The Power of Daily Habit Tracker: Making Sure You Work for the Habit You Want Everyday
After reading all about the nature of habit and the four definite steps to form new productive habits, you are pumped. There are so many habits you want to cultivate: from meditation, tracking your finances, to going to the gym and even journaling about your heart-breaking attempt to secure exchange program positions.
We all know that it’s only hard in the first few weeks. After a habit is well-formed, it’ll be as easy as a breeze, but boy, are those first few weeks a pain in the ass.
Say, you go about one habit, of tracking your finances everyday. The first day was fine; you did a spreadsheet and everything splendidly. The second day was also pretty good, as the fresh juice of motivation was still running through your veins. But the third day, you happened to have an unforeseen evening out with friends and forgot the habit entirely. On the fourth day, you were busy Angry at yourself for missing a day, you spent the next day dejected, and forgetting the habit as well… Thus went the fifth and sixth and the rest of the month of not forming the desired habit.
Is this your fault? Nope, not at all. I mean, it’s normal to forget to do something you are not in the habit of doing. That’s why you’ll need this one, simple tool to remind you to complete your daily habits: a habit tracker.
What is a habit tracker?
A habit tracker is just a simple table containing the dates of the week (or month) and the habits you want to ensure you do daily.
How to start a habit tracker?
STEP 1: choose where it will be in
Really simple. If you’re the digital type, maybe just a table in your phone note program like Evernote or the default note programs would suffice.
If you’re like me, who can’t take phone notes seriously, a page in your journal, or notebook would work just the same. If you don’t have a journal, put it in your calendar. Suppose you have neither of those, you can resort to sticking the damn table on your wall! Basically choose somewhere that you can see/use every day!
STEP 2: choose the habits you want
A word of caution, my friend. Don’t cram too many habits into a month. There are only so many brain cells you can dedicate to forming new habits. I like to limit my new habit formation to only 2-3 per month; thus, ensuring that it’s not too stressful and the chance of success is a bit higher.
For example, as I’m writing this now in the month of May, 2019, the two new habits I want to form are: getting up at 5:30 AM, and learning Japanese once every few days. In my tracker, there are these two habits, plus the old ones that I want to maintain!
STEP 3: choose the frequency you want to update
About 8 months ago, when I first started my habit tracker, I had a big table that had 2 weeks of tracking in it. For some reason, that didn’t work, probably because I was seeing the same old tracker every day for two damn weeks. It was also easier for me to feel discouraged when I had a few days of “0”.
So I changed it to a weekly basis instead. Each table starts on Monday and ends on Sunday. No matter how shitty my habit track was this week, I can always make a new one, thus propelling me to try again with a fresh new heart every week, you know, like clearing your debt once a week. Doing the weekly basis also coincides with my weekly life planning, so all is good!
STEP 4: allot a time when you track your habit
Now here is the sketchy part. The thing about tracking your habit is that it can only work when tracking your habit is well, a habit. I would suggest you to start out with a clear, scheduled time for tracking. It usually takes less than 5 minutes to do so each day!
For instance, every morning, I always track my habits for the day before. In fact, it’s right between my daily dharma listening and meditation, about 6:30 in the early morning!
STEP 5 (optional): have a cheat day
Now, I think this is up to you, but what I realized after weeks of rigorously tracked everyday of my life is that all the pressure adds up! Oh, it sure does!
That’s why every week or so, I’d have a few days of slipping off. Those few days were given to temptation, and bad habits that I’ve been trying to change. It’s like at one point, my willpower just ran out, and the crazy Cheng emerges from the depth craving soft drinks and binge-watching shows three seasons at a time.
Then I thought, well, if I’m going to inevitably cheat anyway, might as well put a formal label on the thing. Thus, Friday was appropriately appointed “lazy day” in which I can do anything I’m NOT supposed to do. I never appoint meetings or even initiate hang out with friends for that day. It’s a big priority, just to be lazy.
When Friday rolls around, I have no obligation to follow, either from the inside or out. No duty to reply messages, to go out, or to be upright or “improve myself”. I can just spend the day playing games, reading, napping, cleaning or binge-watching anything I want! It’s heaven, I tell you. Imagine that! A day where you can just be, without a flying care in the world!
The awesome thing is that, usually after a day of full indulgence, I’m refresh, ready to take the oncoming six days of being a daughter, sister, a writer, citizen and friend! In the long run, having an appointed lazy day is more efficient and healthier than trying to be productive seven days in a week but always slipping off for a few days at a stretch!
So to recap the whole thing: develop a habit tracker now because it’ll track you down everyday and remind you of your habits. Choose where you want it, what habits should be focused for the month, and the frequency of your updating it. If applicable, apply a day where it doesn’t work!