Want the most out of your habit tracker? Read on to find inspiration, how-tos, productivity and accountability tips, and more.
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Habit tracking has found its way into the lives of millions. In planner sidebars, bullet journals, and stuck to whiteboards with magnets.
People are realizing the immense benefits of keeking a habit tracker, and it’s freaking awesome.
I’ve personally been using a habit tracker since I started bullet journaling. I can’t recall for certain, but I believe it’s one of the things that drew me to the bullet journal in the first place.
Being goal-oriented and very ambitious, the habit tracker instantly screamed accountability and structure. I love that there’s no gray area. You either did or did not complete the task item on the list.
And when I first started tracking my daily habits, the system was simple. There was one, maybe two different layouts. There weren’t fancy doodle trackers or wildly different variations.
It was simple and minimalistic.
But, times are changing and people are reimagining the habit tracker, what it means, how it can used, and how to get the most out of it. And because it’s grown into something more than a graph on paper, there are a lot of questions.
Today, I want to do my best to answer all your questions about habit tracking and give you the best chance at achieving your goals through tracking daily habits.
This Post Will Cover the Following:
- What Is a Habit Tracker?
- What Are the Benefits of Using a Habit Tracker?
- Who Should Use a Habit Tracker?
- Picking the Right Method for You
- Habit Tracker Ideas to Get You Started
- Bullet Journal Habit Tracker Inspiration
- Tips for Success
- What to Do When You Fail
- Final Thoughts
What Is a Habit Tracker?
A habit tracker is a daily accountability system in which people can keep track of how often they are completing certain tasks.
This is often a daily practice. So, for example, you would set a daily goal or task to read 1 chapter in a book. For each day that you accomplish this task, you mark off the task under the corresponding day.
You can have just one goal or task you are focused on, or multiple. It’s also up to you how long you want to continue tracking this habit. One week, one month, one year, etc.
I find it kind of comical that the system is called a habit tracker. After years of using the system, I view it more as a daily task tracker. This is because often people track tasks that they want to become habits. For example, working out or writing in their gratitude journal.
Therefore, these items are not yet habits. And the idea is that once they are established habits and part of your daily routine, you won’t need to track them anymore. Like eating breakfast or brushing your teeth. If these are things you already do 100% of the time, there really isn’t a need to keep track of how often you are doing them.
So, overall the habit tracker is a device that seeks to help people establish new, healthy habits and integrate them into a daily/weekly routine by daily accountability.
For some people, this is system is kept in a journal or planner. Others use habit tracking apps on their phones to hold themselves accountable.
No matter how or what method you decide on, using a habit tracker in your daily life has many benefits.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Habit Tracker?
Tracking your daily habits might seem like a very minuscule task and a small part of success in the grand scheme of a big goal. But, it’s true about what they say, “the little things add up.”
In reference to having a financial goal, my grandfather always me to count my pennies and the dollars would take care of themselves. Now, at the age of 13, I didn’t fully understand the idea. But now that I’m older and dare I say wiser, I understand.
Roughly four times per week I purchase a RedBull and spend a measly $3. But, then I have to buy my husband one, as well. Now, we’re up to $6. Multiply that by 4 and I’ve spent $24 in a week. $96 in a month. $1152 in a year.
Those measly purchases add up quick.
Now, let’s apply that same concept to set a financial goal of saving $1000 in a year. When you put that first $5 in your saving jar it seems like nothing in comparison to the goal you have set for yourself. You’re not even a 1/100 of the way there.
Here’s where a habit tracker comes into play.
If you have a graph or grid of sorts (a habit tracker) divided into increments of $5, you will have a total of 200 spaces to fill in. Each time you put $5 in your savings you mark off a section on the grid. At first, it’s just one square you have filled. But the following week you put in $25 and now you get to fill in 5 more squares. You’re making progress and you can visualize it.
When it comes to big and long-term goals, having a way to visualize your progress is encouraging.
