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My Daily Habit Tracker Checklist

(My habit tracker from 2019)

In 2019, I chose the word Excellence for my Word of the Year. That year, I really focused on developing habits and practices to lead a more excellent life (not a perfect life nor a productive life, but an excellent life — which I define more here).

One of the practices I established during that year was tracking habits. I created a simple daily habit checklist on Numbers on my computer with some habits that I wanted to prioritize. I would print one out at the beginning of each week and then track them throughout the week.

Small Actions Add Up to Big Change

Halfway through 2019, I downloaded Atomic Habits and listened to it on the Libby app. Within just the first hour of listening, I was pretty sure it was going to be a 5-start book for me. And it was! In fact, I found it so insightful that I ended up buying a hard copy of the book and reading the hard copy again in 2020! (If you know me well, you know that that speaks volumes to how beneficial I thought the book was!)

One of the basic premises of Atomic Habits is that small actions done consistently add up to big changes over time. These actions can be bad habits or good habits. In the book, the author provides powerful and actionable ideas on how to change course and develop disciplined practices… but it a way that serves you instead of stifling you.

Another principle that Atomic Habits highly encourages is the concept of habit tracking. James Clear shares many examples of how this can be done and how it can make such a difference.

I was excited that I had already developed the habit of habit tracking (though I had to chuckle that I was creating a habit to track habits!) and I can attest to the fact that it makes such a difference in my life.

If we say we want to change something, but we don’t proactively make a plan for how and when and what we’re going to do to actually make changes, there’s a good chance nothing will actually change. A habit tracker is a great way to actually put feet to our goals.

(My daily habit tracker for 2021 — I just realized that I need to change the year in the header from 2020 to 2021!)

How the Habit Tracker Works for Me

If you’re wanting to implement a habit tracker into your life, I encourage you to start by defining what habits you want to incorporate into your life. I based the bulk of my habits that I track off of my yearly goals and my personal priorities.

What is one or two habits that could make the most difference or would bring the most positive change into your life? We’ll talk more about how to do this in my post tomorrow on how to start and stick with habits.

  • Once I decide on the habits I want to work on, I create a simple chart on Numbers (you could use any sort of simple computer program that will create a table to do this. Or, you could even just hand draw one and make copies! My biggest advice is to keep it simple, though. If you are new to habits, only include a few on your tracker.
  • At the beginning of the week, I print out the Daily Habits Tracker and stick it in my notebook where I write my daily to do list. I already have the habit of check my Google calendar to write my time-blocked to do list each evening before bed, so having the habits tracker right there in my notebook reminds me to check it and track how I’m doing every day.
  • I know that I won’t always completely every habit on the chart every day, but my hope is to aim to check 5 boxes in each line of my checklist every week. For me, that’s what success looks like.

Does This Create More Stress?

Some of you might feel like a checklist seems over-bearing or not grace-filled or something that could cause stress. For my personality, it’s actually motivating. It helps remind me of my pre-determined priorities, it keeps me on track, and it serves as a sort of built-in course corrector.

Plus, if I find that I’m feeling exhausted or stressed or discouraged, a quick glance at the list might provide some clues as to why. For instance, if I feel like I’m not as connected with my kids, maybe it’s because I’m not spending as much one-on-one time with them. Or if I’m feeling depleted, maybe it’s because I haven’t been consistently prioritizing my health.

I love that — at a glance — I can see how I’m doing at prioritizing my priorities. Overall, I found that this simple practice has made such a difference in helping my yearly goals become a weekly reality.

Best of all, you can easily change or move any of the habits at any time, as seasons of life or priorities change. (You’ll notice a big difference in my habit chart from 2019 and 2020 because my life has changed a lot!)

Coming tomorrow: Practical advice for how to start and stick with better habits

Do you have any questions about the Daily Habit Tracker Checklist? Ask them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

P.S. Have you read my post on How I Plan My Days Without Using a Planner?

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25 Comments

  • Janet says:

    Can you make this editable and printable?

    • Jordan says:

      Crystal put this together using a spreadsheet program on her computer called Numbers. If you have a Mac you should have this program or if you use Office products you can use Excel. If you are looking for a free open source software program that will allow you to do this you can use Google Spreadsheets. I hope that helps! -Jordan, MSM Team

    • Kimberly says:

      Wow!!! This is soooooo helpful, Crystal—thank you so much!!! Gonna start doing this!!!

