Five reasons why habit tracking is beneficial

Five Benefits of Habit Tracking

Have you ever wanted to break your bad habits or create new ones?

It’s usually easier said than done.

Jerry Seinfeld has been credited in popularizing the technique of habit tracking.  He has been reported giving the advice that this is the technique he used when he was an up and comer.  He simply put a red X on his calendar every day that he did some writing so that he formed a chain.  He didn’t want to break the chain so he continued and then it was a habit.

This method has many benefits.  Some are a little more obvious than others.

One:  It promotes success.

Good habits promote success. When we are doing the things that are right, good, or healthy we will be not only attracting more of the same but we will be ready for the opportunities when they come.

This is true whether you are talking about your business goals, health goals, personal goals or spiritual goals.  It works the same across the board.

Two:  It can help eliminate bad habits.

Scientists have found that the best way to eliminate bad habits is to replace them with good ones.  If you can find a substitute for your bad habit and then track it, it will encourage you to keep doing it until that bad habit no longer exists.

I had a friend who wanted to quit sitting on the couch immediately after dinner to watch TV.  He decided instead of couch sitting, he would walk the dog.  Not only did he quit sitting on the couch right after dinner, he found himself watching less television in general, and doing things instead that were more enjoyable for him.

Habit tracking can give you a dose of reality. Click To Tweet

Three: It forces you to be honest with yourself.

Sometimes what we believe we are doing and what we are actually doing don’t match up.  We often overestimate what we have accomplished. Basically, we lie to ourselves to make us look or feel better about what we are doing. Habit tracking gives you a dose of reality and shows you what the truth really is.

This happened to me when I decided to track how many servings of vegetables I was eating in a day.  I wanted to increase my intake to 6-8 servings but I was shocked when I realized that there were days when I wasn’t eating the 5 I thought I was!

The truth will set you free (or at least give you an accurate account of your actions)!

Four: It creates personal accountability.

It can be really easy to procrastinate or indefinitely put things off when it comes to ourselves.  In an employment situation we have someone else making us accountable.  When we are in charge of ourselves, we tend to be more forgiving of ourselves when we don’t do what we say we will do.

Keeping a record of what we are doing gives us a visual representation of our efforts.  It makes it harder to ignore what we are not doing.

Five: It helps get yourself back on track.

Even the most dedicated people can fall off the horse.  Sometimes life just gets in the way.  It is a great visual reminder that screams out ‘Don’t forget about me.’  There is just something about the blank spaces that make you feel motivated to move ahead.

How to Track Your Habits

**Decide which habits you want to track.

Yes, it could be just one.  Or it could be ten.  Just make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself all at one time.  You can also track a couple until you feel that they are very ingrained into your life and then switch to the next couple you would like to develop.

I currently track six.  Four are for health, one is professional, and one is personal.  That is what I can handle for now.

**Pick a method that works for you.

This is highly personal…one size does not fit all.  You have to pick something that works with the way you live your life.

If you are focusing on just one thing and prefer to keep it as simple as possible or may want to emulate Mr. Seinfeld, then get yourself a red pen and a calendar.

If you prefer technology there is no shortage of apps for you.  Eric Ravenscraft over at Life Hacker has done a great job of reviewing android options and dailytekk.com has one for iPhone users.  Check out which app might fit your needs.

If you like old school, get some paper and ink and create your favorite way to record it.  Being a creative, I had always liked the idea of a bullet journal but didn’t want to go all in on it. Instead, I use a modified version of a bullet journal to write down my goals and track my habits in a 5” x 7” binder with graph paper.  It gives me great satisfaction to design a monthly page and then color in each square as I conquer my habits.  [If you aren’t familiar with what a bullet journal is, there is a wealth of information over at Pinterest or Rachel Miller over at Buzzfeed does a good job of explaining how they work and how you set it up. ).]

**Evaluate your results.

It will help determine if you are on the path to the results you want.

**If you fall off the horse, get right back on.

If you’ve forgotten to record your habits or haven’t been following through with this commitment to yourself, the best time to start over is now.

An Additional Tip:

Every habit you try to create does not have to be a daily habit.  It can be a few times a day, a few times per week, or even a few times per month.  I track my veggies with every meal, my exercise 5 days per week, and my desk organization 4 times per month.  Remember, this is about making it work for you.

A Caveat:

Ironically, you will need to create the new habit of tracking your habits.

Photo Credit: Trotamun2

Do you already track your habits?  How does habit tracking work for you?

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