Goals & Accountability
Almost everyone sets goals. Each time January rolls around, everyone is gung-ho about losing weight, saving money, reading more books, etc.
These are resolutions. But, on average 80% of those people will fail to achieve their New Year’s Resolution after just 30 days. And less than 10% of people achieve their resolutions.
The statistics aren’t good. They aren’t encouraging. But, the reasons many people fail are fairly simple to change.
- Set goals, not resolutions. Goals are specific and can be measured. Rather than setting a resolution to lose weight, set a goal to lose 25 pounds by June.
- Don’t stop at setting the goal. You need an action plan. How are you going to achieve your goal? What actionable steps will you take? If you want to lose 25 pounds by June, how often are you going to go to the gym? Will you meal prep? Intermittent fast? Join a yoga class?
- Track your progress. Again, this is where a habit tracker is extremely valuable. Again, if your goal is to lose 25 pounds by June, you can add going to the gym or eating a specified number of calories to your habit tracker. Because you aren’t going to see the weight drop off right away, you need another method of feedback to know you are on track and keep yourself accountable.
Not only are you making progress towards your goal, but you’re also building habits, which are going to make maintaining your goal doable.
So, when you are adding habits to your habit tracker, they should 1). get you closer to your big goal and 2). be a habit you would like to form and adopt into your daily life.
Going back to the weight loss goal, if you are going to hit and maintain your weight loss, you are going to need to continue eating correctly and staying active. And if these aren’t things aren’t consistent in your life, it’s going to take time and discipline to adopt them as habits.
Having a simple habit tracker for this is beneficial because it takes only a couple seconds a day to fill in and it can encourage you to keep completing those tasks. After a month you will have a full 30-day record of your progress and if need be, you can make adjustments.
Mental Health Benefits
On top of the goals and accountability benefits of habit tracking, it can also be one of the best ways to monitor your mental health.
Just like setting and tracking a goal, you can track certain aspects of your life to improve your mental health.
For example, if you are struggling with anxiety, you can start to track what may be triggering it. You might keep track of how often you are getting to bed before midnight, if you drank caffeine that day, or if you ate enough. Then, you can keep track of your anxiety levels. There are tons of different ways to measure and keep track of this, so find a method that works for you.
Here are some ideas for tracking your anxiety levels
- Create a bar or line graph for 1 month and each day, make a mark on your graph from 1-10, rating the severity of your anxiety symptoms.
- Track anxiety symptoms individually in a habit tracker format. Keep track your abnormal appetite, sleep disturbances, irritability, fatigue, etc.
Much like tracking your progress towards a goal, if you keep up with your mental health tracker for a month, you will have a full report that you can analyze and see trends in. You will be able to see that if you drank coffee you were more likely to experience anxiety. Or that when you went to bed before midnight you had a better mental health day the following day.
With this information, you can start to adjust your daily habits to improve your overall mental health.
Who Should Use a Habit Tracker?
This question may seem odd, but there are always people who think they might not be suitable for a certain task. For example, when I’ve talked with women about bullet journaling, a lot of stay-at-home-moms felt they couldn’t use the system because their lives weren’t busy enough.
While off-topic, this is so far from the truth. SAHMs have just as many if not more responsibilities than many working adults. There’s laundry to do, dishes to wash, dinner to make, kids to bathe, etc.
Which brings me to the point that anyone can adopt a method of self-improvement, such as the habit tracker and make it work in their situation.
So who should use a habit tracker?
- Anyone who has goals or things they want to accomplish that will take more than 1 day.
- Anyone who enjoys or would like to work on personal development.
So, whether you are a SAHM, a blogger, a corporate employee, or someone who wants to move across the county to experience what’s out there, you can benefit from using a habit tracker.
If you are 100% content with your life and want to change nothing and feel like you have established every habit you could dream of, perhaps you will find no benefit to habit tracking. But, having this combination is highly unlikely. And being frank, if you are this complacent, you may need to reevaluate, because there are always aspects of our lives that have room for improvement.
