The Best Atomic Habits Habit Tracker for Making Lasting Change in 2023

published on 26 December 2023
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We’ve all been there.

You've finished reading the bestselling book, Atomic Habits by James Clear, and now you're motivated to start building atomic habits.

All you need now is the best Atomic Habits habit tracker to help you build healthy habits and reach your personal goals.

Great news because you're in the right place. 

Here’s a link to James Clear's printable habit tracker if you want to get going right away… however!

Rather ironically—this tracker doesn't take advantage of James Clear’s 4 Laws of Behavior Change:

  1. Make it obvious
  2. Make it attractive
  3. Make it easy
  4. Make it satisfying

This is a big problem because it means that most people who try a printable habit tracker like this don't stick with it.

Why? Because many people overlook how hard it is to stay consistent with the actual act of tracking. In essence, they don't consider this one truth: 

Building new habits is hard. Habit tracking can help. But the act of habit tracking is a a whole habit unto itself! 

Building a habit of habit tracking is hard.
Building a habit of habit tracking is hard.

So how do we build a habit of habit tracking? 

Well according to James Clear, you need a habit tracker that’s obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying if you’re going to succeed.

So in this short guide, we’ll walk through 3 popular options to create an Atomic Habits habit tracker:

  1. James Clear's atomic habits habit tracker and other Atomic Habits related resources
  2. Harold the Habit Tracker: the world's first AI-powered SMS tracker
  3. Habitify: A popular free habit tracking app

And we'll evaluate each one against the 4 Laws of Behavior Change to help you find an atomic habits habit tracker that will help you make lasting change in 2022.

Let's get started.

Is there a James Clear Habit Tracker?

Yes! James Clear put together an official Atomic Habits Habit Tracker that you can download for free.

Here’s what it looks like:

James Clear's official Atomic Habits Habit Tracker 
James Clear's official Atomic Habits Habit Tracker 

It’s not obvious at first glance how you’d use it so here’s an example:

An example of James Clear's official Atomic Habits Habit Tracker filled in 
An example of James Clear's official Atomic Habits Habit Tracker filled in 

You have to circle which month you’re using it for and then you can start using it as a daily habit tracker by ticking off the habits and daily tasks you list in the left hand column.

Yep, pretty straightforward!

But now lets evaluate it according to the Four Laws of Behavior Change:

Is it obvious? 

  • Only if you put it somewhere where you see it everyday, for example, maybe on your fridge or on your desk.
  • Even so, this method will eventually fail due to habituation– the psychological phenomenon that causes us to stop noticing or responding to a stimulus after being repeatedly exposed to it.

Is it attractive?

  • Not especially, it's pretty plain and doesn't attract the eye.

Is it easy?

  • It seems relatively easy to fill out the chart, provided that you have a pencil or pen nearby to mark it off. If you don't have one handy, you are less likely to track.
  • You also have to print out a new one every month, which can be hard if you don't have a printer at home, or run out of paper or ink.

Is it satisfying?

  • It can be somewhat satisfying to check off the box when you do a habit, but for days that you don't use your habits, it can be very unsatisfying to leave the tracker blank for that day.
  • Looking back, it's also not clear if an empty row means you didn't do your habits that day or just didn't track that day. 
  • This printable habit tracker also doesn't give you any stats or information about your progress, nor provide encouragement for when you fall off.

How well does James Clear’s Habit Tracker work?

On one hand, people have used paper to track their habits for centuries. One of the most famous examples is Benjamin Franklin’s daily journaling routine.

The benefits of James Clear’s atomic habits habit tracker template:

  • It’s a free habit tracker
  • Tracking is better than not tracking at all
  • You could incorporate it into your bullet journal
  • Seeing a paper habit tracker can act as a reminder to do your habits

So if you’re looking for the best paper habit tracker template, and you think you'll have no problem remembering to track everyday and printing out a new page every month, this will do the trick just fine.

But there are some downsides to using a paper habit tracker that you should consider...

The downsides of using a physical habit tracker template or habit journal

Unfortunately paper habit trackers can’t talk and so they can’t remind you of anything!

This makes paper habit trackers less obvious (law #1) and less easy (law #3) than a digital alternative.

A digital habit tracker, meanwhile, can send you a prompt when it’s time to log your habits. It can also remind you to keep track of them afterward.

When it comes to keeping track of your paper tracker, you’re on your own.

That might not seem like such a big deal right now, but when motivation fades (which it always does) or if you have a particularly busy or tiring day, that paper tracker can quickly fall by the wayside.

We learned this the hard way when we tried to track in a dot grid notebook:

My failed attempt at tracking my habits in a dot grid notebook. Only remembered to track 3 days. 
My failed attempt at tracking my habits in a dot grid notebook. Only remembered to track 3 days. 

