Stay Focused on Your New Routine with a Visual Habit Calendar This Year
At the end of every month, you get to celebrate your successes and rededicate yourself to starting again, but with a visible track record of success. Until eventually, you don’t start again. Not because you’ve failed, but because you no longer need the calendar.
I think what I like best about habit calendars is that they’re inherently hopeful. They represent those rare moments in our lives when we’re honest enough with ourselves to admit some of our flaws while at the same time investing in a better version of ourselves. It’s beautiful, really. But it’s also hard to follow through.
It takes attention, discipline, and will. Most of us need all the help we can get. What’s the last habit you failed to adopt? Going to the gym? Journaling every morning? Complimenting someone every day? Imagine how different your life might be right now had you successfully adopted one of those habits when you first gave it a shot. There’s nothing easy about developing a new practice (or breaking an old one), but the benefits can be enormous.
A quick internet search reveals that habit tracking is one of the hottest self-help trends in years. Most people are looking to mobile apps for help, which makes a lot of sense, given that we have our phones with us almost all the time. But some of us prefer a more low-fi, physical alternative. An elegant, highly visible whiteboard is the perfect hack for creating a beautiful, DIY habit tracker of your own.
Why is everyone so obsessed with habits right now? Maybe it’s because there’s a lot less to distract us from our own bad habits, so we’re paying more attention. Or maybe we just have a lot more time for self-reflection, and it seems like now is as good a time as any to invest in a little self-improvement.
The idea behind habit tracking is pretty simple. Using some sort of calendar, you monitor and record how often you manage to perform a daily habit you’re trying to adopt. The more often you perform this task, and the longer you work on it, the stronger the pattern becomes. A quick look at your habit tracker gives you a good sense of how successfully you’re adopting your new habit. Sure, it’s a little ironic that you need to develop the habit of tracking your habits, but is a life without irony really worth living?
Habit Tracking Apps
I’m going to take a minute here to talk about digital habit trackers. The underlying principle of tracking your habits is that they are so integrated into our lives that there’s a lot about them we don’t notice. To change a behavior, you need an objective way to record the habit and your progress in changing or adopting it.
There are hundreds of mobile habit tracking apps that employ the strategies above to help people develop the habits they want. Not only do these apps do a great job of helping you record your behavior, but they also help you change it. Most of the apps create a structure to the habit-changing process, offer some guidance and encouragement, and provide a visual representation of your progress. They do a fantastic job of engaging you in terms of rewards, pride, and keeping you invested.
Big, Colorful, Non-digital Habit Calendars
But there are some ways that large, non-digital habit trackers are significantly better than digital versions. The first is visibility. Tracking your habits with a phone app means you only see your progress or are reminded about your new routine when you look at your phone. When it’s stuck in your pocket or lying face-down on your desk, it’s not doing you much good. You actively have to seek it out for it to work.
In contrast, let’s say you grab a 15” x 12” Surface. (See example above.) You can stick it on any shiny surface like your fridge or office whiteboard. Every time you grab a bottle of water or glance at your whiteboard, you’ll remember to be mindful and disciplined about the habit you’re adopting. The longer you build your habit, the more progress your habit calendar shows.
But what happens at the end of that month? Instead of starting from scratch and creating an all-new calendar, you could use a combination of dry-erase and wet-erase markers to build your tracker. You draw the dates and calendar grid with wet-erase markers and use dry-erase markers to record your daily successes. Get a little creative with color, and your habit calendar gets a little more beautiful, too. When you’re ready to restart your calendar at the end of the month, you wipe away only the dry-erase markings, leaving the calendar and dates in place for the new month.
We know that a lot of our customers love the tactile, handwritten productivity of reusable ToDo Lists and Planners. And rolling your own habit calendar gives you another chance to be creative and expressive, while making your habit calendar exactly the way you envision it. On the other hand, you might be in that group of customers who love mcSquares because our products help you stay wildy efficient. Maybe you’re all about the benefits of the habit tracking, but care a bit less about the creative potential.
You’re in luck. Next month, we’ll be releasing a new tool to our collection of Planners: the Chore Chart. We want to leave you wanting and wondering, so let me just say that it will be perfect for tracking your habits. (Of course it’s also a excellent way to assign chores to your family members.) And if you’d just can’t wait until next month to start tracking your habits, and you’d prefer to skip the DIY route, you could always use one of our colorful Calendars to get you started.
Another advantage of a large, non-digital habit calendar is that it keeps you accountable in a much different way than an app might. Sure, you could choose an app that shares your habit goals and progress with a community of other people working on changing their behavior. For some people, it might even be quite useful. But those people are practically strangers, and your level of accountability and commitment to them has its limits. Becoming part of an accountability community like that, you agree to hold these strangers to their own goals.
On the other hand, a conspicuously placed physical habit calendar reminds everyone in your household that you’re working on a new habit. Of course, changing your behavior is your responsibility. You can still draw strength and encouragement from your family or roommates, especially if your new habit somehow benefits them. And in those moments when you consider noshing a midnight cookie, skipping today’s lunch salad, or sneaking a cigarette, you’ll remember that your calendar’s going to have a blank spot for the day, and everyone’s going to see it.
And finally, why a whiteboard tracker? It’s partially a question of scale. When you glance at your habit tracker, what length of time do you want to see? A week? While adopting a habit for a week is a good start, it’s not enough time to give you a sense of your success. Seeing your habit performance over six months or a year would give you a much better understanding, but that’s an awfully big commitment of visual space. It seems that most visual trackers adopt the convention of a monthly calendar.
Starting Again, but Stronger
But what happens at the end of that month? Instead of starting from scratch and creating an all-new calendar, you could use a combination of dry-erase and wet-erase markers to build your tracker. You draw the dates and calendar grid with wet-erase markers and use dry-erase markers to record your daily successes. When you’re ready to restart your calendar at the end of the month, you wipe away only the dry-erase markings, leaving the calendar and dates in place for the new month.
Like I said above, it takes strength and vulnerability to be honest with yourself about your shortcomings. That same moment demands hope and gumption to decide to do the hard work of getting closer to the person you want to be. With a habit calendar, you start to cultivate those sorts of moments more often. At the end of each day, you get to look back and confirm that you were able to do the hard work and to know you’re making progress. At the end of every month, you get to celebrate those little successes and rededicate yourself to starting again, but with a visible track record of success. Until eventually, you don’t start again. Not because you’ve failed, but because you no longer need the calendar.