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6 Tips for Tracking Habits

When you REALLY want to create a new habit, don’t miss these steps.

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Your alarm goes off, you stumble to the bathroom, and what do you do next?

Nothing for me before coffee!

What is it for you?

The act of making coffee (or insert your thing here) is a habit.  I could do it blindfolded.

Dump out yesterday’s grinds, fill up the water tank, tap the new grinds into a fresh filter, and push start without even thinking. It’s hard-wired into your brain. 

What if you could create any habit that’s as effortless as brewing coffee?  Yep, even daily exercise.

Today I won’t delve into how to create a habit.  James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, is the guy to go see to dive deep on this one.  

Let’s look at tracking habits because it’s the secret sauce to keeping a good habit:

Making Good Habits Stick

  1. Secure your motivation.  Think about the last time you tried to diet.  If your motivation was to lose weight, it probably failed.  However, if you wanted to lose weight to look good in a bikini for your best friend’s 40th birthday party in Tulum next month, I bet you hit it out of the park.  Get specific.
  2. Find a trigger.  Going back to our coffee ritual, this habit is engrained because you do it without thinking as soon as you hop out of bed.  Getting up is the trigger to stumble to the coffeepot.  Looking to form a new habit?  Here are some common triggers that are easy to tie it to:
    • Waking up
    • Going to bed
    • Seeing your habit tracker (this works if it’s a physical journal)
    • Leaving the house
  3. Track right after you complete the habit. This was a mistake I didn’t realize I was making.  I’ve been trying to establish the habit to stretch before bed but my habit tracker hung in my office.  I would never take the extra step to go to the office before bed, so many stretch sessions went untracked.  Until I moved the tracker to my bedroom.  AHA MOMENT!
  4. Checking the box. There’s satisfaction in watching your progress.  Whether you track digitally or on pen and paper, there’s just something about watching those checkmarks line up.  There are plenty of apps out there if you want to have some fun and gamify your tracking.  Another visual option is the paper clip strategy.  The strategy is a story of how a stockbroker grew his business to $5 million (in 1993) by moving 120 paperclips each day from one jar to another each time he made a sales call.  
  5. Mistakes are meant for learning, not repeating. You will miss a day!  That’s ok, you’re human.  Don’t miss the lesson and don’t let it happen twice. Make time to review your tracking.  
  6. What you measure matters.  If you want to develop the habit of not checking screens for the first hour of each day, don’t track what time you wake up…track what time you switch on that first device.

Tracking isn’t for everyone.  It’s an extra step.  And sometimes there’s nothing left to take one more step.

I’ve tried those diets where you have to keep a food journal.  It works, but writing down every calorie that crosses my lips makes me want to run screaming.  

If you want to create the habit bad enough, the extra step is worth it.  

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