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Streaks, the $5 app that inspired me to floss for 100 straight days

The super simple tracking tool helps you build those good habits.

I'm not always consistent about flossing. When a dental appointment is coming up, I floss like mad to see if I can fool my dentist into thinking I do it all the time (spoiler: she's not fooled). But when the appointment is over, it's easy to give up on my new hygiene habit.

Then I read about aniOS app called Streaks and decided to see if it would encourage me to build healthy habits without quitting. Hey, guess what? It works! I've now flossed for 100 straight days, and considering I have braces and need special weird flossers, that's a big deal.

A screenshot of my Streaks app. You can look at your streaks in calendar or bar-chart form and can maintain up to 12 different streaks at a time. (AcceleDent is a device I use because of my braces; Grace is my mother-in-law!)

Screenshot by Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

The app is $4.99 in the App Store, and it's so simple I was almost embarrassed to buy it. All it does it measure the streak of days you complete a certain task. It's like a to-do list you carry around on your phone, and the increasing number of days in your streak is supposed to inspire you never to skip a day.

So truly, there's really nothing Streaks does for me that I can't do for myself if I get a notebook or a dry-erase board or a calendar and just put a checkmark each day that I floss.

But do I do that? Do I carry a notebook or a calendar or a dry-erase board around with me and hasten to scribble an X on the day's date once I floss? No, I do not. But I do carry my smartphone around with me pretty much all the time. So when I floss, or take my allergy medicine, or scoop the cat box, or make my steps goal, or whatever it is I'm trying to turn into a habit, I can just open the app and mark it as "done."

You start by choosing what streaks you want to build. There are some presets (flossing is one) but you can also just type in whatever you want. Once you set the task up, you need to press it to indicate you completed it that day. 

That's it! The app rewards you with a happy little sound, and by keeping your streak going. It tells you how long your streak is running and creates little charts that show you extra info, such as your best-ever streak, or the time of day you usually complete your task.

You can also set up a streak for something you want to stop doing, such as getting credit for days when you don't smoke. There's also a "don't pick nose" preset if that's your issue. You can set up the app for a timed task, like "read for 10 minutes" or "practice instrument." You can link Streaks to your Apple watch activity tasks. You don't have to set a task to be done daily, you can do it every other day, or weekly, or whatever it requires.

So far, I have stuck to the ultra-simple. I have just a few tasks, like flossing, that I try to do most every day. But it works. I just reached 100 days on my flossing streak, and to me, that's a climbed-Mount-Everest level of difficulty. If I keep it up, I expect my dentist will see a difference during my next cleaning. (SHE HAD BETTER.)

Now that I've forked over money for Streaks, I notice other apps in the App Store that do the same kind of thing. But Streaks keeps it simple, and once I bought the app, my husband was able to use it for free thanks to Apple's Family Sharing plan

So maybe this is less an endorsement for one particular program and more of a notification that you, too, might find keeping a streak going a rewarding way to set up a good habit. Even if you just get yourself a dry-erase board and a pen.