Creating healthy habits can be tough. But today you’re in luck. I’m giving away a free healthy habit tracking resource along with an article on creating healthy habits that stick
Read away or use the table of contents below to skim and skip ahead.
About the creating healthy habits tracker
If you’re not assessing what you’re doing, you’re just guessing at whether it’s working or not. There are tons of ways you can measure progress but I like the Seinfeld strategy.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld said that the way to be a better comedian was to tell better jokes. And the way to tell better jokes was to write every day. So Jerry would take a wall calendar and place a red X on the days he wrote.
After a few days, you’ll have a chain starting to develop. You’ll like seeing this chain and won’t want to break it. As the chain develops, reward yourself with something that’s not exercising or food-related.
How to use the creating healthy habits tracker
The core 4
The habit tracker was made to track 4 key parts of health and fitness.
- Meaningful movement
Meaningful movement could mean traditional workouts, ten thousand steps per day, yoga, or something else fitness related.
Nutrition could represent eating vegetables with meals each day, getting in at least 20 grams of protein with each meal, making 1 home-cooked meal per day, or coming within 10% of your macros.
Sleep might be getting to bed before 10 pm, creating and practicing a sleep routine, or aiming for 8 hours each night.
De-stressing might be 10 minutes of meditation, taking a daily afternoon walk, completing a morning gratitude journal.
The possibilities are endless and open to interpretation. Anything goes, it’s your tracker and you’re a grown-ass man (or woman) do what you want.
From there you could fill in the remaining slots with other habits you’d like to monitor. An example from my Month of May below.
31 days of tracking
The habit tracker was designed to start at the beginning of a month to take advantage of natural motivation. We tend to have more of it at the beginning of weeks, the first of the month, or the start of a new year. But you don’t need to start using the tracker at the beginning of the month. You’re free to use it at any time.
There’s no significance to 31 days of tracking other than it allows to track for an entire month. I know you’ve heard it takes 21-days to build a habit. The truth is, it takes as long as it takes to build a habit. That may be a week, 21 days, 66 days, 1 year, or freaking 10 years.
It’s up to you if you want to track each habit for 31 days. You’re more than welcome to track for a week, 14 days, 21 days, or more than 31.
Print or download the creating healthy habits tracker to your computer or phone.
You can print the tracker out and fill it in manually. You also have the option of downloading it to your computer or phone. From there you can simply click a box each time you practice a habit and it will autofill with an ✓.
Perfection isn’t the goal
Yes, the idea is to practice a habit for 31 days straight with no hiccups. But I mean, come on. How likely is that to happen?
I’m a big believer in building fault tolerance. When we make mistakes, slip up, or “fall off the wagon,” rewarding ourselves for correcting errors.
See how many days you can practice the habit out of 31. Treat it as a percentage instead of perfection.
Let’s say you want to track ten thousand steps per day. Right now you’re not doing that at all. But at the end of 31 days, you see that you were able to do it 24 out of 31 days. That’s some pretty damn good progress.
Place the creating healthy habits tracker where it’s easy to see
Funny enough, you’ll need to build the habit of using the habit tracker. The easiest way to do this is by putting it in a place where it’s easy to see.
- Your desk
- The fridge
- If you use your phone quite a bit
- Desktop on your computer
- Next to the coffee maker
Set a reminder on your phone if you need to.
Tracking 10 habits is not necessary
Trying to change everything at once is TOUGH!
In his book The Power of Less, author Leo Babauta describes the strategy of doing less to achieve more.
This has helped him to quit smoking, lose 65 pounds, run a marathon, triple his income, write multiple books, completely eliminate his debt, and create multiple online courses.
Oh yeah, and he’s a father to 6 kids, a husband, and a full-time writer. Below is what he noticed about making a change in his life.
- When he tried to change only one small thing in his life, he succeeded at doing so about 85% of the time.
- Trying to change two things simultaneously, he succeeded only about one-third of the time.
- When he tried to change three or more things simultaneously, he almost never succeeded.
The core 4 habit cheat sheet is designed to track up to 10 habits at a time. But as you can see, we’re much more likely to make changes if we stick to one thing at a time.
