Meaning, Benefits, Examples, and Tools (2023)
Good habits can be hard to adopt. And even harder to keep up.
That’s where a habit tracker comes in.
There’s a lot of speculation about how long it takes before a new habit sticks. Some people say 21 days. Others say 66 days. And some say you’re never truly safe—you always need to stay on top of it.
In any case, a habit tracker will help keep things on track.
Habit trackers help you stay mindful of and accountable to the goals you set. I’ve been keeping my own habit tracker for two years now and it’s made a huge difference.
Curious how it all works?
In this article, we’ll look at what habit trackers are, their benefits, and some habits you can start tracking today. We’ll also look at a few of the best apps for tracking habits.
Let’s do this.
What is a habit tracker?
A habit tracker is exactly what the name suggests: a way to help you track how well you’re sticking with daily, weekly, or monthly habits.
A good habit tracker can come in many forms, from a sophisticated app to a sheet of paper and a pen.
In the end, it doesn’t actually matter what form your habit tracker takes. What does matter is that you find a habit tracker that works for you and your lifestyle—one that’s easy to update and fits in with the way you do things.
After all, what good is a habit tracker if you never use it?
When I first started my habit tracking journey, I didn’t know better.
I had just started a bullet journal and was excited to make everything elaborate and beautiful. My first month’s habit tracker was an impressive hand-drawn design.
Something like this:
But when the next month rolled around, I didn’t find the time to draw another habit tracker until a couple of weeks into the month. And that was a couple of weeks that didn’t get tracked!
Now, my habit trackers are a lot simpler. No fancy designs. No frills. Just a grid and a few lines so I can be in and out.
More like this:
Of course, you can also use an app so you don’t have to draw or write anything. More on that later.
Benefits of habit tracking
Keeping a daily habit tracker—or even just a monthly habit tracker—has plenty of benefits. Let’s look at a few.
A habit tracker makes goals feel more attainable
Having a huge long-term goal can be intimidating—so intimidating that some people never even start. But a daily habit tracker gives you small wins to look forward to every day.
You’re physically able to see the progress you’re making, and it helps to fuel you with motivation to keep going. It also breaks your bigger goals into smaller, day-by-day chunks, which helps you accomplish what you’re aiming for in the long run.
A habit tracker boosts your confidence
Are you the kind of person who makes to-do lists and checklists? Then you’ll love keeping a habit tracker. It’s its own kind of checklist when you think about it.
And just like you feel gratified when you check an item off your list, you feel that same sort of gratification with your habit tracker. There’s just something special about ticking off a box to say you completed a habit.
A habit tracker keeps you focused
If you’re anything like me, you might feel like you have an infinite list of things to accomplish on any given day. Not only does this feel intimidating, it also means you’re much more liable to get distracted and lose focus of your original goals and intentions.
A good habit tracker is a constant reminder of the healthy habits you’re trying to build in life. When you keep up with it, it’s like a permanent checklist to make sure you have everything covered.
A habit tracker helps you stay motivated
It’s a snowball effect as you keep doing your habits. When you look at all the little X marks you wrote down, you’ll feel an urge to keep your habit streak.
It can almost be addicting—like you’re playing a game that you don’t want to lose. There’s a lot of psychology research that shows that gamifying your life can be a great source of motivation and excitement.
What habits should I track?
The key to a successful and productive habit tracker is making sure you’re tracking the right things.
What I’ve found is that it’s hard to stick to habits that are too strict or specific. This includes those habits where you’re being too hard on yourself.
I’ve worked on my list from month to month, and here are the eight things I’m tracking on a daily basis:
- Mindfulness: If I meditated or journaled.
- Movement: If I got some meaningful physical activity, like a workout or a long walk.
- Knowledge: If I read, listened to a podcast, watched a documentary, etc.
- Gratitude: If I wrote at least one thing I’m thankful for.
- Water: If I drank at least two liters of water.
- Sleep: If I got at least 7 hours of sleep.
- Spanish: If I practiced Spanish for at least five minutes (shoutout to Duolingo!).
- Ukulele: If I spent at least five minutes practicing.
You’ll notice that for habits like Spanish practice and playing my ukulele, I set the bar pretty low: just five minutes a day.
I’ve found that when my goal is such a small amount of time, it’s a lot less intimidating to get started. And even though it’s easy to convince myself I don’t have any time to do my habits, it’s pretty tough to convince myself that I can’t spare five minutes for a task.
