Habits are the recurring building blocks of life. Good habits compound over time leading to big payoffs from small daily acts.
Using a habit tracker can bring joy to the process of changing routines. And there is no better time than now to implement a new habit, your future you will thank you!
Follow this guide for tips and best practices from a self-proclaimed habit aficionado.
What is a habit tracker?
A habit tracker is a visual way of creating a daily check-in system to understand how well you're living your habits at a glance.
I am full-blown tracker junkie, it started with my love of journals combined with my desire to understand if I'm caring for myself in the ways that are most important to me. Over the course of several years as I've built more habits that I want to maintain, my collection of habit trackers has blossomed to four separate journals that I'm using daily.
Here I'm sharing my secrets to creating a meaningful habit tracker that will bring you joy to use as you implement positive changes in your routine.
Know your why
The first step in deciding to adopt a new habit is to determine why it is important to you. What is the change that you hope to see from it?
For instance, if you want to create a habit where you go to the gym everyday, what is the underlying goal? Being honest in your answer is best, and this can be private just for you.
Considering my "exercise" habit, I personally feel great physically and mentally when I go to the gym. But, one of my major "whys" is also driven by vanity and looking good. While vanity might not be the most virtuous answer, it is true to myself and by knowing the real reason why I am doing something, I am much more motivated than by convincing myself to fit an ideal that I think other people would want me to believe.
When beginning a new habit it is easy to fall into the trap of loading on a few more for good measure. But, in my experience, I can only successfully implement 1 - 2 new habits at a time.
Once those are well established (after about 2 months, or whenever you feel confident that you are able to stick to a new habit), it is great to start building on more. Until then, appreciate the small victories of sticking to your new habit. A little success is also a powerful motivator to stick with the habit you are working towards.
Build the tracker
Now for the fun part, setting up your habit tracker. I have several versions that I use for different types of activities, so there is no single "perfect" tracker for everyone, rather there is a perfect tracker for you.
Keep the tracker simple as you begin, and fine tune it as you learn more about how to best fit your needs. I started my habit tracking journey with this simple format that can be utilized by anyone for any habit.
1. Journal Format
Choose a journal that has either dot matrix paper, grid, or hash markers at the top and bottom of the page. If you don't have a journal like this, marking hash marks at the top and bottom of a page with a ruler is an easy modification.
2. Add month and days
On an open two page spread add the month on the first line, followed by numbers for the days of the month along the same line, with one number between each grid square.
3. List habits
Directly below the month list the name of the habit. This should not carry into the grid below the numbers as that is where you will be tracking your habit. If you have multiple habits, continue to add them each on a new line below the one above. If you have well established habits it is nice to track them all in one place, in addition to the new habit you are building.
If you find pleasure in the simple act of crossing things off of a list, using your daily habit tracker will be a joy to use! To track your progress, check off the box for the day if you completed your habit.
I like to fill in the boxes with alternating diagonal lines as it creates a nice pattern the more you fill in. I set aside time just before bed to do my habit tracking along with other journaling.
Be kind to yourself
Be honest with yourself, and give yourself grace as you start the tracking process. I find that it takes me a few weeks to get in the swing of things and gain consistency when adding a new habit.
Celebrate the small wins, like sticking to a habit for a week straight. Before you know it, your consistency will snowball and you will have integrated the new behavior into your life.
Measure and reflect
Daily tracking helps me see at a glance if there are large interruptions in my routine. I find it so interesting because upon reflecting on what caused me to miss my habits it usually represents periods of stress, change, or overwhelm.
These are natural cycles of life, and having the ability to measure my progress and consistency when I am practicing my habits helps me feel a sense of peace, and confidence that I will be able to return to the baseline when hard times pass.
There are endless good habits that you can implement, and the ones you pick should have deep meaning for you. To give you insights and inspiration, these are some of my favorite habits to measure.
- Healthy Eating
- Experiencing nature
- Making art
I hope this habit tracking overview is inspiring and practical, and that it kickstarts a custom habit tracker for the life style improvements you wish to make. Share your habit tracking with us at @lovestoresco.