Feel free to track as many habits as you’d like. But keep in mind you may be more successful by focusing on one or two.
Why track your habits using the creating healthy habits tracker
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear gives us a formula for how habits are built and maintained.
- Cue: Your phone shows a text message notification
- Craving: You want to know who it’s from and what it says
- Response: Now you tap that little message icon and read the text
- Reward: You’ve satisfied your craving to read the message and tapping the message icon is associated with seeing a notification.
Tracking serves as a way to measure whether or not your making progress or need to change what you’re currently doing. By tracking habits, you’re able to get immediate feedback.
Visual cues are much easier for us to recognize and respond to. The habit tracker serves as a way to remind you to act. You can see if you’re doing or not doing the thing and make immediate adjustments.
Tracking habits also provides much-needed satisfaction. Think about how good it feels to cross off items on your to-do list. You feel like a boss! You feel good and productive in getting things done.
We tend to think we do better than we actually do. By tracking you now have an opportunity to see.
The key to building better habits that stick
Set the bar so low that it’s easy to step over. It’s much easier to level up than it is for us to scale back. Build momentum and confidence by making your habit so easy it’s nearly impossible not to do it.
Note: Sometimes starting small for some isn’t the right fit. That’s where working on multiple habits can help. It creates more of a challenge and fun.
Tiny level ups
Once you’ve shown you can consistently step over the bar increase by the tiniest of margins. 5,000 steps per day turn into 5,500. Veggies with 1 meal per day level up to veggies at two meals per day. If you struggle, you know you can always come back to your baseline
Set up your environment to help you succeed
As you’ll see in the motivation mastery section below, the environment trumps motivation every time. Grocery shopping for whole foods each week, not keeping trigger foods in the house, leaving your kettlebell in front of the TV are a few ways to do this.
A few of my favorite environment adjustments.
- Leaving fresh fruit and water on countertops where it’s easy to see and grab if hungry
- Turning my phone on airplane mode while working and before bed so I’m less likely to get distracted by it (better yet if I leave it in another room)
- Keeping a kettlebell next to my laptop so I can easily get in a few swings
- Sleeping with a spatula so I make a healthy breakfast in the morning…. I kid, I kid.
Always be asking how you can make what you want to do more attractive and what you don’t want to do less attractive.
Attach it to something you already do (or reminder)
Use habits you already have as anchors for habits you want to build. If you want to drink more water and have a cup of coffee each morning, leave a water bottle by your coffee maker.
If you check your emails every day at 5 pm and want to go on a daily walk. Send yourself an email every day as a reminder.
Expect to mess up and then do this
Anticipate failure and adopt the never two in a row mindset. Miss a day? Cool, just not two in a row.
One powerful component of building better habits most people ignore
When you want to do one thing there’s a good chance you’re going to have to do less of something else. Sure, you might be able to fit more on your plate but most of us are already struggling with toomuchontheplatisitis.
The minute you want to establish a new habit immediately ask yourself what you might have to do a little less to fit it in.
Do you really want to build this habit or do you like the idea of it?
So I’d love to learn how to play the guitar. I can daydream all day about strumming along and singing some dope country song at an open mic night.
But then I realize the hard work it’s going to take to get to that point. So I’ve yet to pick up a guitar and start practicing.
The point is, the habit you’re trying to build really important to you, or do you just like the idea of it?
What are some habits I can track?
Small habits to track
- Eating veggies with one meal
- Eating protein with one meal
- Drink a glass of water to start the day
- Do a single push up
- Meditate for 1-minute
- Turn the shower to cold for 1 second and jump under it
- Take 5 deep breaths when feeling stressed
- Give 1 hug each day
- Go on a daily walk
- Compliment someone
- Eat a piece of fruit as a snack
- Write 50 words
- Read 1 page
- Learn 1 new word in a different language
More challenging habits to track
I see you overachievers ?
- 10,000 steps per day
- Eat a serving of protein with each meal
- Eat a serving of veggies with each meal
- Intermittent fast
- Meditate for 10 minutes
- Write down everything you eat in a day
- Workout 3 to 4 times per week
- Give up social media for a month
- Save $1,000 in a month
- Stop shopping online for a month
- Reduce your clothes to 50 items
- Take the minimalist challenge
- Turn off electronics by 8 pm
Motivation mastery while tracking habits
A common belief around achieving a goal is that we need to get and sustain motivation.
