As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent some time over the holidays researching how to form good habits in an effort to ease some of the chaos of recent times with some good habits and a steady routine.
One tip that kept coming up in everything I read was the importance of tracking your progress with your new habit. Several sources specifically mentioned the value of using a habit tracker.
What is a Habit Tracker?
A Habit Tracker is simply something you use to mark whether you completed a habit each day. It can be as simple as a calendar where you can cross off each completed day with an X or as complicated as an app on your phone where you detail variables such as your mood, the weather, how long you spent on your habit, etc.
Here’s a sample of the Habit Tracker I created. It’s quite simple, with spots to track habits I want to complete Daily, Weekly, and Monthly. I keep mine on the wall of my bathroom to look at it frequently, but you can also keep it in your planner or on your desk. It just needs to be someplace where you can see it often.
The Benefits of Using a Habit Tracker
A Habit Tracker significantly cuts down the time it takes to create a new habit and make it stick.
A Habit Tracker is a visible reminder of the new habit you’re working on, so you remember to perform your new habit. No more forgetting to take your vitamins for six months!
Your Habit Tracker is a great motivational tool when you’re first starting a new habit. You’ll be amazed at how satisfying a row of completed “X” s can be and how hard you’ll work to get the chain going.
Jerry Seinfeld famously uses this strategy as a motivational hack.
Your Habit Tracker can also give good feedback about why your habit isn’t working out. Maybe, despite your best efforts, you consistently don’t follow through on your chosen new habit. That’s a signal that you need to examine your habit more closely.
Your Habit Tracker shows your actual progress. Humans have notoriously inaccurate memories. We tend to overestimate both our successes and our failures. By reviewing our Habit Trackers, we can see a more accurate picture of our progress.
Free Printable Habit Tracker
I’ve created a free printable Habit Tracker you can use to track any new habits you want to form. Fill out the form below to receive it.
How to Use a Habit Tracker to Create New Habits
Habit Trackers can take a variety of forms and formats. This is the one I created for myself, but I’ll include examples of other Habit Trackers at the bottom of this post.
Enter Your Desired Habits on Your Habit Tracker
I use my Habit Tracker to help me form new habits and keep track of daily tasks I don’t want to forget. I put the most critical habits at the top of the page.
If a task doesn’t happen every day, I draw a square around the day it’s supposed to happen.
Place Your Habit Tracker Someplace You Can Access it Easily
I put my Habit Tracker on my bathroom wall, so I see it first thing in the morning. Other good places for your Habit Tracker are your desk or your planner.
Track Your Progress Daily
I check off my habit each morning for the previous day. Other people like to check off their habits right before they go to bed.
Review Your Progress Regularly and Adjust Your Habit if You Keep Failing
If you find yourself skipping a lot of days on your habit tracker, it’s time to ask yourself why. I think the number one reason most people find themselves missing habits is that they start too big.
People put too much pressure on themselves. They think everyone else is more evolved than they are, so they try to skip ahead to the self-assured, self-actualized grown-up they believe all other people are 100% of the time.
Not true, my friends. I bet if you showed up at your next-door neighbor’s house right now, the chances are quite high you would find your neighbor in their underwear eating Twizzler’s on their bed while sharing their best productivity tips in a forum online. (No, there’s absolutely no reason I came up with that particular example while writing a productivity article.)
My point is this, however. If you find yourself failing at something you want to do, you have two choices. You can quit, or you can scale back. If I find myself repeatedly failing to drink 32 ounces of water a day, I’ll scale back to 20, which is literally just one water bottle. If I can’t make that, I’ll keep scaling back until I can string together a series of wins.
I used to drink at least four 16 ounce Diet Doctor Pepper’s a day. It took me forever to get down to one. At some point, I’ll try to take it down even further, but for now, I’m concentrating on increasing my water intake instead.
Celebrate Your Success
If you string together two weeks in a row or a week in a row, or even a few days in a row, take a moment to feel proud of your success. Recognizing and celebrating your success further reinforces your habit in your brain. You’re acknowledging the importance of the habit in your life and further motivating yourself to continue your new habit.
Take the time to tell someone else what you’ve accomplished. Post it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. At a minimum, take a second to say out loud, “Yay, me. I did it!”
Habit Tracker Examples
You can download my free, printable Habit Tracker, of course, but there are as many types of Habit Trackers as there are people. Here are some examples of some of my favorites.