Why I’m using a habit tracker this year:
And why you probably should too!
Read Time : 5 minutes
For 80% of people (Choi 2020), the lost days between Christmas and New Years are spent reflecting deeply upon the year, evaluating personal and professional wins and losses, and setting goals and aspirations for the new year.
Following the standard format for goal setting, we ensure that the goals are SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound – and that the outcomes are clear. These goals, written neatly in a new planner, give us a sense of clarity, purpose and meaning leaving us motivated and inspired by the possibilities of what we can achieve this year and the person that we can become.
Imbued with this intense motivation, we embark on a journey of self-improvement on an upward trajectory towards a self-defined, improved life. But for most of us, unfortunately, this journey is short-lived with 80 percent of those making New Year’s resolutions dropping them by the second week of February (Haden 2020).
Strava, a popular online exercise tracking app, is even more pessimistic about those embarking on a fitness improvement journey, predicting that ‘Quitter’s Day’ (19 January) is the day people will most likely renege on their New Year's fitness journey. Although the issues with ‘Outcome-Based Goal Setting’ are discussed in the linked article, we often lack simple tools to help keep us on-track and accountable. This is where the habit tracker comes in.
The Habit Tracker
The Habit Tracker is a monthly or weekly check list that allows you to track, in a very visual way, your adherence to those activities that will bring you closer to your goal or the person you want to become. I personally prefer the monthly habit tracker, as it gives a much broader picture of adherence, but I have seen both utilised successfully.
Although habit journals, habit templates and habit apps are also available, I’d advise using one of the templates below before investing in any of the above. I also find that there is something grounding and reflective in sitting down to a pen and paper version as opposed to the tech option, but whatever works best for you.
Using a habit tracker serves four key functions in helping us move towards our goals: intention, awareness, action, and feedback.
‘Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny’
In a world full of distraction – social media, box sets and 24/7 news – it is easy for your personal agenda to take a back seat to whatever fate decides to throw at you. With a clear list of important tasks on your habit tracker, you are setting your intention and are aware of the daily/ weekly tasks that will push the needle of your life in a positive direction.
‘Self-awareness allows you to self-correct’
With the pace of modern life so rapid, our perception of who we are and what activities we attend to can become ambiguous. I’ve had clients tell me they love to write, but the last word they wrote was over 6 months ago and friends that told me they are athletes but haven’t set foot on a pitch in over 2 years.
They were shocked when we actually discussed the last time they had taken part in the activity in question. The use of the habit tracker not only sparks awareness of our participation but allows us to easily self-correct if the ticks on the tracker begin to disappear.
‘You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do’
As my mother used to say, 'talk is cheap, it takes money to buy whisky'. Action is critical to success in our chosen domain. The Habit Tracker inspires and encourages not only what we have deemed the right actions but consistent, sustained action which will ultimately compound over time.
‘When feedback is immediate, clear, and concrete, people learn quickly
When feedback is delayed, abstract, and opaque, people rarely learn’
The Habit Tracker provides daily, clear, and concrete feedback on your trajectory, as defined by you. Consistently tick off your non-negotiables and you will slowly yet steadily climb your mountain.
The Habit Tracker is therefore the litmus test of personal improvement.
The legendary comedian Jerry Seinfeld was a proponent of The Habit Tracker. He used it to write comedy content and suggested using it to create a streak that would produce momentum:
‘After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain’
And if the chain did break, Seinfeld ensured that the chain break lasted only for one day before getting back to writing again.
The tool you need to propel your success and productivity is only one Ctrl + P away and costs no money. Give it a try and let me know how you find the process. I would love to hear your feedback.
I will be sharing my personal habit tracking practices in an upcoming newsletter, so if you’re not currently subscribed, click the link!
Choi, C., 2020 New Year's Resolution Statistics, Finder, New York
Haden, J. 2020, A Study of 800 Million Activities Predicts Most New Year's Resolutions Will Be Abandoned on January 19: How to Create New Habits That Actually Stick, Inc., New York