Why I’m a HUGE fan of habit tracking by Matt Anderson


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I’ve been closely tracking my habits for three years now and think it’s priceless.

Here are some of the benefits:
You get frequent dopamine hits so you can feel good often throughout the day.
You get proof on a very consistent basis that you are doing your best.
It helps you align with your new identities and provides proof that you are becoming this type of person.
It builds self-respect – you keep integrity with yourself that you are doing what you said you would do. And when you don’t, it can make you feel incongruent for good reasons – you’re letting yourself down (unless you’ve picked an unimportant or ill-timed new habit)
It builds self-worth. You have documented proof that you are taking positive steps consistently.
It builds confidence. You are doing things that make you feel good about yourself and are in your best long-term interest.
You get great results sooner or later.

Take a look at the picture of the Habit Tracker.
Hopefully you’ll find it fairly easy to understand.

a) Across the top, write in your top 1-2 identities.

b) Consider adding why it’s so important underneath.

c) Then you’ll notice the months of the year across the top and the days of the month below that.

d) The next thing I’d draw your attention to is in the bottom half of the tracker: “Power Habits.” If you only write in 1-2 habits, this is the place to start, and these are the most important. These are the ones that have the biggest impact on your life and leverage the 80-20 Law. If you’re uncertain, you can’t go wrong with the key 1-2 professional habits and at least one relating to exercise and a ‘date’ night with your partner or kids.

e) Returning to the top half, this is where your other ‘supporting’ daily habits go. I like to have these represent my whole life so include smaller health habits, work habits and ones relating to my family.

Some habits you might simply put an X in if you get it done. Others might be better suited by a number score depending on whether you’re measuring yourself in some way.

f) In the bottom half there is also room for weekly and monthly habits.

The first few months I used my tracker, it was a mess. I would cross various habits out either because I lost interest in them, they were too hard, or I simply was trying to change too many things at once. The best advice I can give is to EXPERIMENT with it and make sure it feels good to use.

You’re much better off starting with 3-5 things on your tracker and growing from there if you want to. You might want to shade out big areas, so you’re not tempted to fill it all out and then get overwhelmed by trying to make too much change too fast. This is a common A type mistake.

One reason to have more items on it is that you reference it more often which helps keep them top of mind. The more you think about them, the more congruent you will be about following through on them. Remember your goal is to normalize these behaviors to become hardwired so you can improve the quality of your life and, if you want to, go onto even more impactful change. But do remember you can only work on so many new things at a time. And you probably don’t know what that number is until after you do a lot of experimenting.

Tracking is not for everyone! When I trained as a Tiny Habits coach with Stanford professor BJ Fogg, he was not a strong advocate because he had seen it demoralize too many people. They would start out on a good path, but when life threw them off at some point (as it does all of us), they would stop doing the habit and would feel so dejected by this, that they would give up – the tracker made them feel even worse about themselves as if ‘proof’ of failure.

Sometimes tracking isn’t helpful to your progress. If you’re feeling a bit fragile or that you’re being tested too much by life, then tracking may well backfire. It may be one too many things. You change best when you feel good not when you feel bad.

Again, you can experiment. As flawed human beings, we are going to have days when we don’t get it all done, when we don’t wake up early and exercise, and it is painfully easy to let the negative self-talk kick in and to feel demoralized and even give up. This is quite common. This would be a good reason not to track or perhaps to track just a few things. Make it easy to succeed. Change can be challenging to adjust to. If you don’t feel good about it, you’re better off changing what’s on it. Now. Reduce your targets and make it easy to succeed.

HOW you think about your tracker is really important: See it as a TOOL to SERVE YOU. Nothing else. It’s NOT meant to be something that makes you feel rotten about yourself.

Many people I coach do not stick with using a habit tracker for various reasons. Some people don’t want to use a hard copy. Some prefer apps. Some use spreadsheets. Others use their electronic calendars and schedule their habits. Some experience early ‘failure’ and are wary to return to it because of negative association. And I would still argue it is a priceless tool to stick with.

Certainly, I have tried and ‘failed’ with tracking in the past several times. But I’ve been consistent with it now since early 2019. It helps to understand the power of positive neurochemicals (such as dopamine) to your brain and feeling good. It’s important to be personally vested in the identities you come up with. The more you want to become that type of person, the more you will want to follow through on making change.

It’s important to experiment with what you put on your tracker. If you only use other people’s ideas and don’t really ‘own’ what you come up with, you will feel less affinity for the habits and less ownership. It will be easy to dismiss it as ‘assignments’ from an authority figure rather than personally handpicked by you and for you.

Again, see the tracker as your servant and friend: as really positive reinforcement for you doing the right thing. Do it for a few months and you will be extremely pleased with all the little things that are cumulatively getting you ever better results! Do it for a few years and you will be amazed at what becomes possible for you.

To habit tracking!
Matt
Matt Anderson
Founder & President
Matt Anderson International
1177 Oak Ridge Drive, Glencoe, IL 60022, USA
Phone: +001 (312) 622-3121
matt-anderson.com


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