Progress is the most effective form of motivation. As soon as we see that we are progressing, we become motivated to keep on going.
When it comes to building better habits, visualizing your progress is a crucial step. Look at how far you’ve come, and what you’d like to see in the future. A “habit tracker” will be the simplest way to monitor your progress.
Habit trackers are simple tools to gauge whether you are doing a habit. The most basic approach is to use a calendar and mark off the days when you keep your routine. As an example, if you meditate on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, each of those dates gets an X. With the passing of time, the calendar becomes a record of your habit streak.
You could use a calendar or create your own habit tracker on a sheet of paper.
Once you have created your habit tracker, the mantra to keep in mind is “never break the chain.” After you’ve taken steps to track your habits, you don’t want to stop crossing off each day or filling in each row.
“Don’t break the chain” is a powerful mantra. If you don’t break the habit of saving in your savings account every month, you’ll build wealth and gain peace of mind. As long as you don’t break the chain of meditation, you’ll gain focus and gain more control of your own mind. Don’t break the chain of reading every day and you will finish 20+ books per year. Don’t break the chain of practicing guitar every day and you’ll gain mastery faster than you’d expect.
Regardless of how you implement these strategies, these strategies serve as proof of your progress. Seeing X’s on the calendar or marbles in the jar allows you to see how much work has been done (or not).
When you’re having a bad day, these signals of progress can have a particularly powerful impact. Sometimes, when you’re feeling low, it is easy to forget how far you’ve come. It may seem like you are putting in a lot of effort without seeing many results at this point in the course. Habit tracking provides visual proof of your hard work—a subtle reminder of how far you’ve come and how consistent you’ve been.
Let’s analyse how habit tracking integrates with other learning methods covered in the course.
In my opinion, the best strategy is to make an implementation intention for tracking.
- I record my set in my workout journal after I finish each set at the gym.
- I write down what I ate for dinner after I put my plate in the dishwasher in the kitchen.
- I record how I slept in my sleep journal after I turn my alarm off in the morning in bed.
- I put an X on the calendar after I take my medicine and vitamins in the kitchen.
- I write down a moment I shared with my kids after I put them to bed at 8pm in their bedroom.
The completion of the behaviour is the cue to write it down. Of course, even with a clear intention, there will be some times when you fall off course.
Whenever this happens to me, I try to remind myself of a simple rule: “never miss twice.”
It is my goal to return to it as soon as possible if I miss a day. Missing a workout occasionally happens, but I won’t miss two consecutive workouts. It’s possible that I’ll eat the entire pizza, but I’ll follow it up with something healthy. Although I can’t be perfect, I can prevent another mistake. As soon as one streak ends, I begin working on the next.
Breaking a habit doesn’t matter as long as you can get back to it quickly. It is never your first mistake that destroys you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. A single mistake is an accident. When you miss twice, you start a new habit.
Often, we get caught up in an all-or-nothing mindset with our habits. Slipping up is not the problem; the problem is thinking that if you are not able to do something perfectly, then you shouldn’t even try. You can avoid that pitfall by never missing twice.
This lesson emphasizes the importance of visualizing your progress every day. Feedback loops are very long when you have to wait for the scale to go down, or for your bank account to grow, or for you to experience a sense of calm in your life and it is hard to maintain your motivation.
By tracking your actions – whether it’s how many training sessions you do each week, how many sales calls you schedule each day, or how long you meditate each day – you’ll have immediate visual proof that you are living out the habits that are important to your life and goals.
Week 3 Summary
- Rather than having some linear relationship with achievement, habits tend to have more of a compound growth curve. The greatest returns are delayed. Temptation bundling and commitment devices are two helpful strategies that may enable you to get over the hump and build a habit that lasts.
- External rewards are one of the best strategies we have for maintaining motivation while we’re waiting for long-term outcomes to arrive.
- If you have to wait for long-term rewards, then the feedback loop is often too long for you to maintain motivation. If, however, you’re focused on tracking your actions, then you’ll have immediate visual proof that you are showing up and living out the habits that are important to your life and goals.
Week 3 Progress Check-In
- By now, at the end of week three, you will have a simple two-minute habit, a clear implementation intention that helps you identify when and where to perform the habit, an environment that is optimized for your particular habit, and a series of strategies that can provide additional incentive during periods when you lack motivation or feel like you’re sliding off course.
That’s all for Lesson 9. See you in the next lesson,
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Helpful bonuses and downloads
- 30 days to better habits workbook – This 20-page PDF includes an action checklist (including templates for key strategies) for each lesson of the course, plus lesson summaries and a key terms dictionary.
- 30 days to better habits examples – The examples database is a Excel Sheet of 100+ examples of how to implement each strategy covered in this bootcamp for dozens of different habits.