My 3 Methods of Habit Tracking

Anyone who has the slightest interest in self help or personal development should probably already know that building good habits is key to accomplishing long term goals. To form habits, it’s important to find effective methods for tracking them.

Over the years I have experimented a few ways of habit tracking. Some are good for certain habits and have really helped me acquire valuable habits such as rising up early, brushing teeth, daily reading, exercising, playing piano etc. So in this post I’d like to share 3 methods that work best for me.

Method 1: Check-marks in Journal

The first method is very simple and easy to do, but only if you already keep a daily journal. For a few habits I’m working on, I use one word for each habit and write them out in one line separated by commas. It’s usually right after the weather description for the day in journal entry. For example:

  “It’s sunny this morning. Habits: Read√, Workout√, Meditate, Floss√.”

Then I put a small check mark on the upper right corner of each habit word if I did that habit previous day. If you like, you could even use a single letter to represent each habit, as long as you know which habit it stands for.

  “It’s sunny this morning. Habits: R√, W√, M, F√ ” 

The beauty of this method is that you integrate habit review into your daily journal writing activity. By writing out all habits in shorthand form helps you remember what habits you are working on. Jotting down small check marks is fast and easy, and quite satisfying especially if you see most of your habits checked for that day.

Method 2: Numbers List

The first method works great if you only need track whether the habit is done or not. But when it comes to habits you want to track how much is done, I found this second method works better. Basically for this method you simply keep a list of numbers for your habit. Each day you record how much is done, how much should be done and also perhaps a total number.

For example, I keep a daily walking/running habit, so I track my daily steps. I simply create a note in my iPhone’s Notes app. The note entry has just a long table with 3 columns of Date, Target and Actual. For each day, I just put in two numbers. One number is how many steps done for today in Actual column. Then I calculate how many steps I should do for tomorrow and enter it in Target column of next row.

The beautify of this method is that you not only track how much you do for the habit, but you also know how much your target amount is. If you slack off for too many days, that target number will get bigger and bigger and it’ll compel you to get back on track and bring target number down by doing your habits more consistently. Or if you’ve been very diligent for a while, then you will see your target number get smaller and smaller, so you will feel at ease because even if you slack off today you are still on track.

Method 3: GoalsOnTrack Habit Tracker

The above two methods are all just quick and easy ways to track habits. But one drawback is that you can’t easily see your progress as habit is formed and how close you are towards fully formed with each habit. So if you really want to see your daily progress in a more visual manner, the ideal choice is to use an app.

(Click to see full screenshot.)

I keep a few daily habits in my GoalsOnTrack account. As shown in the screenshot above, the app’s habit tracker view can show me all my habits and how I am doing with all of them over a 2 week period. To view more from history, I can easily navigate using the checkmark calendar tool. Not only that, I can also see the predicted habit strength as I work on a habit. It’s calculated based on my daily streaks and repeat frequency of the habit. If I leave two many days undone for the habit, the strength will drop. If I keep at it several days in a row, it will go up.

Personally I like tracking my habits in different ways. Some methods work better for certain type of habits, so it’s better to have more than one way to keep them on track.

No matter how you track your habits, I believe the action of tracking itself is a great motivator and self-accountability mechanism to help you stay on track with your habits.

(P.S. please let me know what is your favourite method you use to track your habits.)




This post was written by Harry Che,  creator of GoalsOnTrack software.


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