And because there are a variety of methods and devices to incorporate habit tracking into your life, no one is left out. You can use a piece of paper and a pen, your wall calendar, a planner or journal, or even an app on your phone.
Picking the Right Method for You
As personal development and goal setting are becoming increasingly popular, habit trackers are on the rise as well. And whether you prefer an analog system, using a pen and paper or like to have everything stored on your phone, there are tons of ways to include habit tracking in your life.
Finding the right method for you may take some trial and error. I recommend starting with something you already use often. If you don’t regularly use a planner or bullet journal, a habit tracker app might be the best place to start.
Habit tracking in the bullet journal community is extremely common. And bullet journaling has become quite the trend in the planning and fine arts world.
Within your bullet journal, there are multiple ways to incorporate a habit tracker. You can draw out your own habit tracker. This post will give you some ideas of different habit tracker layouts. We’ll also touch on different layouts in the following section
Deciding which layout to use comes down to personal preference and efficiency.
- Standard layouts. These layouts are typically formatted as a grid with 30-31 spaces depending on the month. These are great for beginners and people who prefer a more minimalistic look. They’re also a better option if you have a lot of habits to track.
- Individual Trackers. Individual trackers are great if you are only tracking a couple of habits. They allow you to see each one individually which can be nice for overall progress analysis. And they can be created in various styles for those who want a more creative approach.
If you love bullet journaling but don’t have time to set up a habit tracker each month you might consider searching for printable habit trackers. I have a ton of free habit tracker printables in my VIP Resource Library that you can choose from. Another place to look for a printable habit tracker is Etsy.
Weekly or Monthly Habit Tracker
The next thing to consider with your bullet journal or planner is the length of time you would like to track specific habits.
Depending on what you are trying to accomplish and if the habit/task has a deadline will determine how long you track a habit. For short term or intermittent goals, you may choose to use a weekly habit tracker that goes in your weekly log.
For example, when I’m working on a long blog post, like this one, I might include a weekly habit tracker for writing a specific number of words towards the post. But, because this task will be finished in less than a month, I don’t want to track it for an extended period of time.
For longer-term goals and creating a habit, you should start with a minimum of 30-days. This gives you enough time to build a habit that sticks. However, many people keep track of the same habits month after month.
Another option is to pick a single larger goal and track it for 100 days or even a year. This is a large task and a big commitment. I don’t recommend keeping track of multiple habits or tasks for this length of time. Instead, focus in on a single task that you can do for the extended length of time.
If you keep a personal planner or agenda, adding a habit tracker to your already established system is a great option.
Unlike the bullet journal system, a planner is already set up for you with monthly overviews and weekly agendas. This can make it difficult to add new pages. But, one option is to use sidebar habit trackers.
Planners like the Erin Condren LifePlanner and the Happy Planner have extra space in the sidebar of the weekly sections so that you can add items that work for you. With that space, you can add in a sidebar habit tracker.
You can purchase these as stickers at Michael’s or online through retailers like Etsy. These typically include a line to write your task or habit and then seven boxes below for each day of the week.
Another option for your planner is to use the monthly overview to mark off habits throughout the month. You could create a color-coded key and then place a colored dot corresponding to a specific habit on each day you complete said habit.
The beauty of using a digital planner on your iPad Pro or tablet is that you can add pages and rearrange elements to fit your lifestyle. It’s the best of both worlds (pre-dated planners and bullet journaling).
With a digital planner, you can load printable pages into your planner and use them right on the screen. This gives you the flexibility to use different layouts.
Much like the bullet journal system and the physical planner, you can find printables all over the internet. Do a Google Search for Habit Tracker Printables you will find an array of both free and paid options.
Habit Tracker Apps
There are a ton of habit tracker apps out there and which one you choose will be based on your own personal needs, likes, and user experience. I’ve listed out a few for you to look at.
