Habit Tracking Methods - Which One Is For You?
The journey of building habits is all about consistency. Therefore, it’s best to keep a habit tracker along the way. However, tracking habits might be more complicated than it seems - picking the wrong companion might hold you back from reaching your destinations.
Whether you’re new to this and don’t know where to start, or you already have a habit tracker yet still find something to bother about it, it’s good to have some understanding about different habit tracking systems so that you can pick the one that supports you best.
Here’s what we have for you: an evaluation of the 5 most common ways to track habits.
Before we start
I would like to make it clear that there is no universal best method for everyone. Habit is something very personal and tracking habit is, too. The best way to track your habit is the one that suits you most:
- It suits your personality: Knowing yourself as either highly self-motivated or slacking helps you to pick the method with the right kind of motivation.
- It suits your working style: Someone leading a fast-paced life will have totally different needs from someone with or a slower, more relaxed life.
- It makes you feel comfortable: This is important because the best habit tracker for you should leave you so much at ease that the only thing you need to worry about is performing your habit, not whether you’re tracking your habit right.
In order to tell if a method suits you in the above-mentioned aspects, it’s helpful to consider the following criteria when evaluating each method:
- Convenience: How easy and quick it is to get access and tick off a day?
- Performance measurement: How is your progress measured and how that helps you improve?
- Flexibility: Can you design your very own habit tracker, or rigidly follow a pre-designed one?
- Accountability: Does it make you feel a sense of responsibility to keep working on your habits?
Remember, the best method does not have to be the one scoring high on all criteria, but the one that scores your own preferred level. Now, let’s take a look at the 5 most popular habit tracking methods.
1. Bullet Journal
Bullet Journal, at its core, is using a notebook to build a system of organizing our life. You can use it as a planner and habit tracker. Instead of storing all the tasks and habits you need to do in your mind and later forget about it, or writing down appointment schedules on random sticky notes and can’t find them later, you have a system to plan ahead, remind you of what needs to be done. .
The reason why many people choose to track their habit in a Bullet Journal is because it’s highly flexible and could be really simple to create. Basically, pick up a pen and a notebook, write down the name of your habit, leave some space next to it for tracking and you have a habit tracker.
However, when it comes to BuJo, people often spend so much time trying to make it look beautiful. While it’s better to have an artistic, colorful and inspiring page of habit tracker in your BuJo, it matters more to find what works for you, whether it’s a minimalist style like this:
Or something more exciting like this:
- It’s highly personalized and flexible: It’s all up to you what to put in your tracker
- It’s beautiful and engaging, which inspires you to keep tracking
- There are many templates for different styles (from minimalistic to dramatic) to choose from
- It takes quite a lot of time and effort to create the initial tracking template
- Users may get lost in the artistic aspects, spending most of their time trying to make their tracker more beautiful, yet little time on working on their habits
- Carrying the notebook with you might be inconvenient, adding weight to your already packed bag
SEE ALSO: How to Start Bullet Journal
2. Printed Template or Notebook Habit Tracker
If all the drawings and fillings of doing a Bullet Journal seem draining to you, then go for a printable template to save time.
In case you are familiar with using a notebook to plan and organize your tasks, you might look for habit tracker notebooks that include printed habit tracker templates inside. They look like these:
One problem with this printed notebook is that It requires so little effort that you might take it for granted and forget to check it daily. Unlike BuJo, where the act of making up pretty things could excite you, a plain notebook might easily slip your mind.
If you want to prevent yourself from forgetting to log in your habit daily, you can try printing out templates to a piece of paper, then stick them to somewhere obvious in your home or your working space. The door to your room, the refrigerator or on your desk,... anywhere you have to look at everyday.
You can easily find a lot of free printable templates online, all you have to do is pick the one that appeals most to you.
It’s a more convenient method for those who prefer using paper and pen, saving them considerable time and effort compared to using Bullet Journal.
- It’s not as flexible as Bullet Journal, since you have only a fixed template to fill in. Sometimes you want to add something, say, a few notes or changes, but you can’t due to the limited space given.
- If you use a notebook, it still takes up space in your bag when you carry them around. :
- If you use a printed paper, you might need more than one version: suppose you have only one at your home, then you have to wait till you get home to log in your progress.
- Storing your tracker papers after a few months could be messy, or you might have a tendency to discard your old tracker. This causes trouble when you try to review your progress in the long term.
Quick summary of Analog Habit Tracker Type
The 2 methods above fall into the analog category. After some testing time, while many people find this analog approach interesting and suitable for them, others might opt out of it due to some drawbacks. Below, I summarize the points that might drive people away from using analog methods:
- It’s not convenient. Having to carry around the heavy notebook, having to find a pen to check off the tracker on the wall, or having to wait an entire day to get to your tracker, all these would be too much for someone with an already packed life.
