Self care In A Pandemic (47): Effectively Tracking Habits to Create New Daily Disciplines…

Hi everyone,

I hope the first two and a half or three days (depending on which time zone you are in) of 2021 have been kind to you.

We left off with instalment 46 of this series having briefly reviewed the year of 2020. I ended the post with letting you know that I’d share some guided prompts on how we can all take positive steps to move ahead. I realise that I have a lot to share, so instead of trying to condense these various points into one post, I’ll give them their due and treat you with an entire post per point. How’s that for forward steps in 2021? 🙂

So for this post, let’s think about effectively tracking our habits.

The weird and wonderful world of habit trackers:

I personally have my own evolving systems for keeping on top of things in my daily, weekly and monthly life, and I have a yearly planner. I’ve never had a BuJo (bullet journal) myself, although I do incorporate various elements of the bullet journal world into my own planning.

If you are a BuJo-er (is that a word?) then you’ll probably be able to share your advice with me. But if you don’t know what a bullet journal is then there is plenty of information on You Tube regarding how this system started and how people have incorporated the idea to make it personal to them, and there are some very creative approaches out there to bullet journaling that go beyond a method of staying on top of things in your life to making it an art project of itself. I’ll leave it to you to explore some of the inspiring videos out there on You Tube (simply type in bullet journaling and see what you find!).

One of the elements that many people incorporate into their bullet journaling or other planning systems is the habit tracker. Again, some people like to do this quite simply as a list, while other people create more ‘ornate’ as it were diagrams, wheels and even pictorial designs and trackers. Each to their own, I suppose.

What makes for effective habit tracking?

Sometimes looking at what other people track in terms of habits, becomes a bit overwhelming for me. Some people have a habit tracker for almost everything they can think of. If it works for them, that’s fine, but personally, I try to think of what is an effective approach.

The purpose of habit tracking and what not to track:

The purpose of tracking your habits can be very individual. Some people may find it gives them a sense of accomplishment, direction, or maybe even the very act of doing this helps them to slow down and reflect on their day. I personally prefer the good old analogue method of putting pen to paper (in a cute notebook, of course) rather than using a spreadsheet or online tool, but some people are a real whiz at the electronic versions and are super efficient.

The main point here is to find your own style, system and what works for you.

In terms of the purpose of tracking habits in the first place (the very ‘why do it?’ behind the action) for me is to help me to develop and maintain certain actions that I want to incorporate into my daily life.

I therefore am not a fan of trying to track ‘everything’. If I am already in a daily habit of making my bed then I don’t have a particular need to track that in a habit tracker. If I drink a glass of water every morning, then I don’t particularly need to track that. What I’m saying is I don’t feel the need to track already well established habits.

However, if there are new things I want to do then a tracker is helpful in encouraging me to create a habit or to strengthen or maintain habits that might be at risk of falling by the way side or being over shadowed by competing demands. At the moment I have 8 key habits that I am tracking in January and these include Scripture study and prayer, exercise, reading and studying as well as few others.

My habit tracker is very simple. I have a notebook and I have divided it up so that I have four pages for each month of 2021. Each page is divided into two headings, and I have a list of dates running down the page so that I can make a note each day of what I have done against that particular task or life goal that I want to form into a habit.

You can of course be as elaborate as you like with designs, colour coding and whatnot, but for me the list style in this regard is simple and effective and gives my brain some guidelines to follow.

While there are certain things I do everyday on autopilot that I don’t need to track such as making my bed, brushing my teeth, having a shower, getting dressed, there are other things that I may do more occasionally or sporadically (such as reading or studying a course or exercise) that I am now able to have visual queues for to do everyday.

In summary:

Your takeaways from this post can be fairly simply.

  1. You don’t need to track everything you do (unless of course you want to).
  2. Focus on the things that you don’t already do every day that you want to do every day or more regularly and choose a few key areas (I have 8) to work on for the first month of the year so that you can review whether this works for you or whether you need to ‘tweak’ your system here or there.
  3. Seek out what other people are doing for inspiration, but make it your own – you’ll know what works best for your way of thinking and personality. If habit tracking isn’t for you, feel free to ignore this post and go with the flow if that works better for you 🙂
  4. Think about your purpose for tracking habits – is it something you enjoy in and of it itself to slow down and reflect? Does it help you to organise your mind and life? Are you focusing on building into your day to day life new actions that will eventually become habits that you do on autopilot?
  5. Experiment and figure out what works best for you whether digital or analogue, simple or ornate, and enjoy the process. It will help you to see the progress you are making as you give yourself a visual opportunity to take small yet steady steps forwards.

All the best. A new year is a great time for fun new stationery – perhaps you can buy local and support small businesses, artists and creatives. Enjoy taking those next steps forwards this January 2021 and beyond. x

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

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