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What Is A Habit Tracker And How To Use It To Train Willpower


What Is A Habit Tracker And How To Use It To Train Willpower


"Habit Tracker"
Habit Tracker

Drinking more water, jogging in the evenings, or at least making your bed every day are all good habits that can sometimes be difficult to develop. This is where a habit tracker can help. Understanding what it is


What is a Habit Tracker?



A habit tracker is a spreadsheet-calendar or application in which you fix a goal, and then note how regularly you worked on it. For example, you decide to start exercising in the morning. You start a habit tracker and check off every day you actually exercised. It is assumed that the tracker will help turn a regularly repeated thing into a habit.

A habit is an action that is done automatically. There is a myth that it takes 21 days to establish a habit. However, researchers are now leaning towards the idea that it takes 18 to 254 days to develop automatism. The average term is 66 days [1] .


Automatism begins with a psychological model called the “habit loop” [2] : the urge to do something (for example, make an unnecessary purchase) – the action itself (purchase) – the result: the reward that a person receives in the end (the joy of a new acquisition ) [3] .

Dopamine spikes in the brain when rewarded, one of the hormones that plays a vital role in how happy we are [4] . The brain remembers this situation and the next time it deliberately pushes us to an action that contributes to the production of this hormone. Related to this is the difficulty of forming good habits and getting rid of bad ones: our brain encourages us to do something that will give a quick release of dopamine. And the more often we repeat some action in pursuit of dopamine, the better this behavior is fixed [5] . In other words, automatism is developed [6] .

When we try to develop a healthy habit, we don’t get immediate rewards. Therefore, people often quit what they started in the middle: it’s easier to get dopamine by watching a series than by sweating your brow to train in the gym with a distant prospect of losing 10 kg.

This is why many people use a habit tracker. It gives a momentary incentive that encourages a person to act again and again and teaches to control himself with less effort – the desired action gradually turns into a habitual way of life.

In fact, the tracker is a table. In the first column, enter the habit that they want to develop or that they want to get rid of. The rest of the columns are labeled with dates. On these days, the task needed to consolidate the habit is performed, and a mark is made – the task is completed. The name comes from the English word track , which means “track”.

The simplest tracker is a calendar where you cross off days. Even better, draw a table in a diary or on a piece of paper, or print a ready-made template. Depending on the goals, select a time period for the tracker: a week, a month, 100 days, or a year, if we are talking about getting rid of a bad habit.

And there are many tracker apps available. It is easy to enter new goals in them, make daily notes and view task completion statistics.

"Habit Tracker"
Habit Tracker

How the habit tracker works


The tracker helps to “deceive” the brain. Noting his successes in the table, a person sequentially goes through the stages:


Motivation to action. A constant reminder of exactly what needs to be done is in front of your eyes.

Visible progress. Each tick on the tracker is a small victory that fuels the will to keep going. Follow-up of nearly 1,700 people at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Research Center found that participants who track their progress in losing weight or quitting smoking and keep records are more likely to reach their goal than those who do not [7]. Tracking also helps you be honest with yourself. Most of us think we are doing better than we really are [8]. Checkboxes in the tracker are one way to overcome self-deception and notice what happens every day.

Instant Reward. When the task for today is completed and we put a tick in the tracker, the brain registers success and receives the release of the pleasure hormone dopamine, here and now. For example, a person who wants to get an athletic body is not obsessed with six-pack abs – he is simply trying not to miss workouts, not to interrupt the chain of actions. And he receives dopamine as a reward every time he marks that the task is completed [9] .


What can you use a habit tracker for?


A habit tracking chart or app can help reinforce habits such as:


Regular exercise;

Early rises;

Early going to bed;

The use of vitamins;

Healthy diet;

Regular cleaning, etc.

Another option is to track bad habits. For example, you can mark days:


Without social networks;

Without online shopping;

Without extra expenses;

Without alcohol;



No smoking;

No fast food

Without quarrels and shouting;

No delays;

Without skipping workouts.


How to keep a habit tracker


There are two main tracker options: paper and mobile. The choice of format depends on your purpose and frequency of action. If you prefer to mark progress on paper, but do not want to waste time drawing a table, you can find hundreds of templates on the Internet – print the one that suits you and use it.

"Habit Tracker"
Habit Tracker

For example, you want to do a short workout every day. To do this, you need a tracker for a month, 100 days or a year – as you wish. You write down the target and place the tracker in a prominent place.

