The Quick Report

For Your New Year’s Resolutions, Try “Streaks”


Only a small percentage of people complete New Year’s resolutions. Experts say a better choice is a resolution “streak.” Activity streaks are a more powerful way of compelling behavior. Yes, there’s an app for that.

What are activity streaks?

An activity streak is engaging in a particular activity and continuing to repeat that activity for as long as it can be maintained. For example, exercising for one hour each day.

Streaks can be seen as a pattern of behavior, a recurring activity, or a habit.

There is also a psychology involved with activity streaks. When we complete an activity, we feel a sense of accomplishment or success. In turn, this compels us to continue the streak to maintain our success. This brings us to the second definition of activity streaks:

A streak is an uninterrupted sequence of successes.

This means that if we miss a single instance of the activity involved in our streak, it resets to zero. Our streak has ended and we must start again from the beginning.

However, we don’t necessarily have to measure our streaks in this way. We can look at streaks monthly. Out of 30 days, how many days did we engage in the activity? We could look at it from the perspective of, for example, we engaged in the activity 28 out of 30 days. We could consider that a win. Or 6 days out of 7 for the win. 


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Why Streaks Work Better Than Resolutions

Only a small percentage of people adhere to and complete their New Year’s resolutions. The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they can have a goal that can only be achieved over the long term. There may not be enough immediate reward or an adequate gauge of progress.

One reason streaks may be more effective than resolutions is that one can register immediate achievement. Compare these two examples:

1. New Year’s resolution: “I’m going to lose ten pounds.”

This type of goal is indefinite. This could take a week with fasting or three months with a slow burn. There may be significant time between signs of progress. 

2. Streak: “I’m going to exercise thirty minutes a day for as many days as I can.”

Every day that you exercise, you are continuing your streak. You have a sense of achievement each day you complete the task. Each day you are successful your streak gets longer. This gives you more confidence that you can continue the streak.

Streaks give immediate, reinforcing feedback that is indicative of success. That’s not often the case with resolutions.

How to Keep Streaks Going

Life can often get in the way of maintaining streaks. Habits generally become second nature and don’t require a lot of thinking. However, with streaks, when challenges arise, thinking and planning will be required to maintain your streak.

For example, let’s say you have a streak of exercising one hour per day. You have your routine all set (place, time, manner of exercise). But what happens if you suddenly have to travel for a week? How do you keep the streak going? How, where, and when will you exercise? Do you need to get a hotel with a gym? Should you bring along exercise bands and work out in your hotel room? Or do you allow yourself to break the streak?

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What to Do When You Break a Streak

Maintaining a streak can bring elation. However, some people will become very discouraged when the streak ends. It’s over. Why bother to continue?

This is not the line of thinking to adopt. We all fell off our bicycles. That was a temporary setback. We got back on and became better riders. We need to think the same way when it comes to streaks.

When something stops your streak, that is the time to harden your resolve. One day missed or even a week does not diminish the success you achieved. It’s important to begin another streak as soon as possible.

Streaks and Habits: There’s an App for That

There are dedicated apps you can use to help you keep track of your streaks. In addition to these dedicated apps, many apps also have the capability of tracking particular streaks. Using these apps or features within apps is a much easier way of tracking your progress.

Streaks is a popular app choice for iOS at the App Store.

HabitNow is a popular streaks app for Android that allows you to track and achieve daily goals, and schedule activities and routines.

Way of Life can help you identify and track your habits. It is available for iOS in the App Store, or on its official website.

Habitify can help you organize, track, and plan your day around your habits, and improve your habits from the start. It’s available for iOS, Apple Watch, macOS, Windows, Android and Web.

Habitica is a different approach. This free app allows people to turn building habits into a game. The main aim is achieving your goals to become both healthy and happy.

How a Streak Mindset Is Used Against You

Marketers, app creators, social media platforms, and websites take full advantage of the psychology of streaks to motivate users and compel behavior. They hope that by showing you data on certain streaks of behavior you have been engaged in, they can compel you to continue. After all, the more time you spend on their platform the more they benefit, and the more they can potentially sell you.

What they are doing is playing on the competitive nature that some human beings have more strongly than others.

The point of this information is not to make you think streaks are bad or that those who use them against us are evil-minded. The point is to show proof of how psychologically powerful streaks are. 

Knowing that streaks work, and how effective they are, we can use them to self-motivate, achieve goals, and better ourselves.