Habit Tracking Lead

Habit Tracking: How It Helps & How to do it

Welcome to July! It’s around this time of year that people (read: me) start looking back at their progress and thinking “wow, I’ve dropped the ball on a bunch of things!” Usually, these things are habits we’re trying to cultivate – like exercising more, flossing more, drinking more water, sleeping the “right” number of hours. Whatever it is you’re habit tracking nowadays.

You get the picture.

I’ve definitely let a few habits slide by the wayside in the past six months. My physiotherapy exercises and yoga – once a daily habit – have become more challenging to do on a regular basis (much to the dismay of my achy muscles.)

On the other hand…

I’ve hit the 80 day mark on Duolingo! I’ve been learning Dutch and, while I’m nowhere near fluent, I’ve definitely benefited from those 80 days of lessons. Plus, this is probably my longest habit streak ever! (Aside from, you know, brushing my teeth, which I’ve been doing on the daily, since I was een jong kind.)

Habit tracking is the best way, I’ve found, to keep me going. It shows me that I AM succeeding, even if I feel like I’m not.

Which is why I’m writing about it today.

If you don’t have a habit tracking system set up for yourself, read on to find out why you need one… and how you can create one for yourself.

5 Benefits to Habit Tracking

Prompts you to do “The Thing”

When you’re keeping tabs on your habits – and anything else really that you need to track – you’re creating a visual cue. When you see that the day’s habit tracking box is empty, you’ll be more likely to complete the habit than if you weren’t tracking it.

Keeps you on track

Every time you look at the tracker, you’ll know what you’ve done and what you still need to do that day. You’ll also know how often you’re doing “The Thing”, and can adjust your schedule or approach to the habit as needed.

Easy way to see progress (or lack thereof)

With a habit tracking system, you’ll be able to see the past days, weeks or months (depending on how you’ve set up your tracker). You’ll know exactly where you stand with each habit – if you’ve progressed or if you’ve backslid. With the latter, knowing when you last consistently did The Thing reminds you that it IS possible to cultivate this habit.

Spot patterns in your life

While every day, every month, is different, I’ve noticed that life follows patterns. There’s a cycle to things. Some weeks, I’m very on-the-ball with my habits. Other weeks I’m not. Some months are more productive than others. Often, these weeks and months happen within a pattern – and once I see that pattern, I can plan for those off times!

Get a little happiness boost

Is there anything as satisfying as completing a task? Every time you check off your habit’s box, you’ll get a little hit of happiness and pride that’ll carry you through the day.

So, are you ready to track those habits and be happy?

Ways to Track Your Habits

There are a LOT of ways to go about habit tracking. (I’ll do a post about the many ways later.) Before I created the Clever Cactus planner, I tried a LOT of those different ways. Apps, spreads, Excel spreadsheets – been there, done that. In the end, the design I put in the planner is the one that works best for me. Here’s how I use them.

When was the last time I?

This is page 22 in the Clever Cactus planner. This tracking page is designed to keep, well, track of all those things we do randomly throughout the year.

This tracking format is for things like:

  • When did I last change my toothbrush?
  • What date was my last oil change?
  • When did I clean the fridge? The cupboards? The light fixtures?
  • When did I flip my mattress?

If I don’t keep a record of them, they tend to get lost in time. Two years later, I’ll look up at my light fixtures and think: is the bulb getting dimmer or are those dead bug carcasses I spy? (It was the second one. Gross.)

Clever Cactus Tracking Page 22

As I mentioned, I keep track of all this on page 22 in my planner. If you don’t have a Clever Cactus planner, you can make a page like this in your journal, agenda or what-have-you. As long as it’s in an easy to find place, you’re golden.

At the beginning of the year, I write down all the infrequent things I need to track. When I complete them, I highlight the square.

When Was the Last Time I p22 Clever Cactus
My 2021 Monthly Tracking page.
Make your own

I have two different “make your own” pages for this. You can put this on its own piece of paper and hang it in your kitchen!

Homemade Monthly Tracking Chart Format
The Chart
  1. Make 13 columns; the leftmost one should be wide enough to write what you’re tracking & the other 12 should be equal(ish) in size
  2. In column 1, write everything you want to track
  3. Label columns 2 – 12 with the month; I like to use the first two letters.
  4. Throughout the year, highlight the month in which you did the task. If you need a specific day, you can write the date number in too.
Homemade Monthly Tracking List Format
The List
  1. On your paper, write everything you need to track in list format down the left-hand side
  2. Throughout the year, write the date beside the item when you’ve completed it.
  3. Optional: put coloured lines in place for the date.