- Many times they just simply forget to use the habit tracker, since there is nothing to remind them about it. And once they stop using the tracker, they gradually drop the habits they intended to track as well.
- They get bored because they don’t get much out of tracking. The only thing they get to see is the streaks of their progress. The lengthening of the streak could be motivational and exciting at first, but once people get into the habit, they start to feel that they want to improve. But how can they improve when their streak is already full?
Fortunately, all these problems can be solved with digital habit trackers like Excel and Mobile Apps.
3. Excel Template or Google Sheet Template
For people who have a knack for numbers and figures, spreadsheets like that on Excel or Google Sheet might be a better option.
The key difference that sets spreadsheet from analog habit tracker is that it can generate statistics. Streak is not the single performance measurement anymore. Many other interesting statistics like completion rate towards goals, completion times counting, or comparison between different habits, can be automatically calculated.
You can either come up with a spreadsheet of your own, or download free templates available on Google. It’s recommended to refer to these online resources for help, since there are many helpful yet complicated formulas that you might be missing out.
- Thanks to its data-centric nature, spreadsheets can generate a lot of statistics about your habits in the forms of numbers, percentages, charts and graphs. This helps you understand your progress better, so you can make plans to improve. For example, data might suggest that you should adjust your goals, or delete some habits that don’t really matter to you.
- Displaying space is huge and easy to navigate. You could hardly run out of space on Excel or Google Sheet, yet still find the statistics you need thanks to the tab and scrolling system.
- You often have to open your laptop to log in the progress. While that’s not too big a problem when you’re working with your laptop, think about some personal habits and you’ll start to see the problem.
For example, if you want to create a morning routine that’s dedicated to personal wellness - waking up early, exercising and meditating - are you sure you want to open your laptop which is a symbol of your hectic work life?
- Sometimes it is hard to navigate through your spreadsheet. Those might be when you want to sync data on your smartphone and use the mobile version of Google Sheet, only to realize how hard it is to find and edit the cell you need. Or you simply reach December in your excel habit tracker, which means having to scroll rightward forever till you get to check off your habit.
- You still do not get any daily reminder to visit your file and track your habit. Habit building is hard because life always gets in the way. Having consecutively busy days would likely make you gradually forget about your habit tracker, and consequently, your habit.
4. Habit Tracking App
If you want more support and automation, trying out habit tracking mobile apps is a must. Basically, everything a spreadsheet habit tracker can do, a habit tracking app can do better. And one unique characteristic of this method out of the four mentioned, is that it masters the art of simplicity.
The core of habit tracking apps is to make habit tracking as simple as possible, yet efficient. The thing developers are trying to do is to help users get the most out of minimum effort. High accessibility, high automation, visualized statistics, and intuitive user interface, all makes tracking habits easier yet more meaningful than ever. Let’s take Habitify as an example:
Moreover, compared with Excel habit tracker, there are many more types of statistics you can view:
- Actual completion times compared to daily, weekly and monthly goals
- Completion rate of the month or a few months in visualized in graphs
- View progress of each habit and the overall performance of your multiple habits building process
- Progress display is optimized, every piece of statistics is carefully put in, so that users can navigate through all available data effortlessly, leaving behind the struggle of navigating on the complicated, filled up spreadsheet screen.
- It has a high level of Automation. Almost no manual operation is required. Sometimes, with Siri shortcuts apps like Habitify, you don’t even have to touch your smartphone to check off a habit.
- It’s highly convenient - Now your habit tracker is in your phone, you can take it everywhere without realizing it’s even there. For Habitify users specifically, habit data is synced on multiple devices (we are on iOS, Android, Mac and web), so their habit tracker is always seconds away.
- You will never forget to track your habit. Every habit tracker app has a system of notifications that remind users to do the tracking. Through this, you are reminded to perform your habit and therefore, find sticking to it more easily.
The only disadvantage of apps is that they could be considered pretty rigid and low in flexibility.
Although apps are already designed for different types of people, as mentioned above, sometimes there still are things we wish to change. Much as some apps try to bring users as personal an experience as possible by allowing them to make options of habit colors or icons, there’s not much they can change about the system.
To wrap things up and make it easier for you to decide, I have prepared the following comparison table:
I hope you have now understood the differences and unique strengths of each habit tracking method. If you’re considering trying out a digital based habit tracker for the ultimate level of convenience, have a look at Habitify, a multi-platform, minimalist habit tracker that could be a great supporting tool for highly productive people.