The benefits that I have noticed after 3 years

In the fall of 2019, I was given a beautiful diary. Beyond the allure of a canvas notebook and a fancy pen to use with it, I’m drawn to the diary the way I’m drawn into a good story: enthralling, haunting. It’s a habit tracker, and every day since I opened it, almost three years ago, I’ve been tracking my habits.

Why? First, why not? And second, because we only have so much time to make a difference, achieve our goals, and spend time doing the things we love — and I want to make sure I’m actively working toward those things. that aspiration. Had to track my habits to understand that I didn’t work as hard to achieve my goals as I thought I would. It made me realize the difference between what I thought I was spending my time doing and what I actually spent it doing. This is a slap in the face, I’ll be honest. But a good kind; like a loving prompting from a wise elder.

We just have so much time to make a difference, achieve our goals, and spend time doing the things we love — and I want to make sure I’m working hard to achieve my ambitions. there.

If habit tracking is a new concept to you, here’s a brief overview of how it works:

(For a more comprehensive explanation, click here for my original post explaining how it changed my life.)

1. Create a grid

On one axis, write down the habits you want to track. When you’re just starting out, it’s all about being aware of what your current habits are so you can adjust to your liking. List every habit you can think of, both positive and negative. Here’s a general idea of ​​habits you can track:

  • Do exercise
  • No phone for an hour after waking up
  • No phone for an hour before going to bed
  • Read
  • No social networks
  • Take a walk
  • Currently learning (insert language or skill you want to learn)
  • Meditate
  • Spend time outside
  • Watch TV
  • Device-free time with family

Wording Note: If you have a habit you want to quit, such as biting your nails, you can list your habit as No Nail Biting or No Nail Biting. I will how to track it next.

2. Give yourself a X

On the second axis, number the days of the month. At the end of each day, go through your list of habits and give yourself an X next to each habit you did that day — or didn’t, depending on how you wrote the habit. (In the nail biting example above, you’d give yourself an X if you didn’t bite your nails that day.) Or give yourself a check mark or a smiley face. You make friends.

3. Analysis

By the end of the first month, you’ll have a clear idea of ​​how you’re spending your non-working time. Use this information to inform the habits you want to track for the next month. Make adjustments and set goals. Write your goals in the same journal so that each time you record your habits, you’ll see what you’re striving for, then compare them at the end of each month so you can see where you’ve come from. how.

One thing I particularly like about the journal I have is that there is a space to sum up each habit at the end of the month. If you’re a person driven by progress (whether good or bad), adding up the number of days you’ve worked on your habits will be informative.

How does this benefit me today? It helps me identify patterns, which illuminates the way I operate. And only by knowing how I operate can I understand how to make my daily changes.

An example: In March 2020, I went 27 days without eating out (maybe you did something similar). I just went four days without social media. Looking back, I would have found it valuable to have spent fewer days on social media that month, based on the type of information I was using. How does this benefit me today? It helps me identify patterns, which illuminates the way I operate. And only by knowing how I operate can I understand how to make my daily changes.

While going through my habit diary (I’ve been using the same notebook since I started in late 2019), I noticed the seasons in my life; season of diligence keeping up with my Italian and season of meditation. I also pay attention to straight lines, habits that are easy for me, and habits that I still struggle with. Looking back is opening our eyes in many ways.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve distilled from looking back and reflecting on my habit-tracking experience:

1. Consistency is a driving force

It’s hard to miss a day of something when you’re in a series. If you’ve been going for a whole month without missing a day of walking, why miss it today? Over time, consistency creates its own form of accountability.

Another example: I keep track of the days I go without eating meat. When I first started doing this, it was one of the coolest habits to follow. I think I rarely ate meat. That couldn’t be further from the truth! When I started tracking, I just ate meat every day. I had no idea. (I won’t go into the reasons I care about my meat consumption here, but I’ve included it because it’s important to me.) Yesterday I went all day without eating meat. At dinner, my daughter hadn’t finished her chicken nuggets yet and I barely thought to reach for them. But then I realized it’s been a meat-free day so far and I won’t get my X following that habit if I eat her nuggets. So I gave them to my husband, and that night before I went to bed, I was able to get myself an X.

2. With separation will materialize

When I looked at my first few months of habit tracking, I saw some very clear patterns. Some of my habits are out of habit; they are just me. I don’t even need to track them anymore because they’re already running in my blood now. I also find that today I struggle with the same things that I struggled with then: going through a day without social media, for example. Or keep a diary.

When I first started, I was journaling about 75% of the time. Six months later, I was down to thirty percent. One year of follow-up, I only journaled twice in a month. The next month, I didn’t log anything, and three months later, I unfollowed it. Today, a year and a half after I stopped, journaling has been replaced by other, more health-oriented habits like taking 10,000 steps a day. But I want to journal more, so next month when I write down the habits I want to track, I’ll add it to my list. It won’t turn me into a nightly journalist, but at least it will keep the mindset centered. Who knows, maybe if I journaled every day for a month, it would become a habit again.

It wasn’t until I started tracking my habits that I felt like I really had a handle on my time — both how fast it passed and how I used it.

I don’t know how long I’ll continue to track my habits, but I don’t see the end yet. Something about it was so satisfying to me – the perception, maybe, or idea that I could change, I just needed to know where to start. It puts power in my hands. While I can always control what I do and don’t do (we all have that ability in some way, right?), it wasn’t until I started tracking habits that I didn’t. I feel like I really got it. into my time — both how quickly it passes and how I use it.

In the book quoted Writing Life, Annie Dillard says that the way we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. I don’t want to spend my life scrolling on my phone, missing out on what matters in the only glorious life I’ve been given. This is why I track my routine and this is why I recommend you give it a try.

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