I am the first to admit I am a creature of habit and many of those habits don’t always help me live optimally. I mean, sometimes the soul just needs a good whiskey and netflix. But often our ‘sometimes’ becomes a habit, a staple in our daily routine.
I read this interesting nerdy book called the Power of Habits. It pointed out that habits are formed by a choice we deliberately make and it becomes our routine.
So, I deliberately decided to pour some luxurious Laird of Fintry whiskey and stream the Laird of Broch Turach! I enjoyed that experience, there was a reward to it (which all habits have).
There was also a trigger for it (another component of the habit cycle) – the kids were in bed, it was quiet and I just wanted to ‘treat’ myself to something simple and enjoyable. In an ideal world, I would treat myself with 99 push ups and eat a head of cauliflower but let’s get real, cauliflower is expensive these days!
So as I’ve spent the past few years thinking too much about habits I noticed that there is something that has helped me change them over time…..
That thing is tracking my habits.
I’ve spent a couple of years tracking some certain habits I’ve been working on changing and I notice that it has a big effect on me having the stamina to make new (healthier) habits.
I first noticed this happening when I was tracking a food diary for my daughter.
As an infant, she struggled with reflux and we were assessing her diet with the pediatrician. So I wrote down everything I fed her. Because I wrote down everything I also became hyper aware of how we were eating and I noticed my decisions changing on what to feed her. More vegetables than rice crackers, more meat than noodles.
Part of this was the accountability factor of making this food diary public. The other part was simply a result of writing things down each day.
Some of the things I have/do keep track of:
- Family meals
- Devotional time
- What I am grateful for
- Activities I do with my kids
- Books I read
- Monthly spending
And I’ve noticed, this is what happens when I tracked my habits
And here is what is happening, I am paying attention. This is especially true when I track what we eat, I see the trends when I don’t actually feed myself well. Maybe I’m not the only one who goes about life thinking ‘sure I eat well’ then ignores the carbcentric menu I just feasted on for two weeks solid because there were veggies in there ‘somewhere’. Tracking your habits is seeing it all out in front of you, undeniable. The truth stings like the burn in your heart when you reach the bottom of the ketchup chip bag.
Making it happen
As I was keeping track in my weekly spread I could see how I was doing for the week in one spot. As the week went on and the meals were more and more frat boy-esque, I was making choices to add in more veggies so I could maintain progress on changing this habit.
You may read this and feel all ‘well goooood for you, you wrote down your habits and now you have figured out life’. The reality is these habits are still a work in progress for me, but progress is what I am focussing on (progress over perfection, always). For example, when I tracked my expenses I could see that we were spending way too much on eating out. Sure this can feel defeating but this helps me work towards a goal of bringing this number down and I can see the changes as the months go on.
Understanding the challenges
Because I keep track of my habits in my calendar I can see the days where I don’t get stuff done and try to figure out the hurdles I’m encountering. Another great tip I read in the Power of Habits is that those who have the most success changing their habits are the ones who make a plan: what they will do, when they will do it, what challenges could prevent them from success, and how they work around these challenges. This is like Jedi-Level habit creation, but when you track your habits you are one step closer Padawan
How to keep track
I track everything in my bullet journal. Simple, pen and paper to just check off when I’ve done things each day. There are also great apps out there – they can be helpful if you need stats to see, or have some accountability. My friend Colleen at Lemon Thistle made a nice monthly print out to hang up and use.
Special thanks to my husband for giving me the correct Star Wars references for this post, and then a lecture on using them with solemn consideration. Hunny, you are the Klingon to my Galactica