Every time you finish a workout, you mark that day with a tick and get a portion of the pleasure that the job is completed. You can mark with a cross, hatching, a colored marker, a sticker – whatever will please you. Daily satisfaction from doing an important thing will encourage you to continue working on yourself. As a result, training will become a familiar part of the day.

There are more difficult goals, for example, to lose weight. It involves a whole range of habits that need to be developed or abandoned. To achieve this goal, break it down into its components. For example:

Stop eating after 8 pm;

Do not eat sweets;

Eat a lot of vegetables;

Go to bed on time;

Do squats and other exercises.

Similarly, write down each habit and complete the task.


It is important to remember the situation. If you keep washed fruits and vegetables in front of your eyes, it increases the likelihood that they will be eaten.

"Habit Tracker"
Habit Tracker

How not to abandon the tracker


It happens that the motivation ends and you don’t want to make any more efforts. Instead of training, I want to sit on social networks, instead of a healthy dinner, I want to order fast food. This is because the phone is at hand, and dumbbells and sneakers are in the closet; you need to cook healthy food, and to order pizza, you need to poke a few buttons in the application.


A few tips to make your habit tracker work more efficiently:


Create a favorable environment. Put your sneakers and dumbbells in a conspicuous place, prepare dinner ingredients in advance, and do not keep forbidden foods in the house. It can be about anything, not just sports and food. Even small positive changes in the environment can help form a big and important habit [10] .

Work on a small number of habits at any given moment. There is no right amount of habits, but make sure you don’t overload yourself or they can become overwhelming. It’s easier to introduce 2-3 habits, and when they are brought to automatism, start working on new ones.

Do not scold yourself if you missed 1-2 times. The neural connections needed to form a new habit have already begun to take shape – they are still there despite the break [11] . When you return to working on yourself, the neural connections will continue to strengthen.

Don’t skip too many times. This will start a new habit of doing nothing. Even if you missed a lot due to illness, make an effort – the habit will begin to return.

Keep track of those habits that are really important to you. An unimportant goal is a waste of energy.

Make a note as soon as the action is completed. So you will receive rewards in time – the hormone of pleasure and positive emotions.

It may seem difficult at first. But with the gradual growth of neural connections, the desired action will turn into automatism [12] . What was an effort will become a way of life.


Examples of habit trackers

App habit trackers


For people who prefer technology, there are tons of useful applications. They are similar to paper trackers: you need to introduce a new habit, set the required frequency of actions – every day, once a week or another, and do not forget to mark when the task is completed.


Benefits of a mobile habit tracker:


He is always at hand;

You can maintain many tables at once;

There are statistics;

There are reminders;

some tracker apps are in the form of a game or include game elements such as missions, game levels, and competition. As a reward in gamified applications , progress indicators, achievements (“achievements”), accrual of the application’s internal currency, leaderboards, and the like are used.

But apps have a downside – a person prone to phone addiction may get too carried away with an app or a game that is built into it. Therefore, if you want to reduce screen time, there are options for simple applications without built-in games. Below are some of the most popular mobile habit trackers.


Habitica (Android, iOS) – RPG style tracker

RPG mechanics used:


skills and achievements;

new missions;

game gold;

character customization;

you can breed “mounts” and animals;

team play is possible.

Of the minuses: there are no standard functions of a task book and a habit tracker, for example, a calendar.

Grow (Android) – grow a tree and reach the goal


Habit tracker with a game element – you need to complete the tasks and grow your plants. Of the features:


The tree grows or withers depending on the performance of a given action;

There is a built-in calendar to track progress;

There is a personal journal – you can insert photos.

Of the minuses – you can’t share it on social networks, there is no Russian language, but the interface is simple and intuitive.

Productive – Habit Tracker (Android, iOS) – Habit tracker and to-do list in one

Of the features:

Friendly interface;

Smart statistics – tracking progress using charts;

Scheduling tasks at any time between tasks,

Colorful design.

Habitshare (Android, iOS) – social network with habit tracker


Tracking habits with friends: you support them, and they support you;

Message exchange;

One account for several devices;

Flexible schedule for each habit;

There are private tasks if you do not want to show your friends.

Minus – only English.

It is important to understand that the key to developing a habit is the convenient way. It should be simple, flexible and promote self-control. And if one type of habit tracker doesn’t work, you might want to look for another one that works for you.


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