Most of the time, I'm only going to use a tool for something like supporting a new habit if it's on my phone. If I have to fire up my computer and log into a website, chances are pretty slim I'm going to do it. So a couple of weeks ago I searched online for some good apps to try out to help me start a couple new habits. I have an iPhone, so that's where I focused. I'm still looking for a good habit app on Android and will post on it once I find one.
Here's what I was looking for in an app:
Now, this is all just my opinion and so is completely skewed by my personal preferences. Caveats aside, here's what I found:
The first apps I ran into were too busy and complicated. It just seemed like they either over thought things or tried to do too much. Some let you pledge money that you lose when you don't do your habit as scheduled. Some had you sign other people up to cheer you on and hold you accountable. One was an actual video game. Maybe those work for some people....I don't know.
When I finally found Productive it was like, "Yes, finally. This is what I was looking for." It was simple and clean. It was easy to figure out right out of the gate. I could customize it enough to fit the way I wanted to use it, but it didn't offer so many options that it was confusing.
Really, the right way to do this review is with video. I'm not set up for that yet though, so I'll have to go with screenshots and text for now. I'll come back and add video at some point. Here we go....
Setting Your Habits Up
The first thing you see when you open Productive is a simple list of instructions on how to use it. That and just how clean and simple the design is. I've got a couple of habits already set up, which you see at the top of the screen. If you were opening the app for the very first time you'd just see the instructions and the menus at the top right and left.
Pull down to add a habit (like it says) and you see this screen. You can pick from the topic lists or write your own. I've always written my own just because I like to and it's easy.
Just tap "Write my own" and type the name you want. Here I'm creating a habit called "Do 30 minutes of cardio every day". It's easy to change the name later, so don't worry if you're not sure on it. Hit Done and "Next" will appear at the top right of the screen. If you like the default icon and color that Productive has picked for you, tap Next to move on. If not, scroll down.
Pick the icon and color you want to use and tap Next. The list of available icons is 3 or 4 iPhone 6 screens long and you have 6 colors to pick from. Enough but not too much.
Next is to schedule how often and what time of day you want to do your new habit. This is the part I thought might be complicated and either not accommodate what I wanted to do or have too many options.
Turns out setting the frequency is really pretty easy. Productive has every option I've needed and presents them simply so it's not confusing. I don't usually care about the time of day my habit it scheduled, but I think the developer felt the same way as it defaults to "Any time".
You can schedule habits daily, weekly or monthly. Here's the daily screen. It defaults to all 7 days selected. If you want to leave days out, just tap those days and they'll no longer be highlighted (not shown). I do that with an exercise habit that I take weekends off from.
The time of day you pick affects what time Productive reminds you to do your habit and what time the icon badge for that habit shows on your home screen.
Default is "At any time of day", which is perfect and I recommend leaving it that way. You don't have to mess with it, the reminder comes early in the day, the habit shows in the list all day long and the icon badge shows up on the app icon on your home screen all day long as well.
If you want to do your habit multiple times a day, you can turn "Set multiple" on and pick up to three times a day. I haven't really used this. When I've wanted to do something multiple times in a day - say 3 sets of pushups - I've just not marked the habit done until I've done all 3 sets. Pretty easy to keep track that way.
If you want to do your thing weekly, once every two weeks or several times a week and you're not sure (or don't care) which days of the week you do it, then the weekly scheduling screen will work for you.
The last scheduling option is monthly. Would be nice to be able to pick the day of the month, but that hasn't been a huge deal for me yet.
Tap Done and you'll see your new habit in the list on the main screen. It might seem like lot of steps, but it goes really quickly, especially after you get the first one under your belt.
There's really not much to using Productive on a daily basis. It reminds you to do your habit in a couple of different ways. Once you've done it you swipe right to mark it done. If you decide not to do it, swipe left to skip it.
Here's an example of a reminder. It looks and works just like an alert you'd get for a new text message or missed a call. I have one habit set up as due in the morning and the rest due at any time.
The other way Productive reminds you is with the icon badge - the little red circle with a number inside indicating how many habits you have left to do. Make this an even better reminder by putting the Productive app right next to the app you use most frequently every day.
Tap the app to open it and swipe right to mark a habit done. I took this shot as I was swiping right. You can see it gives you a little visual reward (Done! Woohoo!). It also makes a nice little tone (balloop!) if you've got the sounds turned on in Options.
And after you swipe right you also get a word or two of encouragement at the top. "Well done", "Kudos", "Hero", etc. Every so often I find myself thinking, "Hey, thanks." lol
Swipe left to skip if you have a good reason for not doing your habit and want to still get credit in your stats. If you truly missed doing your habit, don't swipe at all and it will be marked as missed. Here's swiping left to Skip.
If you swipe the wrong way or swipe the wrong habit you can just tap the habit in the list and undo it. This is where you'd also view details to make a change to or add a note to a habit you've marked done or skipped.
This is the screen to add a note. I've never used it but it's for keeping a record of how you were feeling that day, why you skipped, etc.
Tracking Your Progress
Simply keeping track of your progress, measuring how well you're doing, is a huge motivator and an important part of sticking with anything over the long term.
Productive's progress tracker is called "Life log". The paid version of the app tracks more things in more ways. I've wished I had the extras maybe twice. For the most part this works just fine. Most important for me is just seeing the string of perfect days. Once I get a bunch in a row I'm extra motivated to keep it going.
Here's what you see if you tap "How life log works".
Making Changes to Habits You've Set Up
Changing anything about a habit you've set up in Productive is really easy as well. Just tap the habit and you'll see this screen where you can change the name and icon, change the schedule or reset data/delete. If you've written notes on that habit on that day, you can get back to those here as well.
Tapping "Name & icon" and "Schedule" take you back to the same screens you were in when you set the habit up. If you make any changes, be sure to pick "Done" at the top right to save. If you pick "Back" your changes won't be saved.
Here's the "Reset or delete" screen.
Options and what you get when you upgrade
Tapping "Menu" at the top right on the main screen with all your habits listed takes you to this screen. Most of this is self explanatory, but the Options are worth a look.
Here you can turn on/off pretty much anything you'd want to, including sounds, badges and reminders.
Tap "Times of day" to see when Morning, Afternoon and Evening start and when reminders are set to come out for habits scheduled at those times of day. Remember that if your habits are scheduled "At any time of day", you won't have to think about any of this.
That's pretty much it. I've been using Productive for just over a month and I really like it for all the reasons I mentioned at the top of this post. If you're looking for an app to help you keep track of all the important things you're trying to work on in your life (and you use an iPhone), you should really give Productive a look.
I hope this help you do what matters most to you. If you have any questions or comments, or if I made any mistakes, please let me know in the comments.
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Like this? Share it. I'd sure appreciate it. Thanks and take care... - Shaun