Productive Habit Tracker App
This iOS-only app offers a simple design and ease of use. But, it also offers a few features to set you up for success. You can set up customized daily reminders on both your phone and Apple Watch. And you’ll also be able to see your daily, weekly, and monthly progress to keep yourself motivated.
This app is available for both iOS and Android. The unique feature of this habit tracker app is that it allows you to connect and message friends. The social aspect may be the motivation and accountability you need to keep up on your habits. You can also turn off the social features to keep your information private. And the design is simple and quick to check off habits.
This habit tracking app is for iOS only. The app allows you to track up to 12 habits simultaneously and encourages you to create consecutive day streaks.
With the app, you can customize the color scheme and the icon associated with your chosen task. You can also link it to the Health app and set up Siri Shortcuts for completing tasks. And it also offers a widget for quick viewing and updating and an impressive Apple Watch app with rich notifications and complications for your home screen.
Habit Tracker Ideas
What you choose to track in your habit tracker is completely dependent on your lifestyle, goals, and current habits. You can include both positive and negative actions in your tracker.
Positive actions are actions you want to do more of. This might include reading, working out, listening to podcasts, waking up early, etc.
Aversive actions are those you seek to abstain from. For instance, you might want to add ‘not smoking a cigarette before noon’ if you are working on quitting. Or maybe you have a bad habit of indulging in too many sweets in the evenings. So you could have an action item for not eating sweets after a certain hour.
Of course, you’ll want to include habits that are beneficial and those that correlate with your life. And it’s okay if your habits change from week to week or month to month. You don’t have to stick with the same habits you pick out at first forever.
You might be starting to come up with a mental list of habits and actions you would like to keep track of. But, I want to give you a solid list of actions for you to consider as you create your habit tracker.
Health and Fitness
- Walk 10k steps
- Eat _____ calories
- Track calories
- Take vitamins
- Take medication
- No sweets
- No smoking
- Read with kids
- Kids bath
- Cook at home
- Family dinnertime
- Listen to podcast
- Go to bed before ______
- Wake up by _______
- Reach out to a friend
- Positive affirmations
- Check job listings
- Apply for job
- Inbox zero
- Work on project
- Read _____ pages
- Post on Instagram
- Check Facebook messages
- Pin to Pinterest
- Upload video to YouTube
- Film video
It’s likely a few of the action items from the list above resonate with you and you’ll consider them in your own tracker. However, this list is extremely short in comparison to the possibilities of habits you can track.
For more ideas, you can view my 101+ Habit Tracker Ideas post.
Bullet Journal Habit Tracker Inspiration
Now that we have covered all of the important information about what a habit tracker is, the different methods, and action ideas, I want to dive into the design part.
Because this blog is analog planning focused, I want to dive into bullet journal tracker designs and layouts. Much like the ideas above, there are unlimited possibilities for habit tracker layouts and designs. I want to cover the basics to help you get started without overwhelming you.
The main layouts and designs you will see online and in other peoples’ journals include vertical and horizontal designs, mini habit trackers, and circular habit trackers.
Vertical and Horizontal Layout
Vertical and horizontal habit trackers are generally the most common layouts you will see. For one, they are much faster and easier to draw than the other options. Secondly, they are quick and easy to fill in each day.
Depending on the size of your journal, you may need to rotate your notebook to create a horizontal tracker. However, most journals will easily fit a vertical tracker.
Below you will find inspiration from artists on Instagram for vertical and horizontal habit trackers.
Mini Habit Tracker Designs
Mini habit trackers are becoming more and more popular. One reason may be because they are much easier to customize and can be very aesthetically pleasing. Another reason may be because you can view and analyze each habit individually.
Mini habit trackers are very much what they sound like. You create an individual tracker for each habit or action you are tracking. They can be shaped like the calendar for the given month, a two-row rectangle, circles, or just about anything else.
Below are some amazing mini-habit trackers from Instagram.
