a how to zine

If you google “habit tracking” you’ll be inundated with colorful, slightly daunting images of tight grids, tiny handwriting, and the abuse of the very popular brush script type treatment. It’s a very type-A Pinterest aesthetic, and while not inherently a bad thing, I think the cult of interest around it can make it appear to be very rigid when it in fact is a very straight forward tool, 100% custom to the user. 

Habit tracking is self reporting on a set of habits or goals that you decide you want to cultivate, improve or maintain. At it’s best it should a nonjudgemental tool to keep a record of your progress in these goals.

The process is simple: First, you generate a list of habits you want to track, such as “floss” or “no soda” or “exercise.” Note how these are all slightly different: flossing may be a daily habit you’re trying to build; drinking soda may be a habit you’re trying to break instead of build; your goal may not be to exercise every day, but just to keep track of how often you do it.

Then, unfold this zine and write in your habits to track on the left hand column. On the top row of this grid are numbers to denote the date. If you want to start in the middle of the month, that’s fine! I also included some ideas for habits to track.

Lastly is simply to create a moment in your day to fill out the card. Did you floss? Fill the box. Did you skip the gym? Leave the box blank. 

And that’s it! It seems deceptively simple because it really is. The magic of this practice is in sustained use: as the days go by, patterns will likely emerge. Maybe you drink soda more than you thought or you actually do go to the gym with regularity. By tracking your habits daily, it acts as a reminder for your own intentions. It keeps you honest. Seeing progress is a powerful form of motivation. Even on bad days you can put it in context of a path towards improvement, focusing on the progress, not just the result. It can serve as a reminder of how far you’ve come. And just the act of filling the box can be satisfying. 

I have a few tips and tricks from my own experience in habit tracking:

  • To start, pick habits that only take a few minutes from your day such as reading, make the bed, shower, take medications. 

  • Habits of avoidance are really powerful too, like no alcohol, television, or smoking

  • If you are skeptical of tracking multiple habits, start with just a couple. It’s better to consistently track one habit than sporadically track a dozen.

  • Sticking to a time and place to fill out your tracker each day helps build that habit as well. I keep mine on a side table I pass by on my way to bed. Alternatively, keep it with you and mark them as you complete the task each day. The method isn’t important, so long as it’s consistent.

  • I also recommend designating a marker or highlighter to be used exclusively for the tracker. It keeps it fun and also consistent.

  • And of course, there will be times where you break your streak. It’s hard to see on paper, but it reflects the messiness of life. Try to remember that this is a habit you decided to build: pick yourself up and be sure to do better tomorrow. 

After awhile, ideally you will have created a genuine habit, one where it starts to feel easy or second nature. Amazing! That’s the goal. There’s no timeline to say when you need to stop tracking, but one day you’ll realize you don’t need to track it anymore. But remember, creating a habit isn’t crossing a finish line; it’s a daily practice.

The habit tracker is a tool, a history, and I hope it helps you to build habits, and maintain real change. 

Photo Sep 01, 9 34 25 AM.jpg

Mini zine available exclusively
at Quimby’s and Build Coffee
in Chicago. Only $1!

(but the entire zine’s content is on this page!)

Habit Tracking Ideas:

Everyday Victories
remembered to fill out habit tracker, meditate 1 minute, do 1 push up, stretch for 1 minute, write 1 thing, make your bed, wake up by X time, go to bed by X time, take a shower, floss teeth, take medication, pooped, drank X amount of water, say “I love you” at least once, put all dishes put away, empty sink, take a walk outside, stretch, cleaned, bring lunch to work, wash and moisturize face

hung out with friends, went on an adventure solo, met someone new, call/text a loved one, sex, self care, volunteered

play an instrument for 1 minute, practice a language for 1 minute, journal 1 sentence, read 1 page, do # minutes of exercise, cook at home, draw, worked on a zine

Neutral Indulgence
watched a movie, watched tv, ate sweets, spent money, ate meat

Discouraged Indulgence 
ess than X amount of time on phone or social media, no booze, no smoking, no soda, no caffeine, no fast food