One of my 2021 Plans & Goals was to start using a habit tracker and now that we’re a quarter through the year (how?!), I’m sharing how it’s working for me and what I’ve learned.
What’s a habit tracker?
There’s lots of different types but the one I’m trying is inspired by author VE Schwab (here’s her post about it). You list a mix of personal and professional tasks and then each day you colour in the boxes to match what you did. If you already have a journal, you can draw out a grid, but I made mine as a spreadsheet and printed it out for each month.
For this type of tracker, the aim is NOT to fill out all the boxes – in fact it would be unhelpful, inefficient and even impossible to try and do every task every day. That means less guilt, cheating or forcing yourself to do tasks and instead you get to see the natural rhythms of your days and what you’ve been focusing on, or neglecting. I even find myself feeling pleased when there’s not many boxes to fill in as taking breaks is good for me too.
How I’m using my habit tracker
My tasks are a mix of things that pay my bills (Asking For Trouble, freelance work, p/t job, Patreon, SCK), things I should do for my own good (cooking, go outside, home chores) and things I would like to do more of (crafts, drawing/art, sending happy mail, personal writing, reading). I fill it out every evening when I get into bed, which also makes me take a moment to reflect on my day.
I decided to only fill in a box if I spent a significant amount of time on that task, say 30+ minutes. January was a bit messy while I made adjustments (and my pen ran out after 5 days!) but after that I’ve stuck to the same list for the following months. I initially had Duolingo on there but I usually only do a couple of short lessons a day (and there’s no way I would risk breaking my 700+ daily streak). I could take reading off too, since it’s extremely rare for me not to read for half an hour, but I like to think about whether I read during the day or if I’m only about to start reading after filling in my tracker.
How it’s going
I’ve managed to stick to this for 4 months now and I’m finding it really useful. The most interesting thing was discovering that all my days really are different! Most months there are maybe only 2 days with the exact same boxes filled in. I think that’s why I’m generally happy with my life as there are so many different things I can be doing. Of course, I’ve been in lockdown for most of this quarter so I’m interested to see how things change once I start going places and seeing people again.
I do find it a little demotivating that you can only count a task once a day, so I can’t see whether I spent 30 minutes or 3 hours on a task, or if I go outside twice in a day! I could also do with a symbol for terrible weather to see if I had a good excuse for not leaving the house at all, or if I was just too lazy/busy. I’m sometimes a bit undecided as to where a task fits too since art, crafts and writing can be partly for business and for fun. None of those are really a big deal though and it’s only for me anyway. If it would bother you a lot, you could use different colours.
Some fun facts!
- I never do art/drawing and crafts on the same day – it’s one or the other!
- People sometimes wonder how I manage to read 52 books each year – it’s because I read every single day for at least 30 minutes, and often much longer.
- Considering that I only get takeout/ready meals etc. very rarely, it’s surprising how infrequently I fill in the cooking box. I do make a lot of quick meals and try to have plenty leftovers to reheat.
- Super Cute Kawaii has definitely been my biggest task this year and I have to work on it for a while almost every day. That should change now that I’ve hired 2 new writers.
- When I added my p/t job to the list I didn’t realise I’d get put back on furlough again and not get to fill it in even once! It’s also disappointing to have proof that it doesn’t help technically having 2 extra days in the week because of this – I easily manage to fill it with other tasks.
- And the biggest one – seeing that I rarely have time for personal writing (zines etc.) made me realise something had to go and make room so I decided to close my Patreon. I hope to start filling in that box a lot more often now.
I’m glad I decided to try this and plan to continue for the rest of the year. If you’re also someone who has a lot of things to juggle you might find it helpful too.