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Healthy Habits Series: Habit 4 – Don't be a slave to your habits

Do we have to track habits all of the time? Are we set on a specific course when we decide to measure certain things? Of course not! All things are changeable as all we can do is learn from what we are - and aren't good at and modify our habits from there,
Healthy Habits Series: Habit 4 - Don't be a slave to your habits

So, we’ve almost come to an end of my Healthy Habits series and I thought I’d share a few insights with you.

For those of you who don’t know, I have been tracking a variety of different tasks over the course of the past month, from seeing if I have a "Meat Free" day, reading a chapter of a book to making sure I sort my recycling out.

I’ve never been one for tracking anything – unless for some reason I was being super-competitive with someone else (or myself). I go through stages where I will exercise and meticulously mark down what I did, how long for, how I felt etc. Then I go for months without lifting a finger – I don’t track that though!

This month has been a bit of an eye opener for me. For a start I decided to track "Me Time". I defined that as being at least 30 minutes I could call my own not doing work on the blog, answering emails/texts, working on stuff for my local football club or things people threw at me and it struck me how little time I put to one side for myself. Once I started tracking it, it made me so much more aware of how important getting 30 minutes for me was.

I also decided to track how much I was reading – and consciously decided to keep this separate from "Me Time" as I wanted to encourage reading as a separate habit and this seems to be something I’ve really struggled with – however I’m now great at seeing whether my plants need watering which has always lead to a few "deaths" in the past.

How I’ve Dealt With My Habit Trends

I can see from what I’ve been tracking that I have some issues around weekends in that I don’t really complete anything – which is not surprising really. What does surprise me is that I had a period of being really good at reading and then it just seemed to peter out – I know I wanted to read but just never got around to it or just couldn’t be bothered.

The other thing that’s annoyed me is that I haven’t achieved is the "Seven Hours Sleep", I was hoping that tracking the times I did (or didn’t) get 7 hours would spur me into going to bed earlier. The problem was I had a couple of nights where I had to get stuff finished and I pretty much had to stay up and this seemed to have a knock on effect – I will say though it’s made me more aware of my bedtimes and I am going to bed much earlier (if you can believe that!) than I was before, and consequently getting more sleep than I was – although not as much as I was hoping for.

When I’ve looked at my habit tracker I’ve tried to balance everything out so that if I haven’t read for a couple of days for example I’ll read a few extra chapters the following day so that I don’t feel so badly about it all but that’s like not running for 3 days and then cramming a marathon all in to one day, it’s not really the point of starting a regular habit.

There are a couple of things I’ve failed miserably on and do you know what? I’m okay with that! We can’t be perfect all of the time, and we can’t do everything 100% of the time.

What this form of tracking helps us to do is to figure out what we may be putting off in the long term (and why) through patterns, identify bottle necks and then figure out ways to get these items a regular part of our routine – through repetitiveness and tracking or by a reward system.

What Have I Learned From Tracking My Habits?

That It’s Okay To Fail

We can’t be perfect all of the time, and not only that outside event will always conspire against our best intentions to mess up any productive or meditative plans we have.

You Don’t Have To Track Everything

Does it matter I didn’t water the plants on Wednesday or put my Recycling in the bin on Friday? As long as I check the plant and it doesn’t die and the Recycling goes in the bin before it’s collected do I need to track it?

You Don’t Have To Fill Your Tracker In Every Day

I see in some groups on Facebook that people are in a real state because they haven’t filled in their journal for the past couple of days and feel bad about it. As long as you can keep a mental (or paper) note of your habits, then fill it in whenever. Please don’t be beholden to a bit of paper, you don’t have to fill it out there and then.

It’s Okay To Change Goals

You may be tracking something for a couple of weeks and realise that it’s not what you’re after looking at. Don’t stick with it: Change it. There’s no point in tracking something that is of no use, isn’t going to work or is out of date.

What’s My Next Step?

I had initially decided just to track my habits over the month of September but I think I’m going to continue into October too.

I’ll be changing up some of the things I’m tracking (no need to track looking after house plants!) but I think it provides a useful oversight into things need that should form a regular habit.

Any ideas what other items I need to track? let me know in the comments – I’d be most interested in what I may have missed.

If you’re not into the whole "Bu-Jo" paper style of planning then take a look at my Goal And Habit Tracker Sheet which allows you to track your daily goals.

It’s Not Easy

The one thing I’ve learned is that a habit – nor its outcome comes easy. I’ve been meticulously noting my meals and exercise and doing so it a form of encouragement to carry on the "good work", but it is difficult. There’s always the "I’m too busy" or "I’m too tired" or "I did extra yesterday" as an excuse. But do you know what? tracking my efforts makes me want to continue and want to do better, especially if I’ve not had a great run on things.

Over To You

Do you track your habits? If so, how? Do you struggle and do your goals change based on what you are and aren’t achieving? Let us know in the comments – I look forward to reading your take on things.

Healthy Habits Series

full course
  1. Weekly Round-Up #87: Healthy Tips To Get You Back On Track After The Summer
  2. Healthy Habits Series: Habit 1 – Choosing and Tracking Habits
  3. Weekly Round-Up #88: Tracking your Goals, Why Scoring Goals Is Good For You and How You Can Safely Select Produce
  4. Healthy Habits Series: Habit 2 – The Importance Of Meal Planning
  5. Weekly Round-Up #89: Standing Is Still The Best Medicine, Bad Office Habits & Why We All Need A Hygge
  6. Healthy Habits Series: Habit 3 – How Your Diet Can Affect Your Productivity
  7. Weekly Round-Up #90: Your smartwatch is making you fat, eat all the cheese you want and Turmeric FTW!
  8. Healthy Habits Series: Habit 4 – Don't be a slave to your habits
  9. Weekly Round-Up #91: Healthy Habits Round-Up

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