Last year. I bought a habit tracking journal from the fellows from Baronfig. Since where I live is quite far from the US. Plus, there was this thing the pandemic happening. I had to wait for approximately 4 months to get it. When my package finally arrived. I started tracking my daily routines. And after a year of daily tracking my habits. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.
There are many habit tracking tools. Journals. Tactics. Books about habits. Strategies and other random advice floating around.
To be even more precise. There are so many things about acquiring good habits that the practice of searching for things that can help you adopt good habits eventually becomes a bad habit.
Quite a paradox.
One thing is certain though.
You don’t need a lot to track your habits.
You don’t even need a premium habit-tracking journal that cost a small fortune. A regular notebook will do the work.
What you really need is consistency. Showing up every day for around 5 minutes and noting what you’ve done and what you didn’t. Plus, some preparation.
The reason I chose to get the Clear Habit Journal by Baronfig is because I really love what they’re creating. Minimal. Nicely designed tools for thinkers.
Note: You can use my referral code and get $10 off if you decide to get yourself the same journal: Referral code. No pressure. Just mentioning it.
Once again. I don’t think the actual notebook you use is important.
What is important, is to implement the habit of daily tracking your habits – this can happen on a simple pad.
Now, after we’ve discussed journals.
Let’s get to the essentials.
Here’s why tracking your habits using a habit journal is something you need to consider doing:
The Benefits of Using a Habit Tracking Journal:
1. Helps You Figure Out What’s Important
The first benefit of the seemingly featureless habit tracking journal – I mean, in theory, it offers only blank pages. Is that it gives you the opportunity to think about what types of habits you want to implement in your life.
Obviously, to track your habits, you first need to consider what habits are worth doing in the first place. (Here’s a list of good habits for the 21st century.)
This inevitably brings you to the following question: “What do I want to accomplish/improve in my life?”
I started with 5 habits last year and now I track 9.
A couple of the things I did last year I no longer do but there are things like writing, exercising, and reading that continues to be on my list.
Reflecting daily about my routines allows me to ditch what’s unimportant, so I can make room for what’s truly worthy.
2. Reminds You What To Do
Since I’m daily updating my habit tracking journal – usually in the mornings. I know that I have to do push-ups, for example.
This is like a mental note in my head that I have to find 10 minutes in my day to do 50-100 push-ups.
If I don’t do it. I’ll have to face the negative feeling of adding a minus (for no) instead of an X (for yes) the next morning.
Or if I have to define it better.
Your habit tracking journal acts as an accountability partner.
3. Your Habit Tracker Is Your Accountability Partner
Every time I open my habit journal. It’s like talking with a demanding productivity coach – or at least that’s how I imagine a conversation with such a person.
He’s not – at all – interested in how I was feeling the day before. He’s solely focused on results. In particular, whether I did the things I pledged to do.
The conversation is something like this:
- Coach: Did you read yesterday?
- Me: No
- Coach: Why?
- Me: Because I didn’t have time.
- Coach: Why?
- Me: Because there was too much other stuff.
- Coach: And you couldn’t find 5 minutes to read even a single sentence?
- Me: “Crickets.”
Sometimes it seems uncharitable to accuse myself of not doing a single habit from my list. But what I think about it. The answer is always: “I had to find the time.” Or, “I had time. I simply wasted it doing unimportant tasks.”
So, I rush through my day in my head and I spot what I did wrong and what I can do better today to ensure I won’t repeat the same mistake.
4. Tracking Your Habits Helps You Spot Problems
This point is a continuation of the above.
“Why I didn’t have time to read?”
This is something I ask myself if I don’t add a checkmark for a specific habit.
Probably I had a lot going on. Or, probably, I was just lazy. The idea is to think about your day. Go through the pain points. Figure out what’s working, and what isn’t. Then, make slight adjustments.
A concept I recently started tracking is how calm I am.
Yes, it might sound strange.
But I’m working on controlling my emotions because there are occasions when I’m not particularly proud of my behavior.
What I found about myself is that I burst into flames because I’m exhausted. This allowed me to schedule more breaks in my days.
5. Helps You Break Bad Habits
If we niche down ever further, tracking your habits also allows you to spot and break bad habits.
If you don’t have time to read a book or complete your online course. You will surely see why is that. Probably you’re glued to your phone. You are letting your virtual life control your actual life – constantly following what others are doing instead of following yourself and your dreams.
Seeing what is your bottleneck helps you find solutions.
And of course, you can even use it to track bad habits.
For instance, if you want to stop using social media. You can add an X for everyday you don’t open Facebook.
6. Habit Tracker Keeps You Motivated
The best motivator is progress. You keep exercising because you see your body changing. You keep reading because you complete your reading lists.
A single checkmark doesn’t seem that grand today. But checking your progress after 3 months, for example, will unlock the positive sensation of seeing how much you’ve accomplished.
There is a reason video games add a progress bar for the quests you’re doing – it makes you keep playing.
Tracking your habits gives this pleasant sensation of improvement. Plus, you don’t want to break the streak. You’ll keep reading, exercising, or whatever you choose because otherwise, the previous work will feel like a waste of time.
7. Tracking Your Habits is Tracking Your Life
When I look back. When I see what I’ve done for the past 12 months. I see how I lived for the past 12 months.
“How we spend our day is, of course, how we spend our lives,” to quote the best American essays of the 20th Century, Annie Dillard.
Yes, you can think about your past year. But details are often forgotten. We can’t say with certainty what we did.
This is not the case when you are tracking your habits.
You can see what you did. It’s right there.
This brings the other important question:
“Are you spending your days as you want? Is what you’re doing meaningful?”
Reflecting on your past couple of months will set the direction for the next couple of months. Even further. It can set the direction for the rest of your life.
Lastly, I want to tackle this:
What’s The Best Way To Track Your Habits?
Should I use a habit tracker?
Should I download an app to track my habits?
Should I purchase a bullet journal and invest 1 year of studying the best bullet journaling methods?
The short answer is no.
You don’t need a fancy app. A luxury notebook to track your habits.
When I reflect on my decision to wait 4 months for my habit tracker to arrive I feel stupid.
“Why do I need a specific tool to note down what I’m doing? I can use a simple notebook.”
We often focus way too much on the tools instead of on doing the things that are important.
Is it really significant to spend $30 on a journal when I can do it on a $1 notebook?
The point is to start.
And about apps…
Personally, I prefer paper. Not using my phone.
The practice of writing by hand gives me the pleasant sensation of slowing down and actively thinking about my habits – not just pressing checkboxes on my phone.
Some Closing Thoughts
If you’re still debating on the question: “Should I track my habits?”
Let me make it easier for you…
Yes. You should. Tracking your habits daily is an easy-to-implement system that acts as a reminder. You will never forget to perform your good daily rituals – the most important things for you.
Furthermore, it allows you to see how you’re progressing which will fill you with enthusiasm.
Add to your good daily rituals toolset by reading the following:
- Atomic Habits book summary.
- How to Take Smart Notes book summary.
- My messy analog note-taking system.
- Don’t ask: How many days does it take to form a habit
- Systems vs Goals: Why You Need Systems, Not Goals
- How To Integrate The 16 Habits of Mind Into Your Daily Life
Do yourself a favor:
Join The Study Newsletter: A laid back newsletter about very serious ideas from even more serious books – and not only. Great for lifelong learners, creators, & wanderers alike.