How I learned to track my habits

Creating and tracking good habits sounds great, but can be a really difficult thing to do. The most difficult thing for me has simply been remembering. When I want to create a new habit, I often forget to do it. And, when I do it, I often forget to actually track it. Not good.

Lately, I’ve come up with a system that has seemed to work very well.

Here is what works for me.

Plan around the timing.

Remembering to do a new habit can be tough. The easiest way to ensure you do something new is to tie the habit to a particular time in the day.

The problem is that all days are different. Some days you have lots of meetings. Some days you have lots of errands. Some days are for family, and some are for work.

I realized that the two times in the day I have the most control over are (1) right after a wake up, and (2) before I go to bed. I try as hard as I can to tie my new habits to these times.

Simplify the habits.

Don’t make a large list of habits to maintain.

The key is to boil things down to what really matters to you. For me, I want to create lifestyle habits. I never focus on creating new work-related habits. I already work so much that I don’t need to focus on those habits. What I need to focus on is staying healthy in the mind and body.

Currently, I only have 4 habits I track:

  1. Drink more water: I drink lots of coffee, and want to drink more water. I accomplish this by drinking a glass when I wake up and a glass before going to bed.
  2. Yoga or stretching: Working at a computer is hell on your body. After I drink my morning cup of water, I brew a cup of coffee, and do yoga for 10-15 minutes. It is a great way to start the day, and the time right there. Plus, I am rewarded with coffee!
  3. Exercise: This is the random one. I exercise when I can, but this habit gets put off more than the other four. At the very least, hopefully I did some yoga.
  4. Write: I blog every night before I go to bed. My rule is that I can’t sleep until I press publish, and it seems to work.

Simple right? 2 when I wake up, and 1 when I go to bed. I don’t get these done everyday, but keeping it simple has helped me a lot.

Simplify the tracking.

There are tons of different ways to track. You can use notebooks, or different web and mobile apps.

Personally, I’ve been using the Lift app on my iPhone. It is a super simple app that looks beautiful, and does just what I want: it gives me a place to check off my small list of habits. When I’m doing well, it keeps track of my streaks, which provides encouragement.

Building the habits around the habits.

That’s it!

Those are the few things that have helped me be more consistent with drinking water, practicing yoga, exercising, and blogging.

The funny thing is that the habits are OK, and habit tracking apps are OK, but what has really helped me is to build habits around the habits I want. Once I develop the habit of doing things at certain times, and habits fall into the place. As does the habit tracking.

How do you create and track new habits? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!

P.S. This is post number #40 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter: @alexshye.

Or, check out my current project Soulmix.

My blogging habit


This will be post #35 of the 100 day blogging challenge, and here I am, still at it.

Over time, I’ve refined my blogging algorithm and have seemed to settle in on a good one. Here is what works for me:

  1. Stop working about an hour before I intend to sleep. Since I sleep late this tends to be anywhere between 12 midnight, and 3am. Today, it is was 2:30am.
  2. I give myself about 15 minutes to come up with an idea. Usually I choose something that was on my mind during the day. I have old drafts in WordPress, but rarely use them. I just don’t happen to be inspired to complete them. If 15 minutes is up, I choose the best topic I’ve come up with.
  3. Start writing, and publish it before I go to bed.

This has been surprisingly effective, and I think it may be sustainable.

They keys here are really the two forcing functions. I must pick a topic in 15 minutes, and I must hit the publish button before I go to bed. I can take as long as I want to write, but at some point, I am sleepy and it is time to publish.

The result is that every morning, I wake up and think two things:

  1. “Oh man, I could have made last night’s post so much better”, and then
  2. “I can’t believe that I’m still blogging!”.

The first thought kind of sucks, but hey, no one said blog posts have to be perfect. On the plus side, it leaves room for future blog posts.

The second thought is awesome, and it makes me feel better about the first one.

Now it’s 3:03am and it’s time to sleep. I don’t even need to wait until tomorrow morning. This one could have been way better.

Still, for you aspiring bloggers, I hope you picked up something useful (pro tip: its the two forcing functions!).

P.S. This is post number #35 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Check out my current project Soulmix.

The simple secret to creating new habits

Molecular Thoughts

It has been 11 days into the 100 day blogging challenge. With this post, I will be 11 for 11. It isn’t a huge win, but it is a win and I am fairly happy with it.

I remember when I first started this challenge. My first thought was, “Damn, this is going to be hard. I’ve never blogged more than once a week.” It was true. In fact, I would often skip months.

And now I am doing it!

The biggest surprise so far is how easy it was to make blogging a habit. That’s right. It is actually fairly easy.

Here’s how I did it.

Before this challenge, this was my inner monologue:

“I know that I like writing, and I know that writing will be good for me. I also know that sharing my thoughts and starting some dialogue online could be good for my career. If possible, I really want to blog once a week.”

You know what I told myself this time?

“Shoot, this challenge is going to be a commitment, but I know I can do it. I will blog every day, and won’t go to sleep until a post is published every day.”

You see that?

The simple secret here is that internally, I told myself that I will do it. I made it a reality within my head. Psychologically, we have a need for our thoughts and actions to be self consistent. Once something becomes a reality in your head, it becomes much easier to take the actions to conform with the reality. It may not be easy, but it gets easier because you already believe that you are going to do it.

It sounds simple, but it most cases, it works. (Obviously, I say most because there are cases that are super difficult involving drugs, mental illnesses, etc.)

Think about it. How many times have you begun a new habit by saying you want something?

“I want to work out more. I want to read more. I want to date more. Yadda yadda yadda..”

I’ve said similar things to myself many times and failed. The truth of the matter is that every time I failed, it is because I didn’t really want these things. If I did, I would have done them.

That’s it!

Change your wants to wills. Believe it, and then take the actions that make sense.

You’ll be surprised how powerful it is. I am surprised every single time I do it.

…and now, I can finally go to sleep 🙂

P.S. This is post number #11 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!

Follow me on Twitter @alexshye.

Check out my current project Soulmix, your daily mix of food for the soul. Request an invite now for free access to the private beta!