- We need to motivate ourselves to go to the gym.
- Motivate ourselves to eat healthier and resist junk food.
- We need to motivate ourselves to turn off Netflix and get to bed
Motivation might get you to the gym once but it doesn’t get you to keep going. Actually going to the gym gets you motivated to keep going to the gym.
Motivation might get you to eat one healthier meal but it doesn’t keep you eating healthier. The more you eat healthier, the more motivated to keep eating healthier you’ll be.
The key to becoming more motivated is to keep taking action. Any kind of action, no matter how big or how small.
Action = Motivation
Then why is it so hard to get yourself to take action? This is because most of us only take action when we’re hit with emotional inspiration or deathly afraid of the consequences of not taking action.
You go to work each day because the consequence of not going is chowing down on half-eaten sandwiches, and take out Chinese from a trash can in a seedy back alley.
Another large problem around motivating yourself is that it’s usually associated with difficult emotions. The pain and struggle of going to the gym.
- The boredom of a healthier diet.
- Going to bed earlier instead of staying up late with friends.
Finally, we struggle with motivation because we do the same thing over and over again. We tell ourselves that to accomplish X we just need to do it – to display more motivation or willpower.
We never create an action plan that focuses on our behaviors and addresses our current habits, past failures, and the environment that influences us.
It’s important to acknowledge that at some point you’re not going to feel motivated to workout or do another meal prep. And this is ok.
When you’re motivated, take advantage of it – it’s an opportunity to do hard things. But when you’re not, here are a few things to try to get you going.
1). Make getting and staying started easier
Using exercise as an example. Instead of trying to commit to making it to the gym 6 days per week for 60 minutes. Remove some of the steps that you need to take to do this. Forget trying to go to the gym – instead, focus on a 5-minute workout you can do at home.
Instead of downloading a complicated meal plan off of the internet that restricts what you can and cannot eat. Or requires you to make complicated recipes every single day. Simplify the process by eating the same healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day.
2). Schedule your motivation
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Exercise on the same days and at the same time. Grocery shop, meal prep and eat the same few healthy meals over and over again. Until consistency is built, keep things simple and familiar.
3). Get feedback
This is where your habit tracker comes in.
4). Make it hurt a little
We’re often motivated because we know the consequences of not doing something can be painful or uncomfortable. Don’t go to work equals don’t get paid and live on the street. Don’t take the trash out means a stinky home and flys.
It’s counter-intuitive but I say make it hurt. Make a list of the possible consequences for not following through on the behaviors you’re trying to establish. Or better yet, try the 4 crazy questions.
Doing the thing.
- What are the benefits of doing the thing?
- What are the disadvantages of doing the thing?
The status quo.
- What are the benefits of staying the status quo?
- What are the disadvantages of staying the status quo?
5). Uncover the real reason behind your lack of motivation
If you always seem to have a hard time staying motivated to exercise and eat well, it might be time to review your beliefs around your body, what it takes to live a healthier lifestyle, and whether or not you’re pursuing it in a way that is enjoyable to you.
This may involve tapping into some uncomfortable emotions. It may involve being very honest with yourself. It may take someone else to call you out on your own bullshit.
6). Just do something
Ultimately it comes down to taking action. No matter how big or small. If you can’t do your full workout do half. If you can’t do half do 10 push-ups.
Let’s imagine a future where you have changed in a really awesome way. Like, you’ve gotten into shape, and now you get to do some cool stuff, like maybe take that hiking trip you want. Think about all the good things you imagine happening there.
Do something. Anything.
Resources for creating healthy habits
Well, that was something now wasn’t it? Hopefully, you’re all set up for creating healthy habits. If not, you can blame me. I’m cool with it.
I’d like to leave you with valuable resources if you’re interested in learning more about creating healthy habits.
- Tiny Habits, B.J. Fogg
- Atomic Habits, James Clear
- The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
- Core 4 downloadable habit tracker
Photo by My Life Journal on Unsplash