3 tricks how to keep track of habits

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Tracking and recording (whether on paper or within an application) your daily activities or habits can help you become aware of where your time, energy and even money are being spent. It gives clear overview of what has been accomplished over a period of time and what’s your progress towards your proposed goals.

It is a vicious circle. In spite of creating and sticking to new habits you should be tracking them. But tracking them is also a new habit that need to be grown and requires the same discipline and steadiness. The solution to both is the same. To grasp the science of how habits work and to find the right way which suits you best.

In an article 3 steps to mastering your habits we have written about how to master any habit in your life on a knowledge based on behavioral research made by professor BJ Fogg, Ph.D.

Professor BJ Fogg found out that behind every human habit is a simple 3-step pattern which our routines follows. This 3-step pattern is very important for this article, so let’s remind ourselves of it a bit.

Here’s a short extract from 3 steps to mastering your habits:

“This is how it goes:
1. Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behavior)
2. Routine (the behavior itself; the action you take)
3. Reward (the benefit you gain from doing the behavior)

Here’s an example how this pattern works in a real-life experience:

You are an occasional smoker. The most common trigger that initiates smoking may be going out to a bar in the evening with friends who smoke. Sitting with a glass of beer and talking with friends who in that moment light their cigarettes make you light you own (this is your routine). The reward you get is that you satisfy your need for nicotine. In this case accompanied with feeling guilty.”

Whereas tracking daily activities is a habit like any other it should follow the same pattern. Here are 3 tips on how to create a tracking habit that lasts:

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1. Use current triggers for your new “tracking” habit

As mentioned in 3 steps to mastering your habits article, there are things you do each day that can serve as reminders for your new habits. Taking a shower, brushing teeth, flossing, washing face and hands… the list goes on for the whole day.

The key to success is to evaluate which activity suits best for a trigger of a new habit. In case of filling in the tracking data within your application or putting it on paper it could be the activity itself.

For example, you want to track how much time you have spent today by writing an article. Opening the text editor can be the trigger to start tracking the activity.

If you permanently forget to track it, you should look for a better trigger. Maybe installing a  tracking app on your smartphone would be the ideal solution.

In case you use paper to record how much time you spent on what activity, a good way to remind yourself can be for example tying a red lace on your wrist. Every time you look at it, it reminds you to record everything back in time.

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2. Take baby steps

Do you think that you can eat an elephant? If you would slice him up into tiny pieces and eat a bit each day, after some time certainly yes. Average man eats an equivalent of 7.5 to 10 elephants (weighing 30-40 tons) of food in his life.

Small steps shift us towards our goals more than big leaps. With massive changes our motivation runs out quickly. We are highly motivated just for the first few times. The picture of huge and difficult task ahead discourages us. Each following step we do with rising resistance and at last we always succumb to our emotions. Emotions govern us, whether we like it or not.

Small steps are easy to complete and don’t hurt so there’s no problem to repeat them on a daily basis. If the step is fully incorporated into behavior, then you should add the next step.

For example, Clevork app uses preset buttons for each activity so to start or to stop tracking it, you push just one single large button on your smartphone.

In case you track activities on paper, you can for example carry a little notepad for your records everywhere you go but what’s probably even better is a small recorder, which can be used while walking.

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3. Reward yourself for every small achievement

It may sound ridiculous, but telling yourself something like: “Good job. You made progress today.” or “Success. Congratulations!” after every tiny achievement can help your brain to connect good feeling with progress in your new habit.

This feeling of success momentum will help you to adopt your activity-tracking habit faster.

Obviously, changing habits can be difficult. You may not be able to avoid failures, mistakes and lack of motivation. Or several attempts and repeated starts again and again. But good plan, precise tracking, small steps and better understanding of how our routines work are exactly that ingredients which would help you to succeed.


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