One of my favorite and most helpful aspects of bullet journaling is the use of habit trackers. A habit tracker is a spread in your journal where you keep track of how often you do something. It can help you implement a new habit, like a daily running regimen; it is a data collection tool, like if you’re curious how many days you go without spending money; and it can serve as a series of helpful reminders, showing you when you last emptied the litter box and reminding you when it’s time to do so again.
Like the entire bullet journal system, habit trackers are completely customizable. You can set up a yearly habit tracker, you can set them up each month, like I do, or you could track your habits weekly. It’s all about making it work for you.
I recently read The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin, in which she details the four ways in which we humans respond to expectations. I discovered that I’m what she refers to as an obliger, and boy am I. That means that I’m generally motivated by external expectations. If someone asks something of me and they’re at all relying on me, I do it. If you, a friend, told me that by making my bed every morning that your life would be better, my bed would be perfectly made first thing. That sounds self congratulatory, and I’m not writing a post telling you how great of a friend I am. No, the problem with this type of response to expectations is that very rarely do the habits and tasks that make up a healthy, functioning adult, like making one’s bed, effect anyone else but me. They’re internal expectations. And if I’m the only one relying on me, I’m a total flake. I do not care.
I want to care! I truly enjoy having a clean, clutter-free space! And I feel better in my body, mind, and soul when I get at least 45 minutes of exercise! There’s a disconnect between what I want to do, and what I actually do, and if living with this brain has taught me anything, it’s that there’s no amount shame, berating, or positive thinking that will make me not be like this. I had to find a system that made my inner expectations outer expectations. How could I use my positive response to outside expectations to my advantage?
I can split the habits and tasks that I track into three categories:
Things I want to get better at, like:
- drinking enough water
- stretching and breathing
- taking good care of my skin
- taking my contacts out every night (they’re new and I’m still not great at remembering this)
- keeping my house tidy
- making time to create
- feeling gratitude every day
These are habits that matter to me but that if I’m not careful, will fall by the wayside. I know they’re important and they make me a happier, better person, but they do not come naturally.
Big change comes from small changes done every day. That’s where this comes in handy. If you want to run a marathon, or make time to paint 30 minutes a day, or you want to learn French, it’s helpful to see these habits written down and to be able to mark them off each day.
Tasks I want to track, like:
- how often I go the entire day without spending money
- how often do I make time to read
- how often I eat out for lunch or dinner
- how often I take the time to style my hair
I’m not right or wrong here, I’m just curious. I like to see how often I can go without spending, even on little things. If it’s only once or twice a month, then maybe I need to take a look at my spending habits. I track how often I cook my meals versus going out to eat because that’s usually a good indicator of my overall health. If I haven’t curled my hair in two weeks, which always makes me feel my best, then maybe I need an easier hair cut.
It’s helpful to see these things written down because they can inform your daily choices. You’re not trying to get better or worse, you’re just trying to be informed and intentional.
Things I need to remember, like:
- changing Tyson’s litter box
- staying on top of laundry
- keeping up with my weekly goals (which help with my monthly goals, and ultimately my yearly goals. Small changes every day = big change over time)
- taking out the trash
These are things I do already, but not every day. I usually keep these in a separate spot on my habits page, broken out into weekly tasks. It’s helpful to be able to see when was the last time I emptied the litter box or did a load of laundry so that I know when those tasks need to be done again.
If you can’t remember the last time you called your friend, and you’d like to make that a weekly or bi-weekly practice, you can make sure you always know if you track it. You see that the last time you called her was three weeks ago–it’s time to pick up the phone.
It’s likely some of you are thinking that this is loony or that it’s way too regimented. That’s fine! If that’s the case then it’s also likely that you don’t have any problems doing the things you want and need to do. But if you’re like me, and you struggle to find motivation and to remember when things need to be done, try this out. It’s helped me immensely. After about two years of tracking various habits, I can honestly say that most of these things are ingrained now, which is something I could not have ever imagined saying.
If getting a little bit better every day is the goal, this is one system that helps.