      What I’m looking forward to most, besides the wellness stuff, is remembering to do read-alouds with our children earlier in the day, so we get those in more often!!!

      Appreciate this very much!!!

  • I really learned this lesson while learning a new language. Just when I feel like the daily work isn’t help, I have a breakthrough. The daily 1% really does add up.

  • Carla says:

    How/ where can I order this tracker?

    • Jordan says:

      Crystal put this together using a spreadsheet program on her computer called Numbers. If you have a Mac you should have this program or if you use Office products you can use Excel. If you are looking for a free open source software program that will allow you to do this you can use Google Spreadsheets. I hope that helps! -Jordan, MSM Team

  • JJ says:

    Andrea Dekker has a free printable and had just published a post on tracking habits: https://andreadekker.com/habits-and-hobbies/

    I notice a huge increase in consistency when I’m tracking habits. Crystal, I’ve always appreciated how you can take something big and overwhelming and break it down to be manageable and attainable. That book is on my list to read this year!

  • Quinn says:

    Love this so much!! Thanks to you I started listening to Atomic Habits. An easy book to listen to. Not all books are for me. I was able to catch the nuggets. I did order the book to have it in my hand!
    I printed out a year at a glance calendar to track my exercise days a couple of years ago. I like the format. I will see if I can find it. I realized the benefit of tracking my exercise habits transformed the way I saw things. I was looking at the days I DID work out by tracking it instead of thinking (with no tracking) I haven’t worked out in 2 days or a week. NOT tracking my exercise habit I was focusing on what I hadn’t done. Tracking my exercise days I was focusing on what I DID.
    I look forward to doing the evaluating part in the Atomic Habits. What is having a negative and positive aspect? That seems like a life-changing exercise for myself, my husband, and my daughter!!!
    LOVE THIS POST!!!

  • Quinn says:

    I do have a question. So habits are something you form and eventually start doing without thinking. Do you have drink water on your checklist as a reminder more than a habit?

    • Great question! During my pregnancy, I got out of the habit of drinking a lot of water (because it made me sick a lot of the time), so that’s why it’s back on my list again — because I’m working at re-establishing that habit!

  • Sarah Vint says:

    When do you spend 40 minutes a day with your kids who are in school? What types of things do you do in these 40 minutes? Is this all individual time? Thank you!

    • That was from my 2019 tracker. As you’ll see in my 2021 tracker, I’ve changed it to 15 minutes/day just because on school days, it wasn’t always feasible to get in 40 minutes with each child. It’s mostly just a reminder to me to make sure to spend intentional time one-on-one with each child. It usually happens organically after school/in the evenings whether it’s talking, watching something together, working on a project, playing with Kierstyn together, etc.

  • shasta says:

    This is a great post. I hadn’t thought about using an electronic tracker. I’ve been tracking habits using a dot journal, using the bullet journaling method of Ryder Carrol and decorating it using all the many youtube videos on dot journaling. It really does help. I find tracking it keeps me motivated and is a gentle encouragement instead of a command, especially with pretty pictures and colors.

  • Ann says:

    The book Tiny Habits is also a great read!’

  • Katie says:

    Have you ever heard of the HabitMaster app? I love it.

  • Jacqueline says:

    At the beginning of this year I started tracking my health habits that I want to work on this year. Just one area of my life to get myself started 🙂 For fun, I put a sticker on each day that I complete all of my healthy habits.

  • Emily says:

    Love this! I also started using a habit tracker after reading your post from a year or two ago (though not super consistently!) – curious if 30 min of reading a day is all you need to read so many books??? Or are there other ways you fit in reading?

    • I typically get in more than 30 minutes, but I always aim to get at least 30 minutes. I usually read a chapter from our read aloud to Kierstyn in the morning, and then read around 25 pages from a spiritually encouraging book while I’m walking on the treadmill, and then listen to at least 30 minutes of an audiobook each day. But on many days, I’m able to get in more like 2 hours of an audiobook by having it playing while I’m cleaning, cooking, driving, etc. and I listen on 1.5 speed usually. Plus, I try to read more on the weekends and always have a book if I go somewhere and might have some waiting time.

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