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Martin’s System for Habit Tracking

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

I watched a video earlier this year by Thomas Frank called A Better Way to Track Your Habits. This video shows how Martin tracks his habits and adjusts his needs on a biweekly basis. Tracking your habits can keep you on point with goals that you are trying to start or build.

It’s an analog method (paper). It is pretty simple. Start off with 15 days, which is two weeks. This is a short amount of time, which allows you to adjust habits and start small. Reaching the two week targets is easier than reaching a one year target or even a month.

How to Start

I usually start on the first of each month for each cycle. 15 days. Make note of the habits you want to track.

  • How many habits?
  • How often do you plan on doing each habit within the 15 days?

List the days across the page from 1 to 15 or the corresponding days that you will be tracking. List the habit, when, how often, and how long you want the habit to be.

If it’s a daily habit, draw 15 boxes for each day. If the habit occurs less than daily, draw a box for the corresponding day. And on that day, mark off the habit. Use the picture below for reference.

The way Tom explains it, is to only draw boxes for the days that you want to do each habit. So it’s not confusing what days to do each habit. But if you drew 15 boxes, cross out or darken the days that don’t matter.

Tracking the Habits:

Failure : -

Complete : +

Neutral : o

At the end of each day, take a moment and think about your habits. Did you complete all of them? Were you a little sluggish for one? Did you not bother at all?

For completed habits, use a + and for failed habits, use a -. Use neutral marks, o, when things that are out of your control prevent you from doing the habit.

  • If you wanted to create a webpage or code, and your computer doesn’t work. Then this would count as a neutral.
  • You broke your leg and you were trying to exercise more, neutral.
  • Worked a 15 hour shift instead of 10 and couldn’t get to doing your habits, neutral.
Screenshot of Martin’s System from Thomas Frank

Timing Your Habits

Leave room under or above each rectangle to label each habit. You will want to quantify the amount of time you want to allocate for each habit. Will you work for 15 or 30 minutes? Are you trying to workout for 20 minutes? Reaching a certain number of push-ups? Write that amount down.

If you don’t know how to quantify your habits because you have no idea how long or much you can do, start small. Go for 10 minutes or 5 jumping jacks. If it’s exercise, do it until you can’t anymore. And if you go over that amount, good. Track how much you do this cycle and average it out. That’s how much time is needed for the next cycle.

At the end or beginning of each day, note whether you did the habit or not by filling in the corresponding box. Jot down any thoughts or reasons you did or did not complete the habit. If you were lazy, unmotivated, busy, or worked a 20 hours shift, write it down. This will help you with the next 15 days.

What to do after 15 days?

Get ready for the next 15 days. Do the exact same thing. But this time, you want to adjust your habits.

  • Tried something for the first time, and it wasn’t what you expected. There’s no need to keep trying habits that you no longer want to do. Unless it’s meant to be a health thing, then you might want to rethink it.
  • Didn’t quite put in as much time as you wanted or needed, add on more time.
  • Was the habit easy or hard to complete each time, try changing the amount of time or how often you do it.
  • Want to try something new this time around, do it. But don’t add too many habits at one time. Try to get comfortable with doing the current habits first and then add more when ready. I would advise 3 habits to start with and add 1 on as you go.

By taking notes each day on each habit, you are able to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working and why. The why is the most important part of keeping a habit going. If you are excited about it, you just might make it into a good habit.

Tracking this way also makes you consider your schedule. Making room for these habits can be easy if you know what you are doing throughout the day and week. You can find time for your habits. If you have a different schedule each week or biweekly, adjusting your habits can be moved around with your schedule.

My 8 Cycles of Martin’s System

Every 15 days is one cycle. Since I saw this video, I had to try it. I did do a good job of doing the habits, just not a good job of tracking them. I would go days without tracking and making notes. Then with the days I do track habits, I don’t have anything to say about. I wanted to write a few words about the day, just to see how I felt about doing or not doing the habit.

My overall impression is that this system works, for me anyways. The layout of the page is a way to make me want to look how far I have come with each habit. I can keep track of how I felt about each day. Whether I want to complete a habit or not. I know what to move around and how to adjust when habits are not working out or I need more of a challenge.

The past few weeks have been hard to track habits. I didn’t remember that I would be doing different things this month, May. I am taking a break from coding to work on my blog and website. I want to define more goals and make a new logo. I want to give my online self an update. So the habits have been off. So far since this month started, I haven’t done too much of the habits and plus I have not been tracking them either.

But you may find this method helpful in getting you to starting your goals. If you already do some kind of journaling, this would just be an add-on to your notebook. If this something that helped you out, let me know in the comments.



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