One of the most popular self-help books of all time, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, teaches that something as seemingly innocuous as a well-formed habit can change your life for the better (or worse). Training yourself to develop a new beneficial habit, or kick an old undesirable habit, takes persistence as well as a way to track your progress. That's where Habits comes in--Habits the application, that is.
To help you organize your mental efforts at developing or kicking a habit, Habits provides you with a faux chalkboard on which the current month's calendar appears. On one side of the calendar, you enter a name for each habit you wish to work on (keep it to 20 characters or less). To register whether you've accomplished your daily habit, select the habit's name, click the current day's square on the calendar, and choose a horizontal line (signifying the successful continuity of the habit) or a big X (if you failed to work on the habit for that day). You can also attach footnotes to each calendar day, the presence of which is signified by a small dog-ear in the corner of the day's calendar square.
In theory, the program states, it takes a minimum of 21 days of repetition to develop a habit that sticks. The program relies on you to be honest with yourself, because it allows you to mark days in the past or future at any time. Sure, you can cheat, but that's no way to develop (or break) a habit. The free demo version lets you track up to three habits (the program comes preconfigured with "Use Habits" as the first habit, though you can delete that item). For just $4, the Habits Pro version disables any nag screens and lets you create a virtually unlimited quantity of habits you might wish to track, limited only by how much vertical scrolling you're willing to tolerate.
The entire program has a very clean, polished look for a first release, but a few features left me puzzled. For instance, you can mark one of your Habits as a "Favorite" and have it be the default habit that appears when you open the program, but can anyone really have a favorite habit? The settings let you choose a chalkboard with a green or charcoal background, and turn off the pointer icon (which looks like a stick of chalk), but I'm not really sure why my habit-tracker is on a screen-choking 1000-pixel wide chalkboard, anyway. Couldn't I just use a mini version? Also, in the settings page, there are links to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, but these aren't what I had hoped they would be. Instead of easy ways to express your braggadocio about awesome new habits to your social network friends, these links just lead to Creative Lab Apps' own social media pages. What if "Quit clicking 'Like' and 'Become a Fan' on Facebook" is a habit I'm trying to form?
Overall, I was impressed with the tidy approach Habits takes to the conundrum of training yourself into (or out of) a repetitive behavior. Coming as it did at the new year, Habits seems well poised to become, well, a habit in 2011. With the tracking job taken care of, now the only part left to do is form the habit itself. Get cracking!