This post will cover how I set up my habit tracking spreadsheet, how I track my habits, and how and when I know to add more habits.
I get a lot of questions on how I track my habit goals. This post is not a comparison of different methods, as I only tried one, and it works for me. I know there are habit tracker apps available, and I can’t comment on how they work, because I haven’t tried them. If you find one that you like, I’d love for you to show me sometime, just for curiosity’s sake. This method works great for me. Don’t be intimidated by the initial set-up. After you set up the spreadsheet for the first time, it takes less than a minute per day to track your habits. Really.
Step 3 – Set Up Your Habit Tracking Spreadsheet
You’ll need a spreadsheet program. It doesn’t matter if it is Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice Calc, or Google Sheets. I prefer Google Sheets because I can then access my spreadsheet from any device. If that isn’t important to you, use any spreadsheet program; it doesn’t matter which.
You can even copy my spreadsheet.
If you prefer to set up your spreadsheet from scratch, and can follow written directions well, here are the steps:
- Open a new document.
- Label the rows as follows: in cell A1, enter “Date.” This is your heading. In cell A2, enter your starting date (I highly recommend today’s date!). In cell A3, enter tomorrow’s date. Use your spreadsheet skills to drag it on down, so each day is the next day in the year. Stop when you hit the end date for your goal time frame.
- Label the columns as follows: in cell B1, enter your habit goal (example: Do a weight training workout 150 times by December 31). If you are working on a second habit (possibly not a good idea, but I did it and lived to tell the tale), enter that habit goal into cell C1. (If/when you add other habit goals, you will enter them into cells D1, E1, F1, etc).
- Go back to column A. Scroll down to the last row that is labeled with the end date for your goal time frame. In the row below that one, enter “Total”.
- Go to the “B” cell in that row. Enter a sum formula. (If you did your spreadsheet correctly, it will probably look like =SUM(B2:B365). The ending number may be a little different; just adjust the number to take all the cells into account. If you need help, ask me. Or ask someone good at spreadsheets that you know in real life.
If you are good at spreadsheets, put in percentage formulas below the total column. Then you will be able to see how close you are to accomplishing your goals.
Step 4 – Track Your Habit!
Once your spreadsheet is set up, here’s how to track your habit.
On each day, go to the row labeled with that day’s date. In each habit column, enter “1” if you did the the habit. If you didn’t do the habit, don’t enter anything.
If your sheet is set up correctly, your totals should calculate at the bottom in the “Total” row.
Step 5 – Adding More Habits
Another common question is “how often do you add new habit goals?”
I typically add new habit goals every 3-8 weeks, depending on how solid I am feeling with the habits already on my plate. The commonly quoted “it takes 21 days to make a habit” is not quite wrong; it’s more like a half-truth. It can take anywhere from 21 to 254 days to form a habit.
I have found that some habits are easier than others to establish. For example, remembering to take my Vitamin D was easy: once I added it to my spreadsheet, it gave me a daily reminder to take it, so that habit formed pretty quickly. Habits that take more time and planning may take more time to solidify. For example, movement habits or cooking habits may require more planning and more practice overcoming obstacles before they are really solidified.
My best advice is to be honest with yourself. How solid do you REALLY feel with your habit? Once you feel pretty solid, it may be time to consider adding a new habit. If you read Part I of this series and came up with a list of habits you wanted to try, just look at the list and choose the habit that you WANT to work on most, and add that one. Go back to step 1, and repeat the steps as needed.
As I added more habits, I added them to my spreadsheet. You can even categorize and color code them, if it makes you happy. (See the second tab in the spreadsheet linked).
A Possibly Optional, but Highly Recommended Step
I’m not technically sure this step is optional, since I used it. I feel this step has been key to my success. However, I can’t swear that it MUST be used.
This step is practicing self-awareness. During the year, as you practice your habits, notice how you are feeling. Before, during and after doing your habits. As you track them. Always ask yourself if the habits are enriching your life, or making it worse. Adjust accordingly if needed.
If you are new to my blog, here are some of my previous posts on habits. These will give you an idea of how the past year has looked for me as I focused on building habits, and where and how I used self-awareness to modify as needed.
- How Did I Get Here?
- Just do one!
- Finding Time to Work Out
- Motivation: I’m Not Sure Why I’m Doing This
- Inertia, and a New Habit for my Introverted Self
- Taking the Stress Out of Training
- 100 Strength Workouts! And Joy Sparked
- Trail Walk Detour
- Training Modification
- Today I Finished!
- Strengthening My Patience Muscle
- Learning Curve: Packing Lunch
- Mastering Walking Before Trying To Run
- Habit Cultivation: Adults Have Developmental Stumbles, Too!
- Balancing Priorities (Weightlifting, parenting, and enjoying the process)
- Active Listening and Active Rest
- Role Models Part 3: Self-talk and Self-Listening
- Refining Goals, Saving Money
- Turning Back the Clock: Bringing Back an Old Habit
- Changing Weather, Changing Options, Changing Strategies
- Seasonal Challenges: Motivation and Sleep
- Habit Cultivation for Financial Goals: My Personal Experience
- Letting “Good” Beat “Perfect,” Kitchen Edition
- A New Habit. Somewhat conflicted, but it’s going well
This concludes my series on setting sustainable habit goals….for now. If you have a question I did not address, leave a comment! I’ll be happy to answer questions in a follow up post. Happy habit forming!