According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, "making progress is satisfying, and visual measures- like moving paper clips or hairpins or marbles - provide clear evidence of your program. As a result, they reinforce your behavior and add a little bit of immediate satisfaction to any activity. Visual measures comes in many forms: food journals, workout logs, loyalty punch cards, the progress bar on a software download, even page numbers in a book. But perhaps the best way to measure your progress is with a habit tracker."
A habit tracker is an easy, simple way to measure that you did a habit. Habit tracking is obvious as it builds a series of visual cues and you'll be reminded to do that habit again! Research shows that people who track their habits are more likely to improve than those that don't.
Habit tracking also keeps you honest. Most of us think we are doing better than we actually are. Measurement is one way to show us what we are actually doing because when the evidence is right in front of us, it's hard to lie to ourselves.
Habit tracking is attractive. What keeps us motivated more than progress? It is a visual proof of our hard work. It's also very satisfying and can be it's own rewards. It's satisfying to check a box indicating "completed" or finish an entry in a log. It feels good to watch your results grow! It keeps you focused and you have a stronger desire to keep the streak going!
How do we make habit tracking easy?
Whenever possible, measurement should be automated.
It should be limited to your most important habits.
Record each measurement immediately after the habit occurs.
#1 Automation - Much of this is done for us with apps and websites as many of our current habits are already tracked in this way as we pay bills and see this in our bank account sites and our Fitbits and Apple Watches track our steps and activity without us having to do anything. Choosing a simple habit tracker app can help us easily measure our progress with less manual work, keeping it easy! Look up some of the best habit tracker apps to download to your phone and get started!
#2 Most Important Habits - It's better to consistently track one habit than sporadically track ten. Pick a few habits that you want to develop the most and break down this habit to something you can do easily for 2-minutes. If you want to go to the gym every day, start by tracking the habit of just putting on your workout clothes. Simple and will move you closer to your goal of getting to the gym.
3# Record immediately - As soon as you complete the habit, track it. This will keep you consistent and can help develop habit stacking, a technique James Clear also mentions in his book. Pairing or stacking habits together, a new one with an current one, with help make the new one more achievable.
I've downloaded the app Habit Tracker for my iPhone and have been tracking 5 habits every day since January 15th, when I downloaded the app. It's satisfying to see the bars change color and to get the confetti celebration at the end of the day when I achieve all my habit goals for the day! I have some habits that take 5-minutes a day and others that are 30-minutes, a few times a week. It sends me reminders when to do a habit and you can set up a widget to check your progress throughout the day. It has kept me very consistent with my habits!
My goal is to keep this tracking and new habit formation through the year and slowing increasing the time focused on the goal to see even greater results!