Do you want to build habits that stick?
Maybe you’ve tried many methods but found that after a few weeks, you start skipping days and eventually end up where you’ve started.
Building habits that stick can be a challenge. However, there is a whole science behind how long it takes for a habit to stick that helps us learn how to go from giving them up at the drop of a hat to remaining motivated and persistent long-term.
Why Habit Tracking Works
Measuring and tracking progress is key to building habits. It’s a way to hold ourselves accountable and keeps us focused on our goals. Habit tracking allows us to see whether we are making progress or standing in place, so let’s see how exactly it benefits us when building new habits.
The Importance of Tracking and Measuring
Excelling at anything, be it sports, cooking, language acquisition, or anything else, requires being aware of many parameters and measuring them continually to see whether we achieve optimal performance in a particular skill.
For example, bodybuilders might measure their weight, body fat, muscle mass, diet, specific exercises, increase in sets, reps, and weight, and so on. People who want to start meditating regularly might measure how many days in a row they managed to meditate, how long they do it, how stressed or relaxed they feel every day, how focused they are on the present moment, and so on.
Measuring these parameters gives us a clearer idea of our progress and motivates us to work even harder to improve our performance. And since building a habit is a long process as it takes a while before we can see the desired results, this immediate feedback helps us stay consistent in the short-term while waiting for the long-term rewards. And this is why habit tracking is very effective.
What Are the Benefits of Habit Tracking?
Here are a few benefits of habit tracking that should clarify even further why it works so well.
It Reminds Us to Act
Habit tracking shows our progress in a visual way and this series of visual cues serve us as reminders to act and stay consistent. This is especially efficient if you’re using a planner or an app where you can write down what you need to do or schedule a reminder to do it.
It Keeps Us Real
Habit tracking keeps us real and honest. Many of us think that we’re performing better than we are when trying to establish a new habit, and we often want to take shortcuts. Precise tracking and measurements help us overcome this, as they provide us with straightforward evidence of how we’re really doing.
It Motivates Us to Continue
Habit tracking effectively motivates us to stay on our habit-building journey. By observing small steps of progress, we remain in the loop. Regular and consistent feedback keeps us focused and keeps us going. That’s simply how we’re wired; we prefer small and frequent rewards (or just feedback) over delayed ones.
How Does Habit Tracking Work?
If you want to make the most of your habit tracking, you need to stay mindful of a few things.
First, you need to think about your intentions. This means asking yourself where you want to be and what you want to achieve over a certain period of time. This is your framework, your overall direction that will serve as your guide on your journey towards building a new habit. Once you have a good understanding of your intentions, the next step is to funnel this into more specific, actionable, and, most importantly, achievable goals.
So, how do you track your habits? Well, there’s no universal method that works for everyone, so let’s go over a few effective habit-tracking methods so you can choose the one that’ll work best for you.
Plan It Out
Our latest Quarterly Productivity Planner, designed for 90-day planning geared towards growth, productivity, and mindfulness, also includes habit tracking. Simply write things down and include your habits in your weekly, monthly, and quarterly plans.
This is the same habit tracker you’ll find in our Productivity Daily Deskpad. This simple and functional all-in-one desk pad is designed for tracking your goals from different aspects. You will be happy to find that besides the schedule tracker, there is also a task, mood, water intake, and habit tracker, along with a space where you can add mindful notes for yourself that will help you stay positive and productive every day.
Writing things down is extremely helpful for proper habit tracking, especially if you merge habit tracking with other aspects of goal setting and planning. That way, everything that is goal-related in your life is in one easy-to-access place.
Use an App
Apps are another convenient way to track your habits. You can go low-effort and simple by setting up your alarm to remind you about your habit-related activities every day. For example, if you repeat an activity three times per week, you can set up an alarm on your phone or in your Google calendar that’ll ring one hour before the activity is meant to take place.
However, a better way is to use dedicated apps.
Monthly vs Weekly vs Daily Habit Tracking
Whether you’ll use a simple calendar, planner, or a dedicated app to track your habits depends on your goal and how frequently you decide to engage in habit-related activities.
Daily habit trackers are most commonly used, but these are usually good for building simpler habits, like increasing water intake, practicing daily meditations, persevering in your gratitude practice, flossing, etc.
Weekly tracking is also beneficial and works well for habits such as exercise and fitness, as these are usually practiced a few times per week.
Finally, monthly tracking lets you see the bigger picture and measure how much time you need to achieve certain milestones.
Tracking on a daily and weekly level is important because it gives you the push you need on a granular level, but bigger-scale monthly tracking helps you notice some of the more meaningful changes that require time.
So what habits do people usually track?
Examples of Habits to Track
The habits you’ll track depend on your goals, so let’s see some examples.
- Go to the gym X times per week;
- Measure weight;
- Healthy diet;
- Protein intake;
- Water intake;
- Cut down on afternoon caffeine;
- Turn off the screen after 10 pm;
- Sleep at least 6 hours each night;
- Go to bed by midnight each night;
- Stop using the snooze button.
Family, Partnership, and Friendship Habits
- Do more active listening;
- Have a date night once a week;
- Call parents X times per week;
- Spend quality time with kids X times per week;
- Meet with friends for group activity once per week.
Personal Growth Habits
- Listen to inspirational podcasts X times per week;
- Read 1 book per month;
- Read inspiring/educational blogs, articles, news 30 minutes each day;
- Finish one online course in a month;
- Keep a gratitude journal.
Now that you know why habit tracking is beneficial and what type of habits you can track, where do you start?
Four Steps to Start Tracking Your Habits
Tracking habits is a simple task yet unbelievably effective. Here are the four essential steps you need to take to start tracking your habits.
1. Choose a Habit
The habit of your choice should support one of your important life goals. It’s best if you start building one habit rather than implementing several habits simultaneously. It’s easier to succeed when you focus on one thing at a time, so start building another habit only when you’ve become consistent enough and the habit tracking method of your choice shows that you’ve made enough progress with the first one.
2. Pick Your Habit Tracking Method
If you prefer “analog” habit tracking, the Quarterly Productivity Planner or the Productivity Daily Deskpad are great choices, but if you’re more into digital tools, an app can do the legwork for you.
3. Always Keep Your Habit Tracker Within Reach
You should always keep your habit tracker of choice close by to make the habit-tracking process easier, regardless of whether you pick an analog or a digital one.
4. Start Tracking Your Habits
And don’t forget to be patient. Building a habit is a marathon, not a sprint, so take your time and the results will come.
Tracking your habits is an excellent way to bring yourself closer to your goals and encourage positive change in your life.
Depending on whether you prefer to write things down using pen and paper or use a digital tool, you should pick either an analog or a digital habit tracker. And depending on your habit and what goal it supports, you can choose to track it on a monthly, weekly, or daily level, or a mix of all of them.
We hope you give habit tracking a try and build the habit(s) you’ve always wanted!