Master Your Habits by Tracking Them52 Weeks of Habits

Aug07

I mentioned in the last post how tracking our health and productivity gives us a greater insight into how those are changing day to day and how different things we’re doing might be affecting them. The more data that we have on how parts of our lives that we want to control are changing, the easier it is to know how we can best manipulate them in the future. The same is true for our habits.

By having a reliable way of tracking our habit successes and failures, we can see what days and times we’re most likely to “fall off” during. We can also see if certain periods of time were bad for our habits, or if certain experiments simply didn’t work. By being able to easily evaluate our self experiments like this, we can test a larger number of variables and keep honing in on the ideal set up for whatever it is we’re trying to achieve.

don't break the chainIn order to track our habits though, we need a good method. The most common one used for tracking day to day habit success is called “The Seinfeld Method” or “don’t break the chain.” With “don’t break the chain” the idea is that every day you succeed at your habit you’re adding another link to an ever growing chain. As that chain becomes longer, it gets stronger, but the perceived punishment of failure also increases. Breaking a ten-link chain would feel a lot worse than breaking a one link chain, since you know it would take you another ten days to get back to where you were before. Any application like Duolingo that uses a “streak” system takes advantage of the same thought process. They know that if you start to build up a streak, you’ll keep coming back every day to keep it going.

There are two ways to do this for your habits: manually, or through a web application. If you do it manually you’ll need a calendar, or a notebook, or an excel spreadsheet, or any place where you can write down each day whether or not you succeeded. You can also add a “streak counter” to show your success over time, and get an idea of how well you’re doing.

The digital method is, in my opinion, much better though. It’s a cleaner way of recording your success, you get a nice visual representation of your past successes, and there are other elements that you can’t get from the manual method. There are a few methods for tracking your habits online, but I want to focus on the one that I like the most: Lift.

Why Lift Will Help You Change Your Habits

Liftapp

 

It took me a while to start using Lift, but now that I’m using it daily I can’t imagine keeping track of my habits without it. It’s a very clean and simple tool for Web and iOS that lets you hit a big “check” for every day that you do a habit successfully. While you can create your own detailed habits, you can also add popular habits or habits that other people have added to the system. You keep a list of all your habits on your home screen, and then check them off every day to get your streaks going.

Lift is Quick and Easy

Assuming you’re logged in, all you have to do to check off a habit is go to the website, click the habit, and then click the check. It’s a very quick 3-step process, and with the “lightness” of their website it loads very quickly. It doesn’t feel like a burden to open it every few hours and check off what I’ve done.

Lift is Social

You can add your  friends on Lift and follow each others habits. When you do this, you have an “activity” feed that shows you what all of your friends have accomplished recently, and you can give them “props” or leave a comment. It gives you a subtle way to brag about all the great habits your building, as well as a degree of public accountability to not fail. If you don’t check in, people who you’re close with will notice that you haven’t been keeping up on a habit and might ask you about it.

Lift Helps You REmember EVerything You’re Doing

I track a lot of habits. Right now, my Lift queue has 24 different habits in it. If I weren’t using this app, there’s no way that I’d remember to do all of them every day. It’s just too much to always keep in the back of your mind, and while a manual version would work as well, having this visible check list of what I’ve done and not done makes it so much easier. If you’re interested in trying to develop a bunch of small habits, Lift makes it very easy.

Great Graphs

For every habit you track, you get a graph of how well you’ve done with that habit each week. It shows you the past 6 weeks (including the current one) and how many times you did that habit each week. You can also go into a more detailed view where you can see how much you’ve done it by month, and a color coded calendar that shows whether or not you did it each day. Finally, you can even see color coded trends of how well you’ve stuck to all of your habits or individual ones over time, and get a better idea of when and on what you falter.

Groups

Lastly, there are a ton of groups on Lift run by different people that feature their most important habits. If you’re a Tim Ferriss fan there’s a 4 Hour Body group, if you like the Getting Things Done method there’s one for that, and I went ahead and made one as well. When you join it you’ll get signed up for:

  1. Waking Up Early
  2. Daily Rule of Three
  3. Productivity Tracking

I tried to be a bit unique in the habits I chose while also sticking to what’s gotten the most traffic on this site. I think that these are the three habits that have improved my life the most, and I hope to see you there!

Photo credits to rachelolson.blogspot.com and http://lift.do

 

 

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