This is especially true if you’re the type of person who's busy and has lots of other things to keep track of.

You start with an exciting new promise of personal transformation and end up with another painful reminder that you can’t stay consistent.

This can actually de-motivate you and negatively affect your self-esteem and self growth–the exact opposite outcome you set out to accomplish.

This paradox of building a habit-tracking habit is the biggest downside of physical habit trackers.

But it’s not the only one:

  • You have to carry it around with you for travel or work
  • You have to print it out and then keep replacing it at the end of the month
  • It’s hard to spot long-term patterns and get a deeper understanding of your behavior.

Paper trackers can also get lost or damaged along with all of your precious habit streaks!

Does Atomic Habits by James Clear have an app?

No, as of right now, there is not official app for Atomic habits. Instead, James Clear has other resources such as:

Habit Journal

Atomic Habits Habit Tracker Template

Atomic Habits Scorecard

These resources are all physical resources and so they might be tough to stick with long term. We recommend you look at the digital options before making a decision.

Is there a workbook for Atomic Habits?

Yes, there are a few workbooks for Atomic Habits that you can purchase on amazon, but for most people, these workbooks end up empty and collecting dust on a shelf.

Because these are also physical, paper-based habit trackers, they share the same downsides of physical habit trackers that we discussed above. 

Surely there’s got to be a better way?

As a matter of fact, there is…

A Digital Habit Tracker that's as simple as sending a text message 

Harold texts you and asks,
Harold texts you and asks, "Did you write 500 words?" Simply respond Yes or No.

The easiest way to get around the problems of paper habit trackers is, of course, to use your smartphone.

But did you know that tracking your habits is now as simple as sending a text message?

Harold the Habit Tracker is the world’s first SMS habit tracker.

Harold sends you daily check ins via text message and he’s designed with the four laws of habit formation in mind:

Harold makes habit tracking easy

Harold makes it easy to track your habits by meeting you where you are: your text messages.

All you have to do is text him back, "yes" or "no".

Plus, there’s no printing required and he’s always with you. (It’s probably the lowest friction way of habit tracking ever invented. It's as easy as texting a friend!)

Harold also gives you examples and suggestions of healthy habits to start building .

Harold makes habit tracking obvious

Harold makes it pretty darn obvious because most of us look at our text messages multiple times a day. If you don't respond the first time, you'll likely see the message from him the next time you go into your messages.

Example text from harold 
Example text from harold 

Harold makes habit tracking attractive

Harold makes it attractive by being fun to talk to. He’s powered by AI and so you never know what kind of pep talk he might give you (and who can ignore that charm!?)

Responses from Harold are generated via GPT-3. For example
Responses from Harold are generated via GPT-3. For example "You're not a robot, you can't be perfect everyday." 

Harold makes habit tracking satisfying

Harold makes it satisfying by giving you encouragement, motivation, and awesome weekly reports that help you celebrate your progress. You can also easily see how you’re improving over time.

In fact, Harold makes tracking so satisfying, 50% of users are still tracking 6 weeks later!

An example of a Harold recap via text. He tells you how many successful days this week, your trend, and your average. 
An example of a Harold recap via text. He tells you how many successful days this week, your trend, and your average. 

Summary of Harold’s habit formation benefits:

  • No printing needed and always with you.
  • Tracking your habits is as simple as sending a text message. 
  • Simple habit tracker with no extra, distracting features. 
  • Get an understanding of your progress over time with weekly reports of your task completion rate and weekly averages to keep you motivated. 
  • Set daily goals and track weekly targets. 
  • Greater flexibility: choose from a variety of popular pre-made habits or create your own custom habits. 
  • No need to download an app, it's all in your text messages. 
  • No account or password needed, just sign up with your phone number. 
  • Great for busy people who don't like having a lot of apps on their phone. 
  • Harold is fun and engaging to use!
  • Customization options: you can track three different kinds of habits:
  1. Yes or No habits and tasks (ex: Did you go for a walk today?). 
  2. Number-based habits (Ex: How many drinks did you have today?). 
  3. Rating habits (Ex: How focused were you today on a scale of 1-5?

Getting started with Harold is easy. You can get started here. 

The downsides of using Harold the Habit Tracker:

  • Harold is a premium option with a month subscription
  • Harold is currently only available for US based phone numbers 
  • Designed with simplicity in mind, light on advanced features

Like most of the best digital habit trackers, there’s a small monthly fee to start tracking your habits with Harold (he racks up quite the impressive phone bill!) 

We might be biased but the ability to finally achieve consistent behavior change and unlock exponential growth is totally worth it!

The alternative option is to download one of the many free habit tracking apps out there.

They’re not as easy to use as Harold because you have to build the habit of opening and using the app.