Daily Tracking

Daily tracking is for all the things you want to do each day, or every other day, or at some other frequency throughout the week. In my experience, there are two types of daily tracking:

  1. Yes/No binary tracking: where, if you did The Thing, you check it off. Ex. Did I floss? Yes. Did I do yoga? No.
  2. Value-based tracking: where you measure “how much” or “how long” or some other value and write that down. Ex. How much water did I drink today? 1L. How much did I weight? 160lbs.

Tracking the binary things is easy to do. Just highlight or check the square when it’s done!

The value-based is a bit more finicky. To be honest, I haven’t figured out a good way to incorporate the value-based tracking into the day planner as of yet. So I use apps, like Apple’s Health app, to track my weight, water consumption and stuff like that.

That being said! Colour-coding is one way you could track value-based data. On your tracking page, create a legend for each value-based item. Here’s an example:

Water (2L/day goal)

  • Green: 2L
  • Yellow: 1L
  • Orange: Less than 1L
  • Empty/blank: None

Then all you need to do is mark the square with the appropriate colour and you’ll be all set!

Homemade Daily Habits
Make your own

It’s pretty easy to make your own tracking page. However, it’s also time consuming, in my opinion. That’s why I created the Clever Cactus planner in the first place!

Here’s how I used to make my tracking pages, before I just straight up designed it.

  1. Make 32* columns; the leftmost one should be wide enough to write what you’re tracking & the other 31 should be equal(ish) in size.
  2. In column 1, write everything you want to track
  3. Label columns 2 – 32 with the numbers 1 through 31*.
  4. Throughout the month, highlight the dates you did the task.
Daily Habits Clever Cactus empty
Here is my July 2021 Tracking Page. So fresh. So clean.
Clever Cactus “Daily Tracking” Chart

At the beginning of each month during my Monthly Review, I set up my daily tracking page. On each week’s spread, I make notes about the habits I’m tracking. Then, during my Weekly Review, I add the previous week’s habit tracking data to the daily tracking chart.

Easy, peasy, pumpkin squeasy.

*If the month only has 30 days, then do 31 columns; and label them 1 through 30.

Hourly Tracking

Hourly tracking is for all the things you want to do for a specific amount of time each day, or every other day, or at some other frequency throughout the week. This could be getting a set amount of sleep, or working or exercising for a specific amount of time.

I track all my hourly stuff on the same chart. Largely because the things I’m tracking – sleeping, walking, working – can’t be done at the same time. So it all works out pretty well.

I use the same system as Daily Tracking to record my Hourly Tracking: I make notes on my weekly spread, then update the chart during my Weekly Review. This system is the one that works best for me.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different tracking systems to see what works best for you!

Homemade Hourly Tracking
Make your own

Here’s how to make your own hourly tracking chart:

  1. Make 32* columns of equal(ish) in size.
  2. Make 24 rows of equal size
  3. In column 1, write the hours. I haven’t yet found the “right” start time for my personal habits… but I suggest making the start of your day when you normally wake up (or when you want to wake up).
  4. Label columns 2 – 32 with the numbers 1 through 31*.
  5. Throughout the month, track the time spent on your tasks by:
    • Making a line when you start.
    • Making a line when you end.
    • Colouring in the column from start to end.
Daily Habit Tracking Clever Cactus
Here is my June 2021 Tracking page. I won some. I lost some.
Clever Cactus “Hourly Tracking” Chart

I use three different colours to track these items on my Hourly Tracking chart. As you can see in my photo, there are two “blue” items – walking and shopping. I put this because I realized that when I shop, I walk! And since my goal is to see how active I am, it should count as “walking”. However, I didn’t want it to be tracked the SAME as walking – hence the different blue!

*If the month only has 30 days, then do 31 columns; and label them 1 through 30.

There you have it! My somewhat all-over-the-place explanation of, and how to guide for, habit tracking. Habit Tracking has, more than once, helped me identify ways I can improve in my life. I am healthy and happier because of it.

I hope this helps you become healthier and happier too!

Don’t want to draw your own tracking pages every month? Check out the Clever Cactus store for some awesome tracking tools.