Over the years I’ve read Leo Babauta‘s work on how to form and maintain habits and love how people are finding more creative ways to track theirs. There many ideas about which habits to track – those adorable Hydrate stickers are everywhere! – but how do you begin figuring out what to track and how?
Many months later, I have a YouTube video that talks about how I track my habits!
Don’t track habits just to track habits.
Now that we can track anything we want to – from FitBit, Garmin, to a high-tech waterbottle – it’s easy to get lost in numbers. We only have so many heartbeats, so we need to decide how we want to use them. If you’re not using the data, you don’t need to track it.
What are the questions you’re trying to answer?
To get clarity on what data you need, it helps to know what issues you want to learn about. Human memory sucks so tracking is the best way to answer some of those questions. Some questions might be:
- Why am I sleeping poorly? (this is one of mine)
- What’s the deal with my headaches?
- Am I making time for my relationships?
- How often do I actually floss my teeth?
For each, it helps get a realistic baseline and it might even reveal how one habit influences others. For the sleeping question, you might track things like “Went to bed before 11PM”, “had coffee after 2PM,” or “really stressed.” For headaches you might track “Drank 6 glasses of liquid” or “had a migraine.” Relationship ones may be, “Skype date or phone call,” “date night,” or “girls night.” Perhaps you’ll see a connection.
Personally, I wanted to go in-depth with my sleeping issues so I had a separate detailed tracker for sleep (below).
What habits are helpful to know?
There are things that I tell myself I do more often than in reality – ahem, washing sheets – so I like tracking these less frequent but important behaviors. Blank boxes are enough to remind me to floss or check my car fluids. Some of the things on my list are:
- Washing the sheets
- Clipping my cat’s nails
- Checking car oil, wiper fluid
- Car wash
- Going through my belongings to donate or sell
What habits do I want to cultivate?
Lastly, what behaviors do you want to increase? If you’re like me, you LOVE checking off a box, so being reminded of these desirable habits really helps me. Some ideas might be:
- Explore a new place in the city
- Revisit our budget
- Have 1 walking meeting a day
- Take at least ____ steps a day
- Check the news
A cool hack I’ve seen is tallying up at the end of the month – how many times you did a habit all month, and how many habits you did per day. This makes it easier to create measurable goals, too, like:
- Read the news 10+ days a month
- Accomplish 4+ habits a day
- Have 2 Skype dates a month
- Go to bed before 11PM at 15+ days
Okay, I’ve got my list. Where do I put it?
As shown, I have a separate, longer monthly habit tracker. But I also choose a few habits to feature each day in my planner, too. Specifically, I track my coffee, water intake, reading, and one walking meeting a day, each day. Having them in front of me reminds me to just drink more water! Whatever you want to push yourself to do, consider adding it to your daily page.
Numbers have power, but only if we know how to use them. What are the habits you’re tracking?? I have a few spots left on my monthly tracker and would love to know! If you want to use my monthly tracker, click here (Habit Tracker Template) to download a copy. I’d love to see what habits you fill in of your own.