Keeping a habit tracker is a simple and efficient way to ensure that you continue with a habit for the long haul.
This is why:
Elite performers frequently track, measure, and quantify their growth in a variety of ways. Each and every measurement delivers information. It indicates whether they are making progress or need to change direction.
We typically change our behaviors by trial and error, much as a cook improves a meal through trial and error. If one strategy fails to provide the intended result, we change it—much like a chef adjusting the amount of an ingredient.
There is, however, a significant difference between receiving feedback while preparing a meal and receiving feedback while forming a habit. Feedback is frequently delayed when it comes to developing a habit. It’s simple to sample an ingredient or keep an eye on bread rising in the oven. However, visualizing the improvement you’re making with your behaviors can be tough. Maybe you’ve been running for a month and haven’t noticed any changes in your body. Maybe you meditated for 16 days straight, yet you’re still stressed and anxious at work.
It takes a long time to create a habit. It can take a long time for the desired outcomes to manifest.
The Habit Tracker: What It Is and How It Works
A habit tracker is a simple tool for determining whether or not you have performed a behavior.
The simplest method is to get a calendar and cross off each day that you follow your schedule. If you meditate on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for example, each of those days receives an X. The calendar develops a record of your habit streak as time passes.
I designed the Habit Journal, which includes 12 habit tracker templates—one for each month—to make this process as simple as possible. All you have to do now is enter your habit and begin ticking days off your list.
The classic look is to mark each day with an X. I want something a little more design-oriented, so I use my habit tracker to shade in the cells. You might also use checkmarks or dots to fill in your habit tracker.
Tracking your habits is effective for three reasons.
- It creates a visual cue that can remind you to act.
- It is motivating to see the progress you are making. You don’t want to break your streak.
- It feels satisfying to record your success in the moment.
Countless famous thinkers and inventors have used journaling. Darwin, Charles. Marie Curie was a Russian scientist. Leonardo da Vinci was a Renaissance artist who lived from 1452 to 1519. Thomas Edison is a famous inventor. Einstein, Albert. Similarly, statesmen and politicians have kept notebooks in various forms throughout history.
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Benefit #1: A habit tracker reminds you to act.
Habit tracking creates a succession of visual clues on its own. You’ll be reminded to act again when you glance at the calendar and notice your streak.
People who keep track of their progress toward goals like losing weight, quitting smoking, and lowering blood pressure are more likely to succeed than those who don’t.
Those who kept a daily meal diary dropped twice as much weight as those who did not, according to a study of over 1600 people. A habit tracker is a simple way to keep track of your habits, and just tracking them can make you want to change them.
Tracking your habits also holds you accountable. The majority of us believe we act better than we actually do. One method to overcome our blindness to our own conduct and see what’s really going on each day is to use measurement. You’re less inclined to lie to yourself when the proof is right in front of you.
Benefit #2: A habit tracker motivates you to continue.
Progress is the most effective kind of motivation. We become more driven to continue down that road when we receive a signal that we are moving forward. Habit monitoring can have an addicting effect on motivation in this way. Each modest victory satisfies your need.
On a terrible day, this can be especially effective. It’s easy to lose sight of all the progress you’ve already achieved when you’re down. Habit monitoring is a subtle reminder of how far you’ve come by providing visible confirmation of your hard work.
Furthermore, seeing an empty square each morning can drive you to start working because you don’t want to lose your progress by breaking your streak.
Benefit #3: A habit tracker provides immediate satisfaction.
Finally, tracking is enjoyable. Crossing something off your to-do list, completing an entry in your fitness journal, or marking an X on the calendar is satisfying. It feels nice to see your results improve, and if it feels good, you’ll be more willing to stick it out.
Habit tracking also aids in keeping your concentration on the task at hand: you’re more concerned with the process than with the outcome. You’re not looking to attain six-pack abs; instead, you want to keep the streak going and become the type of person who never skips a session.