The last layout we are going to cover in this blog post is the circular tracker. This tracker was initially designed by Tiny Ray of Sunshine named the Intention Wheel.
It has since been adapted into different designs and visions. The circular habit tracker is stunning to look at and leaves a lot of space for added decorations and doodles.
However, if you have a lot of habits to keep track of, this may not be the best design for you. Due to the maximum size of the circle, you are limited in how many rows of habits you can include.
Below you will find a few of my favorite circular trackers from Instagram.
Tips for Success
Before closing this post out and letting you get on with creating your dream tracker, I want to give you my best tips for success. And you might be thinking that I’ve already given you all the tips you need.
But, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that even when your intentions are good, it’s best to go in prepared for the worst.
What’s the worst?
Failing and disappointing yourself. But don’t worry, we’re going to cover what to do when you fail in the next section.
For now, let’s talk about avoiding failure.
1). Start small. Just because there is a list of 101+ habit tracker ideas doesn’t mean you need to or should use them all. Start small with 5-8 habits. Because here’s the thing. At the end of the day, you want to be completing these tasks. That is the goal. So, picking fewer action items will give you a better shot at accomplishing them and being motivated to do it again tomorrow and the next day.
2). Pick a functional layout. You may see a lot of gorgeous habit tracker layouts, but when you are first starting, you should choose something functional over aesthetically pleasing. The easier it is to fill in your tracker, the more likely you will be to stay consistent with it and achieve your goals.
3). Track some habits on a smaller scale. If you are trying to establish a new habit of working out when you have never done much exercise, rather than put that action in your monthly habit tracker, set up a weekly tracker first. In my experience this lets you gear up to a full month tracker and you won’t get discouraged as easily if you don’t do it.
Now let’s turn our focus to what happens if you do fall off the wagon… or fail.
What to Do When You Fail
This might seem harsh or very pessimistic. But the reality is that a lot of people start off strong and then their motivation fades. This might be over the course of a month or over a span of a few months. It might mean not filling in your habit tracker or not accomplishing more than a couple of the tasks on your list.
So, in advance, I want to give you my top tips for getting back up and dusting yourself off in this situation. I’ve been there and I’ve completely stopped using my habit tracker, so I know very well what failure feels like.
- Don’t get too discouraged. Life happens to everyone. Things get busy; jobs and family life takes priority, and events pop up. Instead of getting discouraged and giving up altogether, decide on a date to start again. Maybe this is next week or in two weeks. In the meantime, allow yourself time to relax and regenerate.
- Choose new habits. Sometimes you fail because you set too high of expectations or you didn’t clarify your goals enough. When you find yourself continually struggling to finish a specific task, ask yourself why. Then change your habits or remove a few that are less of a priority.
- Blackout certain days. This one is great for actions like working out. When you create your habit tracker, blackout days that you don’t have to complete the action. A rest day. Space them out through the month and this might help you get back into it and be less intimidated by a full month’s worth of boxes.
- Try a new layout. If you are like me, you get bored with the same structure pretty quickly. Sometimes trying a new layout is all it takes to get inspired again.
- Take some time off. As mentioned in the first point, if you feel overwhelmed with your habit tracker or bullet journal in general, it’s okay and acceptable to take a break.
I hope this post gave you all the information about habit tracking that you need to know to get started. Since starting my bullet journal, my habit tracker is always one of my favorite pages. It’s my motivation to push towards my goals and my accountability.
I can’t speak for others, but I know that I never fill in my habit tracker just for show. It’s honest and real. If I don’t work out for two weeks straight, it’s right there for me and the rest of the world to see. And that alone can be enough motivation to kick my butt into gear.
If you have a goal, which I’m going to assume you do, give habit tracking a try. It can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. There are no rules for bullet journaling or habit tracking. Go minimalistic or get super creative.
Again, I hope you found this post useful. If I missed anything or you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. And share your habit trackers with me on Instagram by tagging me @the.petite.planner.