What is a Habit Tracker? If you have asked yourself this question before you have come the right place. I will not only explain what a habit tracker is, but also what habits are, what they can do for you and how you can turn your bad habits into good ones.
While I have talked about Habit Tracking countless times before I never dedicated a full blog post to it. But since I’m still getting asked what the heck a Habit Tracker is let’s talk about it close up and in person. Or at least as close as we can get *waving from Germany*
What is a Habit?
Before you can understand what a habit tracker is and why you might want to use one we need to talk about the basics. So let’s start at the beginning and ignore the ‘tracker’ bit for now.
By definition, a habit is a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously.
I find the best example for habits are all these moments where you don’t know where you put your key. Or how you could have missed turning left at the last intersection.
Because coming home, taking off your coat, dropping your keys, as well as your way to work/school, are in itself habits. You have done them so often already your body just does them on its own without activating the parts of your brain that would be necessary to do something new.
This is why people say you do habits without thinking. Which is, of course, medically speaking not true but you get the twist.
So, are habits something good or bad?
Let’s have a closer look, shall we? Having a good regular routine that happens on its own would be fantastic, wouldn’t it?
- Exercising daily.
- Eating healthy.
- Taking care of household tasks while thinking about something fun.
But it also means you could:
- Eat a bar of chocolate each night.
- Smoke a pack of cigarettes a day.
- Watch Netflix every waking moment.
Because habits don’t differentiate between good and bad. They just are.
So the real question is
How can you influence your habits?
How can you decide which behaviors you do regularly and which you don’t?
This is where habit trackers come in. They are a tool that is meant to keep you accountable whenever you try to either
- Implement a new habit
- Or get rid of an existing one
Implementing a new habit
Most people set new years resolutions. They want to use this fantastic opportunity as a fresh start. January, 1st is the day to turn your life around. To finally start exercising. To go on date nights with your spouse every week. To go home from work at 4 pm – no more overtime. List whatever you have dreamed of doing.
For the first week, you are super excited. You know this is the year that changes it all.
In the second week, you already are losing motivation but you still keep pushing every other day.
In week three your usual routine has taken over again and you are back where you started.
This is of course just an example. Maybe you stick with it only for a day or two. Maybe you stick with it a few months. But more often than not people fall right back to where they started.
Why? Because it is their default. Their well-established habit. And when things get stressful and too much we do what is comfortable. Doing what we already know is very comfortable.
You can’t implement a new habit without getting rid of an old one
So the only way we can establish a new habit is by getting rid/replacing an old one. You can’t do one without the other. Because your life as it is, right now, consists of routines and well-established behaviors. You already are a person of habit.
Nothing wrong with that.
But it’s time to use it to our advantage and turn those ‘bad’ habits into ‘good’ ones. I highly recommend doing that one at a time and very slowly. Because if you overwhelm yourself right of the bat you have no chance. So instead of stopping to eat sweets, eating only veggies, working out 5 times a week and to never party again… start with one little thing.
For example, instead of taking the train to and from work every day right from your doorstep, see if you can get on/off a station later/earlier and walk for 15-30min each way. Fresh air is good for your brain, the movement wakes you up in the morning and actually gives you more energy in the long run. And you can clear your head before and after work. PS: If you are a freelancer working from home like me, stop the excuses and just go for a nice walk around your neighborhood :-*
Only after you do this on autopilot will you add to it, by maybe stopping to eat sweets when watching TV and snacking on veggies with hummus instead. You know, one little baby step at a time 🙂
Which brings us back to our initial question:
What is a habit tracker?
As I already said it’s a tool meant to hold you accountable while going through the process of habit implementation/elimination.
The most common setup you see online is a sheet of paper which includes the days of the month at the top and a list of habits on the left. Then the only thing you do is write down the habit you want to implement/get rid off at the left. And cross off/color in the boxes on the days you stuck to it. Done!
With this setup, there is only one problem. The long list at the left tempts many people to try to fill it top to bottom with habits as well. Because we all love to check things off, right? 😀
Focus on ONE THING and try to make it second nature before adding the next. What I recommend to my Free Journaltastisch E-Course subscribers as well as my Journaltastisch Planner customers is to start with one habit in month #1 and add no more than one other small habit in month #2 and so on.
How long it takes to establish a habit depends on how ‘complicated’ the new habit is and how diligent you are with your implementation. Opinions differ from 21 to 66 to way over a 100 days to establish a new habit. I personally try to listen to my body and mind and take it one day at a time 🙂
I know you can do it too!
Tell me in the comments below what is the ONE HABIT you want to implement into your life right now?