Habit Tracking for the Win

This morning I finished reading Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. I already know I’m going to read it again and take more detailed notes.

My current morning routine includes reading. I would like to read a business book per week. But I’m starting small. Here’s how I’m phrasing it for now: I will read a business related book during breakfast until it’s time to start prepping to get the kiddo off to school. So far, so good. 

The great news is that according to Atomic Habits, you do need to start small and make a habit easy. Clear suggests starting with a two minute habit, though, and I’m reading 30 – 45 minutes. But, for me, this amount of time is easy and satisfying, so I think it counts. I didn’t quite finish in a week, and to be able to meet that goal, I’ll have to find another block of reading time.

Back to habits – I’ve suspected for a while that the key to building the business I want is through habits. I’ve just always had trouble making the good habits stick. 

I loved the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg but I found it hard to put into practice. Atomic Habits builds on the ideas in The Power of Habit, but more importantly, has more tactical tips. You know how you can hear the same thing over and over, but until someone says it like they’re speaking to you, you don’t get it? That’s how I felt reading this – I just get it finally. I can use the information in Atomic Habits to make some changes.

Without even diving into theory, there are two tactics that stand out to me after the first read. I immediately starting the first one, and I’m working one ways to implement the second.

Never Miss Twice

Clear wrote that to miss a habit once was human and won’t derail you. But if you miss a habit twice in a row, you’re already starting to build a habit of missing. Wow.

Already, I’ve used this. I’m insanely busy right this moment, like every business owning mom ever. But it is right before the holidays. And we’re getting ready to travel. And oh yeah, school is half-day on Thursday and Friday. Plus those 5 holiday parties I’m supposed to make food for. 

(Just a show of hands – who cringes every time you see an email from Sign Up Genius? I was actually thankful the other day when it didn’t seem to be working and I couldn’t sign up – only donut pickup was left and that’s an out of the way trip I didn’t want to do!)

My goal around writing is focused on writing daily on weekdays, and I have promised myself that if I do write daily, I cannot punish myself if I don’t meet my publishing estimate. I skipped writing on Monday because I had to travel to my doctor and it’s hard to type while driving. 

I WANTED to skip Tuesday because I had a bunch to catch up on from Monday. But I didn’t – I remembered Clear’s rule, “never miss twice.” And because I did some writing, I was able to publish a post on Wednesday. 

And I just had a revelation. Because I wrote on Tuesday, I now have enough time to get out a second post on Friday. That action of writing even for a bit on Tuesday is going to make it possible to put out two articles. If I had not written Tuesday, I may not have even gotten one done this week. I have to think this one out more.

The best way I know to hold myself to this “never miss twice” rule and keep myself honest is to track my habits.

Habit Tracking

The second point James Clear made that really jumped out at me was that habit tracking “simultaneously makes a behavior obvious, attractive, and satisfying.” That’s 3 of the 4 steps of building a habit that sticks (the first one is to make it easy).

I adore a good bullet journal with colored gel pens and pretty pages. But according to Clear, we often track the wrong thing. And if since what gets measured, gets managed, we end up “managing” the wrong habit.

For example, I’ve recently started using Pinterest for my business (follow me here!). I want to build a habit of promoting the posts I write. I’ve been pretty lax about promotion in the past.

One thing Pinterest does well is that it gives you a bunch of data, including how many monthly viewers, or viewing opportunities your pin gets. So, I started keeping track of my monthly viewers and watched it rise over a few months. Yay! As of today, my pins are getting 120K monthly viewers, still not high, but growing.

But here’s what isn’t growing…clicks from Pinterest to my own blog posts. So, those extra viewers weren’t really engaging with what I’m putting out there. Working to grow that number isn’t going to help me grow, so it isn’t really all that motivating. I need to find something to measure that’s both satisfying to track and will actually help me reach my goal. Now I’m tracking how many unique & fresh images from my blog that I post each month. After a couple of months, I should know if this is a good thing to track.

Another example: I HATE tracking my weight. So I know a chart of my daily weight would not help me lose weight and get healthier at all. I would focus on the number, not on my ultimate goal of being healthy. I’d start skipping meals and other unhealthy habits. But I’ve learned that if I exercise, my eating gets better and I start feeling better, which leads to healthy choices. So, for me, tracking exercise days makes great sense.

Tracking at different stages of your business

The habits you want to build will differ depending on where you are in your business journey. As cute as those bullet journals are, don’t just copy layouts and start checkmarking. Think through the habits you want to build first. THEN think through what data you need to track to help you stick with the habit. 

Right now, I’m developing the processes I want to use for social media. I’m doing things manually until I really understand enough of what I want to accomplish. Then, I’ll automate or delegate as much as I can. So now, I’m tracking actions that will help me out. Once I automate, I’ll need to start tracking a whole different set of numbers, because I’ll have to develop different management habits.

Where can habit tracking help you improve your own life or business?

Featured Image Photo by Jason Coudriet on Unsplash

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