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Keeping Track of Habits and Achieving New Year’s Resolutions

Keeping Track of Habits and Achieving New Year’s Resolutions

According to U.S News and World Report, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is about 80% with most folks losing motivation by mid-February.

There is a serious need for structure when creating and completing goals in the new year. Setting ourselves up for sure success can be a challenge in itself, yet the return on our time and effort pays off in the end. When we meet our goals, we experience the unmatched feeling of completing something new through discipline and consistency.

It takes approximately 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit, yet “motivation is temporary.” Because we are most motivated when we first begin creating a habit, we need to use that time wisely before motivation wears thin. The first few weeks should be used to create routines that help us solidify habits. Tracking our habits is a great way to make the most of our motivation and stay on track with our habits. When we develop new behaviors, we can boost our self-confidence and experience better well-being - all on top of the benefits we reap from our newly formed habits.

The Psychology Behind Habits and Tracking Them

Following through on tracked habits includes many benefits such as accountability, planning skills, better organization, overall efficacy, and greater motivation. For these benefits to be potent, we need reassurance and feedback that we’re on the right track while we wait for results. That is where tracking our habits becomes so effective in reaching success.

The Stages of Change Model, as described by VeryWell Mind,  is a way to understand the stages people go through before they are capable of making a change. Here are the five steps we experience before a habit forms:

  1. Precontemplation. In this stage, we have not yet determined that a change needs to be made or that a problem exists, yet we begin to recognize that there might be a change we can or want to make. 
  2. Contemplation. In the second stage, we are aware that a change can be made but we have not decided if we are going to take action to resolve the problem yet. We might lack the knowledge, confidence, or motivation to make the change.
  3. Preparation. Here we begin planning. We have committed to making the change yet we need time to research or make a plan for how we will go about changing or starting a behavior. Many of us skip this stage and begin a behavior without preparation, which can cause us to prematurely fail in creating a habit.
  4. Action: The fourth stage is where we actually make the change. We are most determined in this stage and search for reward, motivation, and support.

According to licensed clinical psychologist Terry Bly, “people who stick with their New Year’s resolutions are likely at the Action stage while those that fail are not.

5. Maintenance: If the action stage succeeds, we then move on to the last stage where we discover how we will maintain the behavior. This is a difficult stage as we battle the temptation to quit, therefore it is important to check our progress and keep the end goal at the top of our minds.

Habit tracking makes the Stages of Change Model possible - it helps us better understand our behaviors and gives us the tools to identify our current patterns so that we can create and practice compatible habits.

While tracking habits is a motivational tool, it should be used wisely. Psychologist Sherry Benton, Ph.D says while tracking our habits, we should also be taking note of our emotions. During the first few weeks of practicing a new behavior, it is important to recognize how the behavior is making us feel. If we start to feel guilty, stressed, or ashamed rather than motivated or improved, a habit tracker may not be the best tool to use. Social support can be more beneficial in this case.

Moderation is key when starting new habits and tracking them. If our routines become constrictive and we feel guilty, the new behavior or rigid goal does not fit our daily patterns. 

First, Let’s Check Our Goals

Before we dive into the subject of habit tracking, let’s first define what a good goal is. A good goal makes creating a habit more promising, in fact, goal setting is associated with a 10x increase in success!

Using the tried and true SMART goals acronym helps us create good goals. Our goals should be Specific, Measurable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. They should also be realistic and sustainable so that they are truly achievable. 

If you’re looking to begin exercising, you might be tempted to set a goal akin to “workout 3 to 4 times a week.” However, a better goal that is more likely to be met might be “lift weights at the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6:30 to 8am.” It is specific in intention, measurable as you can track when you go to the gym, relevant to your desires, and mentions specific times. It is realistic as you are not committing to five or seven days a week and it is sustainable as it works well with your current routine.

An important question to ask when setting goals is “what is the purpose of the habit?” This question helps us set goals that bring us our true desired outcome. Sometimes we set goals and change our behaviors without envisioning what progress we actually want to make. By answering this question, we can get to the root of our habit.

Another question to ask ourselves is “is this habit a need or is it an obligation?” If we are creating a habit because of a need or want we have, perfect! The intention is positive. However, if we are creating goals out of obligation or because we simply believe we have to, then our motivation is low, our goals are unclear, and we begin creating habits from a place of ill  intention. Almost 62% of people and 40% of Gen Zers feel pressured to make a resolution which likely leads to the many failed New Year’s resolutions.

To learn more and teach your team about creating positive behaviors, check out GettaMeeting's Healthy Habits meeting module.

