking the time to log anything. (Psst...This trainer wants you to know it's normal for motivation to come and go.)
Best Goal Tracker Apps
• Jour's guided "Journeys" break goals like "address and resolve conflict" and "sleep more calmly" into manageable steps. If you already have a goal in mind, you can use the app's daily journaling feature to write notes on your progress. (Free for iPhone)
• Habit-Bull can help you manage multiple goals at once and track the streaks and success percentage of each. Use it to log habits like trying to eat more vegetables, getting more sleep, and walking more. (Free for iPhone, Android)
• Runkeeper can act as your goal tracker and coach, whether you're setting out to run a marathon or a few miles. A goal coach feature helps you build weekly routines for your level and provides spoken motivation throughout your run. (Free for iPhone, Android)
• Fabulous is designed to help you change your habits to reach goals like improved daily energy or concentration or better sleep quality. (BTW, did you know high-quality sleep can actually help you build muscle?) It features tools you can use to build new habits, like workouts and 4-hour deep work sessions. (Free for iPhone, Android)
Goal Tracker Journals
They may not be as efficient, but there's something to be said for old fashioned pen and paper. One small study done at the Dominican University of California found that people who wrote down their goals were more likely to achieve their aims. Many companies offer designated goal journals that provide more guidance than a blank journal. (Related: 10 Cute Journals You'll Actually Want to Write In)
Best Goal Tracker Journals
• Erin Condren Petite Planner Goal Journal can help you organize your thoughts, whether or not you get decorative with pens and stickers. It includes space to plan out the goals you want to shoot for and the small steps you'll take to reach them. (Buy It, $14, erincondren.com)
• Passion Planner doubles as a weekly planner, so you can keep your goals and daily to-dos together. (Buy It, $30, amazon.com)
• Leuchtturm A5 Dotted Notebook is a classic choice if you'd like to design your own goal journal through creative bullet journaling, a system for creating your own journal layout in a book lined with dots. (Buy It, $20, barnesandnoble.com)
• Shape's 40-Day Progress Journal (a shameless plug) is a free 40-Day Progress Journal that you can print and use as a companion to any health goal. In addition to recipes and workout ideas, it includes plenty of space to track all your daily efforts. Bonus: You can join in for 15 days of free guided mindfulness journaling via our exclusive partnership with the Jour app, too.