Why and How to Track Your Habits
Written 28th of August, 2020
It takes 66 days to fully form a habit according to the research data of University College London. That number alone looks intimidating but there’s a technique that’ll ensure these 66 days fly by.
Habits are tiny actions we take that compound to the fruition of our big goals. They help us focus on the systems that lead us to the goal rather than focusing on the overwhelming goal we have to accomplish.
A habit tracker is a tool used to measure whether you did a habit.
“Can one tiny change transform your life? It’s unlikely you would say so. But what if you made another? And another? And another? At some point, you will have to admit that your life was transformed by one small change. The Holy Grail of habit is not a single 1 percent improvement, but a thousand of them.” — James Clear
How It Works
You can track your habits in two different ways: digitally or analogy.
Analog: you can draw your habit tracker in a journal; a calendar where you can cross off each habit as you do them.
Digital: there are many apps you can use to track your habits. Some include Loop and Habit Tracker.
“Feedback loops provide people with information about their actions in real-time, and then give them a chance to change those actions, pushing them toward better behaviors.” — Thomas Goetz
A feedback loop creates a cycle and encourages a system of habits that lead to huge goals. Every time you cross of that habit, it registers in your brain, you’ve measured that action and it helps you choose to act again.
How Can I make it satisfying?
Using the habit tracker makes the task seem satisfying. It’s a mini reward after completing each habit.
There are some days the long term benefits of the habits won’t just cut it for you and the short term reward of that cross or tick after doing the habit is what gets you through. It’s a constant motivator.
These are one of the tenets for effectively building a habit found in James Clear book, Atomic Habits.
Progress is tracked
Cross off each habit every time you do it whether daily or weekly and over time it compounds to a beautiful visual presentation of your progress.
Every time I look at my habit tracker, I feel so proud of my current progress and that only encourages me to push harder.
Progress on your habit tracker can also look like lots of empty spaces. But you shouldn’t let that discourage you. It is an opportunity for reflection on the strength of your willpower and discipline and shows how you can improve yourself. Those empty little boxes should challenge you to fill them in on your next one.
Remember, your only real competition is yourself.
Cindy, a reader of the Atomic Habits wrote an email (link) to James Clear detailing how she uses the habit tracker. “I purchased a large wall calendar and started building the chains. This works for me. I like to build that chain. There are 6 months of reading X’s on my calendar. I am healthier, have lost 30 pounds, feel stronger, exercise more, garden, read more, work on my small business, and practice my French.”
Life is unpredictable
A really hard truth that my overachieving-self had to learn is that life is unpredictable. You can’t always do everything you set out to do that day. Sometimes I feel guilty for the parts of my life I cannot control and then I realize that’s delusional thinking.
Some days are just extremely busy and crazy so you don’t even get any me time to pursue your habits. But never think of life as getting in the way.
It’s completely normal, just take a deep breath and take the next day as a fresh start.
I hope you realize that every day is a fresh start for you. That every sunrise is a new chapter in your life waiting to be written. — Juansen DIzon, Confessions of a Wallflower
Helps you celebrate small wins
Culture has made us extremely focused on big goals. Unfortunately, that does not leave for many happy people.
We should get into the habit of celebrating our small wins and experiencing small joys. The habit tracker helps us do this with every cross; it’s an acknowledgment of what we were able to do.
This is good especially if we’ve had a bad day or week. Celebrating the achievement of these habits that will lead us to a better life, which sometimes seems like the only light at the end of a dark tunnel.
It is of small joys and little pleasures that the greatest of our days are built. — Mary Anne Radmacher
Helps you focus on systems and not goals
Systems are the actions you take that lead to the goal. It’s the goal broken into the core actions that will lead to its fruition.
A lot of people are just goal-oriented. They do not take the time to dissect the goal and decide on the actions they’ll have to take to achieve this goal. Taking these actions is the most important thing. The habit tracker ensures this.
Each habit is a system that takes you to towards your goal.
A goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do regularly that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal. — Scott Adams
Getting Into The Habit of Using It
The first thing to note is that it doesn’t even take up to 30 seconds to fill in the habit tracker. This reality makes the task look less daunting.
And, the rule of thumb here is not to miss twice. Missing twice creates a cycle and we don’t want that.
What Habits Should I Track?
You should tailor the habits in the direction your life is moving.
However, if you’re confused about what habits to track, here’s a blueprint for you. These are the most integral aspects of life that should be part of your day.
Spiritual Wellness: Quiet time with God and Jesus Christ.
Physical Wellness: Exercise, or Taking a nature walk
Mental Wellness: Journalling or The use of Mental Self-care apps.
Self-Education: Read a good book or listen to a podcast
Mastery of your Craft: Choose the one activity that you know if you do every day, it’ll cause you to own your field.
Outside of this blueprint, you can have personal habits that you believe will enrich your life. It could be a hobby (Learning a new Language), a discipline (Waking up at 5 AM), or unlearning a bad habit. (Too much screen time)
Make It Specific
When choosing the habits to track, it easier to narrow it down. Make it plain and specific
Take a tiny portion of the habit and track that. For example, reading 3 pages of a book, doing a 5-minute workout, or journaling for 2 minutes.
I compiled affirmations to help you during this process.Remember to take one day at a time.
Habit tracking could be an incredible tool in your life arsenal but only if you learn to use it consistently.