Knowing your own habits is a good start if you find yourself wishing to improve in certain areas of your life. Habit tracking can be one way of doing this and can be done in different ways, but is habit tracking always a good thing?
What Is Habit Tracking and Why Should You Do It?
Habit tracking is simply put a way to take notes of things that you usually do, to see patterns in your own behavior. I’ve explained this more in a previous post.
Why should you be tracking your habits at all? Well, it’s hard to change things that you don’t really put your focus and attention to. Say you want to lose weight, what are some habits that you need to be aware of in order to do this? Do you know how many hours of sleep you get? Are you eating well? Are you drinking enough water? How is your mood?
All these things can affect the goal you’ve set for yourself (to lose weight) tracking your habits can help you connect the dots, and notice your own patterns and from here you can start recognizing what changes you need to make.
Seeing your own patterns and habits also makes it easier to both estimate time and resources you might need for a project, help you prioritize, and so on.
How Can You Track Your Habits?
One good thing about tracking habits is that it can be as easy or difficult as you make it. In its most basic form, all you really need is a piece of paper and a pen. If you wish to stay analog then maybe advance to a notebook. Perhaps keeping your habit tracker in a bullet journal to be viewed monthly, weekly, or daily is something for you?
If you want inspiration on ways to make your habit-tracking aesthetically pleasing Pinterest, YouTube or a simple picture search on Google will work wonders.
If you know yourself well enough to know that you need to keep your habit tracker in a digital format on your phone, then there are apps for this too. Personally, I use a free app that is very basic, easy to set up, and easy to use. The one I use is called Way of Life (for iOS) and it is my go-to habit tracker during the day.
You can absolutely combine the analog and digital format as well. Perhaps tracking your habits during the day in an app or on your phone, then making a summary in your journal at the end of the day? This could be a nice way to end the day as well.
Habit tracking can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be – for better or worse! It can also be used in more or less creative ways, so have fun with it.
When Is Tracking Your Habits Less Beneficial?
As with most things, habit tracking is best done in moderation. It’s very easy to get overzealous and want to track EVERYTHING. Please don’t do this! Try to focus on a few habits at a time. This way you can build things up as you go instead of feeling beat down for missing things when you took on too much from the start.
You may have a wish to change plenty of things for yourself, but if you wish to make new habits and keep them, then you can’t do it all at once. One thing at a time, one piece at a time.
The last thing you want to do is become overwhelmed by your own habit tracking. If this is something you recognize, try dialing it back a bit. What are the most important things for you right now? What changes or added habits would give the most bang for your buck or benefit you most in exchange for your time?
If you want to tackle more things at once, try building on the good habits you already have. Some call this building a habit loop, if you like listening to podcasts I recommend you listen to the episode from Connect the Dots called The 3 Steps of Habit Building (and Breaking) to learn more.
Own Experiences of Tracking Habits?
Have I used habit tracking? Yes.
Have I tried tracking too many things at once? Absolutely! And I felt awful about it! Instead of seeing it as a productive journey, I saw it as a failure. Proof of “yet another” thing I couldn’t do, just because I couldn’t keep a perfect record month after month.
What did I learn from it? The greatest takeaway is to downsize and focus on fewer things, instead of doing it all at once. I don’t know if there is an exact science for a perfect number of habits to track, so I suggest you experiment a bit and find your own best version.
Nowadays I track my habits in a digital format. During the day, I tick off things as I go in Way of Life, then I summarize all habits in my digital planner at the end of the day as part of my evening routine.
Most of the time I try to keep my collected habits in a monthly view, but add a small divider so I can see where each week begins and ends. This way I can see what went well one week and where I need to focus a bit more the next.
As with most things, planning or just thinking about things you wish to change in life won’t get you very far. This goes for tracking habits too: the best way to follow up on your habits is to make sure you track them consistently. If you only do it every now and then, it will be difficult to notice any patterns.
One way of doing this is to make sure that you keep habit tracking top of mind. Have it on a piece of paper that you keep visible, make sure you see it as a gentle reminder to yourself. Keep in mind WHY you want to track your habits, what is your end goal?
It’s also perfectly fine to keep the same habit on your tracker for several months in a row or as a permanent part of your tracker, I know trying to get enough sleep has been on mine for a long time now.
Make sure not to take on too many things at once and one last thing: if you track your habits, do it out of a place of self-love, not one of self-loathing or as a way to punish yourself!
Missed tracking one day? So what? Will it be the end of the world? Will it matter in a few years or even next week? If not: just roll with it! Don’t make yourself feel bad over yet another thing that you added to your mental to-do list.
What is your experience with habit tracking? Have you only heard of it or have you tried this yourself? How did you do it and was it effective for you?
Videos to watch:
- My Simple 3 Step Habit Building System – on habit loops and how these can help you build on existing, good habits that you already have
Podcast episodes on habit tracking:
- Connect the Dots: The 3 Steps of Habit Building (and Breaking) (Matt Ragland)