How to Reach Your Goals Using Habit Tracking

 
How Habit Tracking is Helping me Reach my Goals - stacykessler.001.jpeg
 

Watch my video about this below or scroll past to read the article.

 

Routines & habits

I’ve always been the sort of person who reflects on how things are going in life and focuses on self improvement, but lately I’ve been having a hard time making things stick. I recently sold my first business and it drastically changed my lifestyle. While the sale was definitely a good thing overall it totally got me out of a routine and some bad habits have taken over.

I’ve been trying out ways to form new routines and break bad habits for the past six months but nothing seemed to be working until… HABIT TRACKING.

How habits can change your life

A little while back I heard a quote on a podcast, I believe it was Amy Porterfield’s, Online Marketing Made Easy:

People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures. -F.M. Alexander

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This struck me instantly and I wrote it down in my notes app.

I was recently scanning through my notes and saw the quote. I had previously heard about the book Atomic Habits by James Clear and decided it was finally time to read it. I was ready for positive change in my life.

I listened to the book in record time, and it was packed full of so much good information. I started seeing my actions through the lens of habits - both good and bad. The whole idea of the book is how tiny changes can have remarkable results over time (think compounding effect).

I decided to start forming some new habits immediately. He had many suggestions for how to break bad habits and make good habits stick, but I was most intrigued by the idea of habit tracking and bought his Habit Journal (though the journal isn’t required to do this, I’m a journal fanatic so I was all-in).

Don’t break the streak

Habit tracking is not a new technique, but it can be a very powerful one.

Jerry Seinfeld has famously been writing one joke a day for decades. No wonder he’s so good! His only goal was to not break the streak. Do it every day and don’t miss a day. This is a habit he formed in order to become a great comedian, and boy did it work.

It works because quantity, not planning for quality, is what helps us get better. The act of doing forces us to learn. The more we do, the better we get. The effects are much greater than waiting to do something until we’ve conceptually learned how to do it well. Start off doing it crappy and you’ll be much better at it much faster than wasting all that upfront time planning. The key here is being willing to accept that your first efforts aren’t going to be your greatest efforts.

Focus on quantity over quality to become great

In the book and on his website James Clear shares the example of a teacher’s experiment from the book Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. This professor, Jerry Uelsmann, at the University of Florida, divided his film photography students into two groups. One group was the quantity group and one group was the quality group.

The quantity group would be graded on the number of photos they took - 100 photograph would get them an A. The quality group only had to turn in one photo and their grade would be determined based on the quality of that one photo.

The result? All the best photos came from the, wait for it…quantity group. This was because they focused on doing and as they photographed, they learned and got better at composition, lighting, developing. Contrast this with the quantity group that didn’t spend their time experimenting and taking photos. Instead they conceptualized how to take the best photos. The result? The photos weren’t that great.

This story stood out because I naturally put myself into the quality group because I think that the more planning and conceptualizing and consuming content that I do, the better I’ll be. I wait until I have things all figured out (at least in my head and on paper) to take action. And then I wonder why I’m sometimes paralyzed from taking action, because I wait for perceived perfection when I do the thing, I’m not happy with the result because it’s far from perfection.

Starting small, sort of

I decided to change my approach. No more planning to be healthy. No more learning about using social media effectively. No more endless to-do lists to figure out where to focus my time.

I was just going to start doing things. Now.

One of the things he stresses is to start small. I have a hard time with this too. When I resolve to do something, I get excited and try to change everything all at once to fix it. However, when you throw the kitchen sink at something and it works, you don’t know what actually made it work. But more often than not, it doesn’t work because once your excitement wears off (which it will) that kind of crazy magnitude of change isn’t sustainable.

I still started with more change than he would probably recommend, but you know, this is an example of just doing the thing versus spending so much time figuring out what the one thing is I was supposed to start with and never actually starting.