Habit Tracker Ideas
Okay, those advantages sound fantastic, but you don’t need to record every behavior that occurs during your day in your habit tracker. In fact, if you’re already committed to a habit, tracking it feels like extra work to me. So, what should your habit tracker be measuring?
Habit monitoring can help you start a new habit or keep track of actions that you forget or let lapse when life gets busy.
The Two-Minute Rule, which I promote in Atomic Behaviors, suggests that you scale down your habits until they take two minutes or less to accomplish.
Common daily habits to track:
- journal 1 sentence
- read 1 page
- meditate 1 minute
- do 1 push up
- stretch for 1 minute
- write 1 thing I’m grateful for
- make your bed
- wake up by [TIME]
- go to bed by [TIME]
- take a shower
- floss teeth
- weigh myself
- take medication
- take vitamins/supplements
- play [INSTRUMENT] for 1 minute
- contact 1 potential client
- prioritize to-do list
- say “I love you” at least once
- put all dishes put away
- take a walk outside
- call mom
- walk the dog
The majority of the items on this list can be performed in under two minutes. Make your habits so simple that you can maintain them even on the most difficult days.
It takes a lot of repetitions for something to become fully habitual. As a result, the majority of behaviors are performed on a daily basis. However, using a habit tracker for various weekly or monthly routines can be beneficial. Although these habits will not become “natural” like tying your shoes or brushing your teeth, a habit tracker can help you remember to do them.
Common weekly habits to track:
- publish blog post
- take out trash/recycling
- do the laundry
- water the plants
- tidy up your bedroom
- write a thank you note
- review finances
- transfer money to savings account
- pay off credit cards
- pay bills
- deep clean the house
Habits of avoidance:
- no alcohol
- no Netflix
- no online purchases
- no soda
- no sugar
- no caffeine
- no smoking
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How to Get in the Habit of Using Your Habit Tracker
Despite its many advantages, a habit tracker is not appropriate in every situation or for every person. Many people are opposed to the idea of tracking and measuring their progress. Because it forces you into two habits: the habit you’re attempting to create and the habit of tracking it, it can feel like a burden. However, nearly everyone may benefit from habit tracking in some way, even if it’s only for a short time.
What can we do to make habit monitoring a little more manageable?
Manual tracking should, first and foremost, be limited to your most critical routines. It is preferable to track one habit on a regular basis rather than ten on an irregular basis. My habit tracker is usually kept basic and limited to my three or four most significant habits.
Second, keep track of each measurement as soon as the habit starts. The habit’s completion serves as a reminder to write it down. (This is a variation on the “habit stacking” strategy I discuss in Atomic Habits, Chapter 5.)
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How to Recover Quickly When Your Habits Break Down
Finally, I’d like to talk about what you should do if you fall off the wagon.
At some time, every habit streak comes to an end. Perfection is impossible to achieve. Sooner or later, an emergency will arise—you will become ill, you will have to travel for work, or your family will require more of your time. Whenever something like this happens to me, I try to remember a simple rule:
Never make the same mistake twice.
If I miss a day, I attempt to make up for it as soon as possible. It’s okay if I skip one workout, but I’m not going to miss two in a row. Maybe I’ll eat an entire pizza, but I’ll make sure to eat something nutritious afterwards.
With our behaviors, we frequently fall into an all-or-nothing loop. The issue isn’t with stumbling; it’s with believing that if you can’t do something flawlessly, you shouldn’t do it at all.
Sure, a neatly completed habit tracker is appealing, and you should try for it whenever possible. However, life is a jumble. What counts in the end is that you find a way to get back on track.
- The Ultimate Habit Tracker Guide: Why and How to Track Your Habits
- The Surprising Benefits of Journaling One Sentence Every Day
- How to Make Your Future Habits Easy
- The Habits Scorecard: Use This Simple Exercise to Discover Which Habits You Should Change