How to stay on top of your daily goals: Habit Tracking
Have you ever tried to form a new habit but lost momentum? One way to keep your motivation up and positively reinforce the behaviors you want is to track your habits.
To hold myself accountable for my daily goals, I track them by hand in a bullet journal using a habit tracker table. Although this may sound tedious, it really only takes a few minutes to set up once you have a strategy and less than a minute to enter the data each day. The habit tracker allows for very useful reflection on my habits, the relationships between them, and the factors that influence them.
What is Bullet Journaling?
I use a bullet journal to stay organized, which is more of a system than specific book. Here is a nice introduction to how to use a bullet journal. You start with a blank book, usually with a dot or grid structure on each page. The best part of the system is the flexibility. You only include and set up the pages that are relevant to you. Those pages can change each month or stay the same, whatever meets your current needs.
With bullet journaling you can:
· track habits
· plan future goals or events
· map out your upcoming week or month
· record memories
· keep lists
· consolidate important information
· track long term goals like paying off loans or learning a language
· have a single place to store all the random thoughts and tasks floating around your head each day
I primarily use mine for recording upcoming appointments and tasks, tracking habits, keeping important addresses and birthdays in one location, noting events and memories, consolidating travel information before a trip, daily gratitude journaling, and keeping track of books I want to read/places to visit/things to buy.
Before I show you what my bullet journal looks like I want to acknowledge that many people who share their bullet journals publicly (e.g., AmandaRachLee) are artistically inclined, but this is definitely not necessary as you’ll see in my bullet journal. I’ll call it a “minimalist” design and it works perfectly for my purposes.
Setting up a Habit Tracker
Today I’m sharing my habit tracker with you. The benefits of tracking my habits are that it is motivating to see my progress, looking at my goals every day keeps them in the front of my mind, and I can look for patterns that impact my ability to stick to my goals.
I developed a very simplified tracking table for my recurring goals. Usually, the goals are small tasks related to my physical or mental health that I could accomplish every day. But again, you could develop a system that works for your needs or longer-term goals, if that is what you are focused on.
Here is my set-up for December. I write the days of the month across the top of the page and list my goals/habits down the left-hand side. Since I do basically the same table every month, this doesn’t take more than 5 minutes. Then, at the end of each day I spend about 30 seconds putting Xs in the space for any habit I completed that day.
My standard monthly habit tracker template.
Tracking My Mood
I also include a mood tracker which is aligned with the days in the habit tracker table. I track my mood in the form of a dot on the smiley to frowny face scale after I record my habits for the day. This component helps me monitor my mental health and I like to see how sticking to my habits (or not) impacts my daily mood.
December’s Habits So Far
This is what my habit tracker looks like right now:
Habit tracker filled in with my data for December so far.
You can see that I’m not completely consistent with most of my goals, but it certainly helps to be looking at my goals every day. There were definitely days when I dragged myself off the couch to go for a walk or stretch, because I knew the empty streak in my tracker is getting bad.
Interpreting the Data
From my data I can tell that I’m more likely to buy meals on the weekend and that if I can convince myself to go for a walk, I’m more likely to also stretch. With this information I can better plan my activities and meals to help me stick to my goals.
What I can’t tell from this data is why exactly my mood dropped so low on the 3rd. However, when paired with the notes in my bullet journal from that day, I can easily recall that was when I had to deal with really frustrating health insurance issues.
I’ve found bullet journaling to be a useful tool for helping me keep positive habits and remembering the things I want to accomplish each week. Other benefits of bullet journaling include recording memories I don’t want to forget, having a place to brainstorm (e.g., Christmas gift ideas), and having running lists maintained in one location (e.g., books to read, places to visit, house updates to complete). If you’ve been looking for a way to organize your thoughts and keep track of tasks or goals, I recommend trying the bullet journal system.
Would you ever consider going analog with a bullet journal, perhaps to track a new year’s resolution?