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Why you should keep a habit tracker

Whether you're feeling a little stuck, unmotivated, or scattered, now is a great time to remind yourself of your goals and have a strong finish to the year. It is *never* too late to form new habits and refocus your energy, and a habit tracker might be exactly what you need to do so.

A habit tracker is a tool that quite literally tracks your habits. It could come in the form of a paper chart (my personal favorite), an app, a whiteboard, a page in your bullet journal, or any other medium. To create or use a habit tracker, all you have to do is write in a series of dates (typically the days in a week or month), and a list of tasks or "habits" that you want to accomplish each day. You fill in a square or check a box for each task you complete each day, and then at the end of the week/month/year, you can look back and see your progress!

I started using a habit tracker because I found that there were certain habits I really wanted to start doing each day, and I hoped a visual reminder would help hold me accountable. I've tried using an app and bullet journaling, but I personally prefer a simple paper chart that I can hang up on my wall. I do my habit trackers by month, so I list all the days across the top, and then write all my tasks down the left side. Each day, I fill in one square per task with different colored pencils to keep it creative and fun. Honestly, filling in my habit tracker is my favorite part of my day! I love being able to look at what I've accomplished and remind myself of what I might need to be more conscious of the next day.

With a chart like this, the ultimate goal is to accomplish all your habits every day. However, it is nearly impossible to do so, and strangely enough, using a habit tracker has actually helped me combat my perfectionistic thinking. I've learned the value of leaving things blank and not beating myself up for not being "perfect." I've been using a tracker for about three months now, and I have not had a single perfect day yet. At the end of the month, there are always a good number of blank spaces, and that's okay! Sometimes, I can only manage to check off two boxes in the entire day, and there have even been multiple days in which I've completely forgotten to check anything off at all. I'm someone who has struggled with toxic perfectionism.

For much of my life, I've tried to be unrealistically productive and accomplish a million tasks at once, often at the expense of my own sanity and mental and physical health. I used to beat myself up for leaving things uncrossed on my to-do list, or pushing a task to the next day. Not meeting the impossible standards I created for myself made me feel inadequate, disorganized, and unaccomplished. You'd think that a habit tracker, a visual reminder of the things you have and have not completed each day, would reinforce this sense of urgency and need productivity, but it has actually helped me release some of my toxic perfectionistic habits. I've taken on an entirely new perspective. It's not realistic for every day to be perfectly colored in, and rather than feeling disappointed with myself for leaving things blank, I appreciate that the tracker gives me a chance to look back and see exactly what I was able to complete on a given day. It tells me a lot about where I was mentally, physically, and emotionally at specific points in my life, and it provides insight into how my habits and priorities have changed overtime.

My habit tracker has also helped me prioritize self-care and taking time for myself. I've put habits on there that I know I probably wouldn't complete if I didn't see them on the chart every day, such as "write down one thing I'm proud of myself for," "meditate," and "think of one thing to be grateful for." Of course, I have the standard "take vitamins," "get to sleep before 12," and "daily abs," but the mindfulness, self-care-geared habits help create and ensure balance in my life. Last month, I even listed "sing, dance, or laugh today" as one of my habits, and I was really happy to see that I checked that off almost every single day!

My habit trackers from September, October, and November 2020

So, you're thinking about starting a habit tracker but you have some concerns. Let me help convince you!

If you're afraid you won't be perfect: that's the whole point! Rather than seeing a tracker as a tool designed to track perfectionism, view it as a reflection of your daily life—all the ups and the downs, the struggles and the triumphs, and the changes and transitions. To be imperfect is to be human—perfectionism is a myth, and setting it as your goal is unrealistic and damaging to your progress.

If you feel like you don't have time: habit trackers encourage mindfulness. It's important to have at least a moment each day in which you reflect on all you've accomplished and what your intentions are for the next day. Feeling like you don't have time might be an indication that you have too much going on. Starting a habit tracker can help instill some balance in your life and make sure you're not spreading yourself too thin.

You don't know what habits to put on it: start with something simple, like "make my bed." It doesn't have to be a long list at all. Even if you only have one or two things you'd like to complete each day, a tracker can help you stay on top of them.

You have too many habits you would want to put on it: this might be an indication that you're putting too much pressure on yourself. Try not to take on too many things at once to avoid unrealistic goals, unnecessary stress, and feeling burnt out. It is better to have a few habits you really commit to and complete consistently rather than a bunch of tasks you get to sporadically.

Whether you try an app (such as Productive), a list on your whiteboard, or a traditional paper chart, I think everyone should try a habit tracker at least once. Start with a week, then a month, and see how it goes from there. Let's get after your goals and start to form some healthy habits!

Are you going to start a habit tracker? Let us know in the comments and tag us on social media!

by Maya Valmon | 11/17/2020