I’d Track That
Let’s talk about habit tracking, shall we? There are a couple of ways to think about this process. Before you jump right in and decide you’re gonna ~do all the things!~, think about what your intention is and what you want to get out this practice. Do you want to build new habits? Or do you want to use this as a form of self-care? What do each of these forms look like, you ask? Keep on readin’ on, my friend.
If you’re trying to build a new habit, start small! Don’t list every single habit you want to build and expect to do them every day starting now. Instead, list one or two habits that you already do on a regular basis, plus one new one that you want to add to your routine. Starting with habits that you already do on the list is a great motivator — “Look, I’m great at this! I can easily do this other thing too!” Track these two or three things for a month. How’d you do on the new habit? Great? The next month, add another new one! Not so great? That’s okay! Try again next month. And so on.
Your first couple of months might look something like this example:
For the first month, I put “make bed” as the top item on the list because I do that every day, without fail. It’s something I’m confident in and can feel good about. Next I put “drink 64 oz water” because I’m pretty consistent with, though not perfect. Third I added “no cell after 9pm.” This is theoretical, but I imagine I would be pretty shaky on it, but it’s a reasonable goal.
For the second month, I included all of the habits from the previous month, plus one more that I’d like to build on. Again, in theory, I would get better at the water and cell phone habits, and the newly introduced habit of working out before work could…well…use some work. (I also X’d out the “weekends” because this habit specifically happens on weekdays, so I don’t want to punish myself for days I’m not counting.)
If we were to continue with this example, for the third month I probably wouldn’t add another habit because I would like to improve and solidify the others a bit more so I have a stronger foundation.
Self Care Tracking
This is the route that I personally take. If you’re wondering what the inside of my brain looks like, see below! My personal tracking list is quite long, and gets longer every month. Not because I’m a master of habits and am so great! It’s because I use my tracker as a measure of self care. My list is full of things I do every day without even thinking about, things that I do most days that are sometimes hard, and things that I rarely do but strive to do more often. Sure, filling in all the boxes and having a “complete day” would be ideal, but I don’t get down on myself when that doesn’t happen. Instead, I look at it and say to myself “Holy cow, I did a lot! I’m really taking care of myself!” This is especially helpful on days when things are feeling hard and I’m lacking a certain amount of motivation.
The above was my first month using the tracker. Below is my current month. As you can see, I’ve also added weekly and monthly self care practices:
And there you have it. Fun, right?! The main difference between the two approaches is that with the habit tracking, you may want to be a little more strict with yourself and with the self care tracking, a little more gentle. I personally would suggest doing one or the other, but if you wanna do both, then you do you!
Grab a piece of graph paper, open Excel, or sketch out a quick chart and get trackin’! Use whatever medium suits your lifestyle best, and make it as accessible as possible so you’ll actually use it. I keep mine in my planner, which I use twice a day, so I do a sweep in the morning and a sweep in the evening.
If you’re curious, it took me probably 15 minutes to set up the original tracker in Excel. As the month goes on, I’ll write in anything in that I want to add on. At the beginning of a new month, I’ll update the doc, print it out, and stick it in my planner!
If you’re a list-maker like me (which you probably are, because you’re here, reading this), this is a SUPER satisfying practice. I get so much joy looking back at the end of the month and seeing my progress and how much I did for myself. I hope you get the same pleasure!