Figuring out what habits to track

So I got my habit journal and wrote down the identities I wanted to reinforce with my habits:

  1. My time, money, and energy are in alignment with the lifestyle I want to live and the impact I want to have.

  2. I transform others through my life and work.

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Then I brainstormed what these would specifically mean for my life. For example:

  • I have boundaries with work and rest

  • I produce a ton of valuable content

  • I am vulnerable and share my development and my mistakes

  • I get up early

  • I take care of myself and live a healthy lifestyle

  • I am clean and tidy, reducing clutter in my life

Finally, I brainstormed how to start small, using the principles in his book (another post for another day), to form these habits.

stacy kessler habit brainstorm
 

Uncover your opportunity areas to know where to start

If you want to form new habits to help you in your business but aren’t sure what to focus on, uncover on your opportunity areas with my free reflection guide below.

What’s on my habit tracker

These are the habits I’m currently tracking and trying to do everyday along with the reason.

  • Make my bed: Tidy home. Accomplish something early. Sleep better next night.

  • Spent time with God in the morning: Spiritual connection. Ground myself for the day. Seek council on business and life.

  • Vlog: Practice quantity over quality with content creation. Be more vulnerable. Impact others. Not worry about perfection.

  • Spent 15+ minutes outside: Fresh air and the outdoors rejuvenates and energizes me. Makes sure I get out of the house.

  • Do something active: Get moving and be less sedentary, even if it’s walking the dogs. Live a healthier, more active lifestyle.

  • Write one line on how my actions that day supported by desired identity: Celebrate accomplishments. Reflect on why I did things. Be more motivated to do better tomorrow if today wasn’t great.

  • Write down tomorrow’s #1 priority: Get focused on the most important thing I should spent my time on. Be more impactful and productive.

  • Bedtime routine: Be healthier. Trigger my body and brain that it’s bedtime.

  • Lights out by 11 pm: Get better sleep for better health. Be able to wake up earlier to enjoy the mornings and be more productive.

stacy kessler habit tracker
 

How the habit tracker is working

I started with seven habits. They were a mix of old habits that went by the wayside but I wanted to start up again, some that I had already started weeks prior, tweaked habits, and totally new habits.

I hadn’t broken my streak with the first seven in a while and it didn’t feel difficult to do them so I decided to add two more difficult ones: vlogging and the lights out. As they become easier I’ll continue to add more or up the ante to push myself further on some of them. It depends where I want to focus change.

I’m really enjoying this method because it fits well with how I’m motivated. I do NOT want to break the streak! I like seeing my progress. I am also reminded of the habits I want to form that aren’t automatic yet every time I look at the habit tracker list.

Some of them I may need to tweak. For example, I’m already thinking I may have to adjust the 11pm lights out rule to something else. My night owl nature is so engrained with me that even though technically the lights are out, I’m on my phone. That’s because I couldn’t possibly go to sleep because I’m thinking about something like work or shifting towards a more minimalist, zero waste, plant-based lifestyle. I may need to instead shift my target habit first to restrict myself from certain types of content, activities, or media by a certain time, or make a no phone on the nightstand rule, so that sleep seems more appealing.

In a nutshell: Habit tracking

  • People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures. -F.M. Alexander

  • I highly suggest reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear about how tiny changes can have remarkable results over time (think compounding effect). There are so many more ways to make a habit stick besides a habit journal that he covers in the book, but this is the one I’ve found most effective so far.

  • Focus on quantity over quality to get better. The act of doing forces us to learn. The more we do, the better we get.

  • Use a habit tracker to get in your reps with developing a new habit. Write down all the habits you want to do on a regular basis down a column. Then, cross off everything single day you do it. Try to keep the streak going. If you miss a day, start again. Try to never miss two days in a row. Get this journal or do in on paper or in a spreadsheet.

  • To figure out what habits to start with, write down the identity you want to reinforce with your habits. Then brainstorm what somone with that identity would do or how they would approach life. Choose a few to start with. Then for each of those, brainstorm a small way you can start to work towards it. Pick one to start with and add it to your habit tracker.

  • Not sure what to focus on? Download my free reflection guide to uncover your opportunity areas.

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stacy kessler - pathfinding strategist

Hey There!

I’m Stacy Kessler, an entrepreneur, strategist, and adventurer dedicated to helping you figure out how to craft a unique, compelling, and profitable business you love around your expertise and passion.

You are meant to do important and amazing things in this world and I’m here to help you do just that.

 

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