Planning Basics 3: Habits

Part of me can’t believe I’m writing a post about habit trackers because up until this year, I had no interest in habits or resolutions! But this year, there were a few things I wanted to hold myself accountable for because I knew how it would benefit me, so I decided to include a tracker in my bullet journal.

I have a few tips and tricks for keeping a habit that I share with my students. Read on to see some best practices for habit tracking!

One of the best things you can do when you make a habit is to phrase your habits positively rather than punishingly. Second, give yourself a time frame within the habit itself.

For example, “stop eating junk food” isn’t the nicest thing you can say to yourself (would you ever say that to your best friend?!). But “eat healthy three times a week” is a manageable and kind goal to give yourself. No one is perfect and we all might have a snack or a burger now and again, but the success of eating healthy a few times a week is realistic!

Once you’ve decided on a small number of habits and phrased them well, think about what you need to make sure you actually stick to it. This is where your personality type kicks in from my first Planning Basics post. Here are some examples:

  • Write it down or check it off (an upholder might love doing this)
  • Have a buddy hold you to it (an obliger probably needs this for personal goals)
  • Ask yourself why you are doing something, which helps you do it (that’s something I do as a questioner for sure!)
  • Decide the way you want to do something for yourself (this is the way for a rebel to operate)
  • Use supplies you like (a favorite pen or notebook) to motivate you (I think this goes beyond personality types if you’re a stationery addict like me!)

Below is an image of the habit tracker that works best for me in my bullet journal. I’m a questioner so the way I document it doesn’t make or break it to me. I have five habits I track: doing sit-ups every morning, taking the stairs at work most workdays, bringing my own lunch most workdays, asking questions of my coworkers and friends at least a few times a week, and having unplugged reading time a couple times a week. You can see my shorthand below for each habit and I just put a dot on the day when I’ve done it.

My system (true to form) is pretty minimalist and simple. If creativity and art motivate you, you could try one of the more artistic habit trackers that are popular in the bullet journal community (coloring in an image as you do the tracker, etc.)!

You will need to practice mindfulness to be successful. No one is perfect and we won’t get it right all the time. So just like in meditation, notice when you are not on task or if you haven’t done something. Instead of making yourself feel bad, forgive yourself for slipping up and gently bring yourself back to the task or say to yourself, I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

You might find that an app or productivity tool could help you work. Forest is super popular in the bullet journal instagram community as a study tool — your tree only grows if you don’t touch your phone. Habitica is a to-do list website disguised as a pixelated role playing game. And there’s always the trusty Pomodoro Method which helps break things down into 20-minute focused work times interspersed with deliberate breaks.

Finally, reward yourself!! Keep it simple though: a piece of chocolate, a short walk outside, a quick nap, or sitcom break can do wonders to keep your mind fresh. Big projects might deserve bigger rewards, but it’s really good to  celebrate the small things too and take a break. Our minds need time to recharge before they can be productive again, after all!

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