Jul 16, 2019

How I track my habits

Habit formation is a topic that I'm extremely fascinated about. I devour books and essays on this topic, as the concepts branch out across a wide variety of fields such as psychology, behavior, motivation, economics, decision making, sociology, anthropology, evolution etc. 

Our brains like to run on autopilot and that's one of the primary reasons that we should be conscious of our habits, both conscious and unconscious ones.

James Clear in his book "Atomic Habits" states


"Habits reduce cognitive load and free up mental capacity, so you can allocate your attention to other tasks"


Habits impact our lives in many ways - be it our health, relationships, time management, sleep and even how we respond to our emotions.

There are some fantastic books on this subject. I'm almost winding up Atomic Habits. Charles Duhigg's The power of habit is another insightful read. From a technology perspective, Nir Eyal's Hooked is another favourite of mine.

The objective of this post is to talk about my "Habit Tracker". A few years back, I came across Seinfeld's "don't break the chain" strategy and got quite inspired by the idea. I have tried various mobile apps to track my daily habits. I have also tried using Evernote to track my daily habits in a note. For the last 2 months, I went back to good old paper and pen. In my journal, I have jotted down the habits for the month as rows and the days as columns. Every morning, I sit down and track whether I achieved the habits for the previous day. 
The habits where my hit rate is relatively high in the past 2 months are
  1. No screen usage after 8:30PM
  2. Daily evening prayer at 6PM
  3. Tea/coffee ONLY 2 times a day
  4. Read at least 15 pages a day
Although many experts recommend that we work on only one habit at a time, I prefer trying many habits and see which ones I'm motivated to work on and which ones I avoid. One key takeaway for me is that 

In order to be consistent, the habit definition needs to be clear, precise and elicit a binary response - "Have I done this habit today or not?".  

In June, one of the habits I tried was "Eat 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits a day". The concept of "servings" is a bit vague in my habit definition. For my style of cooking, it isn't easy to quantify servings size. So I decided to remove this habit in my July list.

I believe it is important for us to consciously work on our daily habits, keep iterating and learning what works and what doesn't. 

In this article on why goals are overrated, Mark Manson explains the need to focus on habits


Goals are a one-time bargain. They are the spending mindset. “I will spend X amount of energy to receive Y reward.” Habits are an investing mindset. Habits require one to invest one’s efforts for a little while and then take the rewards of that effort and re-invest them in a greater effort to form even better habits.


I'd highly recommend to anyone reading this post to think about the habits you would want to inculcate and start tracking the same on a daily basis. Dreams/Goals/bucket list can give us direction but it's our daily habits that will help us make progress towards them.

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