(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-star 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?