Need some new habit ideas? Here are some categories to think about when creating goals:

  • Health (fitness, mental health, or nutrition)
  • Wellness (self-care, sleep, etc.)
  • Relationships/social life
  • Career and professional development
  • Productivity
  • Education/knowledge
  • Spirituality
  • Hobbies/passions
  • Finances (budgeting, investing, spending, and saving)

James Clear suggests “habit stacking,” or adding a new habit onto an existing and automatic behavior. For example, we can add the habit of stretching for 15 minutes on top of brushing our teeth. Soon, stretching will automatically come after brushing our teeth without much thought, just simply practice. Habit stacking makes it easier to remember to build the new habit onto our daily routine. 

All in all, we should keep the reason why we are creating a new habit in mind when setting goals and choose the path to completion that is the most enjoyable for us. 

Different Ways to Track Resolution Progress

Tracking a habit means simply measuring if you did or did not complete a habit. Tracking habits is imperative to meeting our goals because it reminds us to take action, it is motivating as we can see our progress, and it rewards us and keeps us motivated.

Habit tracking also plays on the “three Rs” that habits call for when they are being formed: reminder, routine, and reward. A tracking system visually reminds us to act, it helps us get into a consistent routine, and rewards us as we can view our progress.

Though important for everyone, habit tracking is subjective so we must find and use the habit tracker that best fits our personality.

Let’s discuss some popular habit trackers and how they can help us form habits in different ways.

Apps

Phone apps are a great method of tracking habits. They’re accessible, easy to use, and have features that keep you wanting to come back. Apps are good for those who prefer digital tools to physical ones and prefer ease and quick solutions rather than lengthier and more creative options.

Here are some highly rated habit tracking apps to consider:

Streaks

For those who use Apple products, this is a quick and simple option. You can define your habits in detail and set specific timelines. The app collects data so that you can easily view statistics about your habits and streaks. 

 

Way of Life

This app is compatible for Android and Apple products. It supplies many data points and charts for those who are analytical. Way of Life includes opportunities to write down and describe the nature of your habit forming like explaining why you missed a habit or how completing the action made you feel. The app lets you customize your streaks to fit your goals and allow for breaks and specific time constraints.

 

HabitShare

For people who are motivated by social accountability, this HabitShare is a must. You can tell the community you’ve built on the app about your progress and you become motivated by the progress of others in the community.

 

Habitica

Make forming habits fun with Habitica. The app (available everywhere including web) gamifies the process of creating habits. Fight creatures with opponents while also completing habits and tasks. Habitica offers great reward and motivation for completing habits as you earn virtual gold and level up when you complete actions and defeat monsters. The app does not offer much data about your habits, yet it is valuable for young folks and creatives as well as users who need extra positive reinforcement.


Calendar, printable template, or journal

For those who prefer physical or paper tools, calendars and templates are great habit tracking options. Simply write down all of your habits and cross off every day that you complete the habit. Printable templates are plentiful on the web. Pick whichever one works best for you, print it, and begin!

Using a journal and creating your own template is more engaging than apps and allows for more flexibility and creativity. It also has more room for reflection about how the habit is coming along and lets users recognize how the habit makes them feel.

What happens if I break my streak and lose track of my habits?

It is important to keep in mind that we will not complete a habit every day. There will be circumstances and obstacles that get in the way of our habits and we will break our habit streaks. It is unavoidable, yet there is always an opportunity to get back on track.

James Clear advises to “never miss twice,” meaning if there is a day that you do not do a habit, then begin again immediately. Missing a habit two days in a row leads to repeated negative behaviors which ultimately leads us to poorly formed habits.

“Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.” - James Clear

Remind yourself of your end goal and dwell on the progress you’ve already made so that you are motivated to start a new streak. Simply pick up where you left off on your habit tracker and watch your progress continue to evolve.

Additional tips for making and tracking habits

  • Use James Clear’s Two-Minute Rule: scale down your habits so that they take 2 minutes or less to perform. Start with very small or mundane habits to ensure you are taking action every day. These habits can look like folding laundry, waking up by a certain time, or taking medication
  • Split and prioritize your habits by categorizing them into daily, weekly, and monthly actions
  • Set multiple small goals in your timeline to meet your New Year’s resolutions
  • Use a habit tracker to count how often you do something that is not related to a goal to better understand your daily patterns and routine
  • Use a habit tracker to measure what you do not do (AKA “bad” behaviors such as not drinking soda, not smoking, etc.) 
  • Get an accountability partner or friend who participates in the habit or who is willing to check in and help keep you on track
  •  Simplify your habit tracker to include less than 4 of your most important habits so that your habit tracking is motivating rather than stressful.
  • Record your habit as soon as you complete it to ensure you reap the reward of motivation and self-confidence

Check out our meeting module all about habits called “Healthy Habits” on our website for your next team meeting.

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