How to Start a New Habit (and a Free Printable Habit Tracker)June 18, 2019 • By Tara Ziegmont
In 2018, I had an amazing streak going: I walked every single day for over 240 days.
And then I hurt my knee weight lifting and broke my toe when I stubbed it on a dumbbell, (All the injuries came from weight lifting!) and I couldn’t walk for a few days which turned into a few weeks.
I’ve walked close to five days a week since my foot and knee healed, but it’s been hard to get back into the everyday habit.
Most days I walk, but some days I don’t, choosing grad school work or blog work or homeschool stuff in favor of my self-care and the current book I’m listening to.
I recognized the need in myself for a visual reminder of my habit, the need for a motivator that goes above and beyond just feeling better or having more energy or losing weight in some nebulous future.
I tried tracking my walking habit in my planner. I also tried tracking in my bullet journal (which I use for different things than my planner, in case you’re wondering why I use both). Neither worked because the goal and the habit were not right in front of me, staring me in the face day in and day out. It was easy to forget about them.
I looked for something on Pinterest but didn’t find anything that really suited what I wanted. There were tons of ideas for bullet journal layouts, but I already knew that wasn’t going to work for me since I don’t keep my bu-jo out and open all day long. (I don’t have the desk space for that with three large computer monitors and all sorts of ephemera laying around!)
That’s when I decided to make my own little habit tracker that I could hang on the wall behind my desk. I reminds me that nothing is as important as my health, and I need to get up and get moving every day.
After I created it, I found other uses for this simple printable.
Using the habit tracker as a token economy
My daughters have recently started fighting. They’ve always quarreled on and off (as all siblings do), but they’ve started physically abusing each other, a scratch here, a smack there. I am totally NOT okay with this sort of behavior, and I have a zero tolerance policy.
Unfortunately, my zero tolerance policy and associated punishments have not quelled the behaviors, so I reached out to my therapist for advice. “Incentivize good behavior,” she suggested.
I repurposed my habit tracker into a good behavior chart. Every day they do not abuse each other, the girls get to put a sticker over a circle. When they get to 14, they’ll each be able to choose a $5 treat at the store. When they get to 28, Joe and I will take them out to dinner to celebrate their success. We may do that again when they finish the chart, but I think once they get to 28, the behavior will be largely forgotten.
My therapist is really big on token economies and rewarding good behavior, so I’m excited to see how the sticker chart will work for their behavior. I just can’t deal with them scratching, hitting, and kicking each other, so I’m hopeful that it will work.
This pretty little printable is a single page without a lot of fuss or graphics. I did it that way on purpose to save on ink and paper and to make it easy for you. Print it out, hang it up in a prominent spot (mine’s in my home office where I spend 8+ hours a day, but on your fridge would be another really good spot), and check off the days as you do them.
How to mark off the days on your habit tracker
When I am doing this chart for myself, I mark off the days as dates. So if I start on June 3 and miss June 6, I would leave day 3 blank and cross off day 4 on June 7. I want to get a good streak of everyday walking going, and leaving a blank circle shows me that I missed that day. I hope that’s not too confusing.
However, when I am doing it for my children to encourage good behavior, I just have them do it sequentially. If they would miss June 6, but achieve their goal on June 7, I would have them put a sticker on the number 3. I’m not going for a streak so much as consistent good behavior, so it doesn’t matter if they miss a day as long as they’re making progress.
You can do your chart either way. It’s totally up to you.
My goal with this habit tracker
My goal here is to never, ever have 2 missed days in a row. If I can get through my whole 63 days with minimal misses and never 2 misses in a row, I will have created a good habit that will carry me through the summer and into the fall.
As with my children, I’ll treat myself after 30 days and after I finish the chart, although I’m not quite sure what non-food item I could treat myself with. I used to go for pedicures, but I got a nail fungus once and the doctor told me to stop doing that because nail places are hotbeds of disease. So that’s out. Most likely, I’ll buy myself a little something like the Pandora charm I’ve had my eye on. It’s a hot air balloon, and I will be soaring into good health. ha.
© 2019, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.