But if you’re looking for something that’s free to use and don’t mind the extra friction then here’s our top recommendation…

The Best Free Atomic Habit Habit Tracker App

After downloading and testing over 20 of the highest rated habit tracker apps, the one we’d recommend is called Habitify.

It has a solid free version, it works across all devices and platforms, and it has a clean user interface.

The way it works is pretty simple. Just select the habits you want to start tracking and away you go.

Like any digital habit tracker, you can set up notifications and carry it with you at all times, making it easier and more obvious than paper.

As long as you don’t mind having a limited number of habits and no dark mode, you can use their free version.

Overall, Habitify is a free way to cash in on many of the benefits of digital habit tracking.

How does it stand up to the Four Laws of Behavior Change? Let's see. 

Is Habitfy obvious?

  • Putting the app on the front page of your home screen and turning on push notifications can help make the app more obvious. Unfortunately, this method also become less obvious overtime as it falls prey to habituation–it's likely you'll start to ignore the push notifications over time.

Is Habitfy attractive?

  • According to this review by Zapier, Habitfy is "one of the slickest habit tracking apps out there"

Is Habitfy easy?

  • Once you're in the app, it seems relatively easy to check off your daily tasks and habits. There are quite a few tabs and options once you first open the app so it can be hard to know where to start.
  • The hardest part will be building a habit of consistently opening the app to log your habit

Is Habitfy satisfying?

  • It's pretty satisfying to check off your habits
  • Its data viewing features can be satisfying to look at if you are doing well, but if you're not doing well, it can also be de-motivating. 

Other Benefits of using Habitfy:

  • It’s always with you so long as you have your smartphone
  • You can take advantage of data viewing features and analytics like your task completion rate and streak count to understand your long term patterns
  • No printing required
  • You can turn on reminder notifications as a way to cue your habits
  • It’s free for up to three habits and 15 check-ins
  • Great for ambitious people who want to track a lot of habits, daily tasks, and monthly goals 

The Downsides of using Habitfy:

  • Requires a $5/month subscription for unlimited habits and unlimited habit check-ins.
  • Relying on multiple reminders can actually hurt your ability to make something a habit. For instance, one study found that "relying on reminders supported repetition but hindered habit development". This is because your brain relies on the reminder and doesn't form the neurological circuitry necessary for the behavior to form as a habit on its own. In other words, once the reminders stop, so will the behavior. 

The downsides of habit tracker apps for atomic habits habit tracking

Unfortunately, downloading an app still won’t fully solve the habit-tracking paradox.

You still have to get into the habit of opening and using the app!

Again, life is hectic and even this small amount of friction has resulted in millions of people abandoning and eventually deleting their apps.

Meanwhile, you’re already in the habit of checking your text messages, so an SMS habit tracker like Harold is the best way to guarantee long term consistency.

Most apps also fall into the trap of adding too many features and becoming cluttered over time. This makes them less simple and easy to use.

Another downside of Habitify and many similar apps is an emphasis on habit streaks.

Streaks are a double edged sword. The desire to not break your perfect habit streak can be a powerful motivator. But that can backfire when life eventually does get in the way and your streak finally gets broken.

Most habit experts including James Clear actually recommend following The 2 Day Rule.

This is where you make it your goal to never miss more than one day of your habit.

So for example if you’re trying to build a meditation habit, you tell yourself that it’s okay to miss one day if something comes up.

The most important thing is making sure you get your meditation practice done on the following day.

In other words, never miss two days in a row! 

Harold is great for following the 2 Day rule because he never makes you feel bad for missing a day or losing a streak. 

By taking the pressure off and introducing some slack into the system, Harold helps you avoid the motivational crash that results from an inevitably broken streak and fosters longer term persistence.

Let’s summarize the downsides of habit tracking apps and then wrap things up.

The Downsides of using a Habit Tracker App

  • You have to build the habit of using the app
  • You will habituate and start to ignore the push notifications over time 
  • Many apps overly emphasize streaks
  • Cluttered interfaces and extra features add friction
  • You may ultimately end up paying for premium features
  • Usually no way to export your data
  • Have to create and remember a username and password

What’s The Best Solution for Habit Tracking in 2023?

If your heart is set on using a printable habit tracker, dot grid notebook or bullet journal (and you don’t mind the inconveniences like printing, carrying it around, no reminders, no analytics, risk of loss or damage)

…then go ahead and download James Clear’s Atomic Habits Habit Tracker.

If you want to take advantage of the 4 Laws of Behavior Change, experience the lowest level of friction possible, and don’t mind a small fee, then Harold’s your guy.

Say hello and get tracking right away:

Start tracking today with Harold today.

Whatever option you choose, we wish you the best of luck with your new habits and hope you reach your personal goals. 

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