Another example is movement. A walk is acceptable—it doesn’t need to be a crazy, high-intensity, hour-long workout. Those are wonderful, but for a lot of busy people, they’re just not feasible every single day.
So as you set your habits, go easy on yourself!
If you want to try my approach, choose basic, simple, and broad labels for your daily habits to track. Start with short timeframes for a habit to “count” for the day, then increase the time frame after a couple of months once you know that you’re sticking to them.
Here are some habit ideas to track:
- Floss my teeth
- Make the bed
- Clean my room or home
- Do the dishes
- Take vitamins
- Take medication
- Do yoga
- Go for a run
- Lift weights
- Read a book
- Tell someone I love them
- Call a friend or family member
- Finish work by 5 p.m.
- Go to sleep by 11 p.m.
- Learn something new
- Cook dinner instead of ordering
- Random act of kindness
- Go outside
- Write in my journal
- Draw or paint
- Water my plants
- Eat at least five vegetables
- Eat at least three fruits
- Keep an empty email inbox
- Have some “me time”
- Pay my bills
- Do my bookkeeping
- Do schoolwork or study
And some bad habits to mark things you successfully avoided:
- No smoking
- No drinking alcohol
- No sugar
- No caffeine
- No meat Mondays
- No cursing
- No screen time after 10 p.m.
- No social media scrolling
What is the best habit tracker app?
If a manual habit tracker isn’t for you, no worries. There are loads of habit tracking apps you can take advantage of.
Let’s look at a few.
If you’re a data nerd, this habit tracker app is for you. Habitify has an easy-to-use interface and process. You tell it what you want to track, it reminds you multiple times a day (if you want), and then you can input your performance.
It also shows you loads of performance data that helps you to better understand your performance over time. The more data you have, the easier it is to uncover patterns and hack your own psychology so you can stick with your goals.
This one’s for all the gamers out there. Habitica is a digital habit tracker that takes the form of a role-playing game (RPG). You create an avatar, and as the days pass, your real-life actions impact the life of your avatar.
You can level-up to earn rewards and unlock special features. You can even battle monsters with your friends. And with more than four million Habiticans, it must be rewarding (and effective).
It’s available anywhere you want to track your habits: desktop, iOS, and Android.
This is a great habit tracker app if you’re ready to go all in. As the name suggests, you can work with personal coaches in addition to the standard functionality that other apps provide.
You can also get support from the Coach.me community. If you’ve ever had a workout buddy or work partner, you know the power of tapping into a community. This app helps you get some accountability, advice, and perspective.
It’s available everywhere: desktop, iOS, and Android.
Beeminder. Some people might think of Beeminder as a “last resort” habit tracker app… because it charges you money whenever you fail to complete your habits! If that’s not a solid motivation, I don’t know what is.
Beeminder has some amazing features, like the ability to import data from dozens of tools and apps like Gmail, Zapier, Duolingo, Fitbit, Twitter, Slack, and more. The app will read those apps to see what progress you’ve made against the goals you’ve set.
It’s available on iOS and Android.
This habit tracker app has some straight-forward tracking features, but an extra cool feature is the ability to export your data into an Excel document if you’d like to have records outside the app or your iCloud account.
And yes, iCloud means that this is a habit tracker iOS app only. Sorry, Android users. But it’s good news for iOS users, as the app was built specifically for the Apple ecosystem. That means smooth sailing for Apple fans.
This digital habit tracker is pretty standard as far as habit tracker apps go. But there’s a nifty feature that sets it apart from a lot of similar apps: you have a lot of flexibility in the way you track your habits.
You can set streak goals, which is helpful for activities like a 30-day challenge. You can also set an average for habits that you don’t necessarily need to do every day—for example, if I want to practice ukulele three times a week, on average.
This is another iOS habit tracker app that’s not available on Android.
Habit tracker: The first step to smashing your goals
Being an entrepreneur (or an aspiring entrepreneur) means striving for constant improvement, both personally and professionally.
Virtually every entrepreneur I’ve met in my life has had big dreams and goals. Some of those require a lot of work, and some of them are smooth sailing.
If you’re looking to level-up your life by building habits that lead to success and fulfillment, a simple habit tracker might be all you need to give you the jump start and motivation you’ve been looking for.
Just remember some key tips: Start small until you build your habits solidly. Go easy on yourself. And if one type of habit tracker doesn’t seem to work for you, try another.
If you keep your mind open and you’re willing to do some old-fashioned habit building, you’ll find something that works for you and helps you smash your goals.