a goal or habit tracker in a paper planner

How to Easily Create Habits Using This Simple Tool

Every weekday, before school, I get up and make breakfast for my kids. Every day, they wake up and come sit at the table and wait for me to serve their breakfast to them. They are eleven, nine and eight years old. But what does this have to do with a habit tracker, you might be wondering?

I’ve started to ask why they don’t help make their own breakfast. Whenever they want a snack, they make themselves whatever they want. On occasion, the eleven year old gets up and makes pancakes for the family. He also sometimes makes himself a quesadilla. And he loves to bake.

I know they’re sleepy and they’re waking up. But deep down, I know that the reason they don’t make their own breakfast (or help me make it) is because it’s just a habit.

Ever since we they were little and we were in what we call “survival mode” (with a 2 year old, a one year old and a newborn), we would sit them down at the table and serve them. And now, it’s become a habit.

This time of year, when they all go back to school, I think about forming new and better habits. The same thing happens at New Year’s. But the thing is, habits are not easily changed.

If you want to change a habit, you have to make a real effort to change.

Routines are made up of a three-part “habit loop”: a cue, a behavior and a reward. Understanding and interrupting that loop is key to breaking a habit, says journalist Charles Duhigg.

In my example, the cue is when we tell our kids to come eat breakfast. The behavior is that they go sit down at the table and wait to be served. And the reward is that we place their breakfast on the table in front of them. Classic habit behavior. I could get them to help more or make their own breakfast, but that would mean changing our eleven year old habit.

So, what should you do if you want to create a new habit?

In this article, Christine Whelan, a public sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an expert with AARP’s Life Reimagined Institute who studies happiness, human ecology and habits, lays out 10 strategies for changing behavior, one of which is to stick with it – the longer, the better. She actually suggests that you will be more likely to stick to a new habit if you make it past the 90-day mark.

And that’s where a habit tracker comes into play.

What is a habit tracker?

A habit tracker is a tool that lets you track a habit or habits that are important to you.

It’s worth mentioning that you probably don’t want to bite off more than you can chew.

If you have good habits that you want to continue, then by all means, use a habit tracker to track those.

But if you’re just getting started with being intentional about good habits, it’s okay to start with just one habit.

I can speak from experience when I say that if you are overly optimistic, it is likely that you will get discouraged when you make a list of five or ten new habits and then you aren’t able to stick with them.

So, be realistic and chose one new habit to work on and feel free to track good habits that are already firmly entrenched.

There’s just something that feels really good about succeeding, so make sure that you set yourself up for success!

Habit Tracker Free Printable Tracker

What to add to your habit tracker?

Well, there are the usual ideas. But be sure that the habits that you decide to track are specific.

Saying that you want to “be healthy” is not a habit. Eating 3 servings of vegetables per day is a habit.

Here’s a list of trackable habits that won’t surprise you.

  • Get 8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes per day.

But here are some other ideas for you.

And that’s just a few ideas. Anything that you want to start (or stop) doing on a regular basis is a great candidate for your habit tracker. Habits to stop might look like this on your habit tracker:

  • No spending
  • No sugar
  • No eating out

What to write in your habit tracker?

To put it simply, your habit tracker is simply a list of the habits that you are actively tracking. Most commonly, you will see habit trackers that cover a month at a time.

On a single page, you simply list the habits that you want to track down the left hand side of the page and then you will keep track of those habits, usually by marking off a series of boxes going across the page, on a daily basis.

You can use a habit tracker printable or you can add a habit tracker to your bullet journal, if you are using a bullet journal.

A bullet journal lends itself to habit tracking because you have complete freedom to create the specific layouts that are important to you in your bullet journal.

You can see some of my favorite bullet journal habit tracker layouts on this Pinterest board.

Printable habit tracker

If you would prefer to use a printable habit tracker, you’ll save yourself the time of creating a new one every month.

As a busy mom, I know how hard it is to find time to even write things down on a to-do list consistently, much less create beautiful and/or complicated bullet journal layouts.

Although I have to admit to picking up a dotted journal on back-to-school clearance. I’m a sucker for school supplies and office supplies, especially when they’re on sale.

What’s the best habit tracker app?

These days, there’s an app for everything, including habit tracking! If you want to go paperless, the best habit tracker app really depends on you and your specific habit tracking needs.

Here are a few things to think about before choosing the best habit tracker app for you.

  • Do you want to track all of your habits in one app or do you want to focus on a specific goal like health?
  • Do you want a free habit tracker app or are you willing to pay extra for premium features?
  • Do you plan to track your habits on desktop or mobile? Android or iOS?

Here are some recent articles that list the best habit tracker apps if you want to go the paperless route.

24 Best Habit Tracking Apps (2018 Updated)

35 Best Habit Tracking Apps to Help You Reach Your Goals in 2018

5 Best Habit Apps To Try In 2018

7 Best Habit Tracking Apps For Android To Get Rid Of Bad Habits In 2018

Why use a habit tracker?

Using a habit tracker is a great way to reinforce existing good habits and get serious about forming new ones. Using a habit tracker can also be motivating and psychologically rewarding.

For people who are very visual, a habit tracker allows you to see your daily progress towards making a goal into a habit.

By definition, a habit is a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior. Since a habit tracker is focused on repeated and regular actions, it helps create patterns of behavior that are built into your routine on a daily basis.

Use a habit tracker or a goal planner like this one to meet your goals.

Why not just a daily to-do list?

A habit tracker is perfect for recurring actions or tasks that you want to do every day or almost every day. That might be five, ten or even more items that would have to add to your to do list or daily log (if you use a bullet journal) every single day. Who has time for that?

A habit tracker can also help visually convey progress towards your habit goals and provide a reward in the form of a completed tracker. Just remember not to be too hard on yourself when you miss a day here or there. It is inevitable that you will miss days but if you use a habit tracker regularly, you will start to notice trends and you can take the time to think about why you are not meeting your habit goals. Are your goals wrong? If you’re not following through, it might be time to reevaluate your list and decide whether you got it right or not.

Too many habits on your tracker list? Take some off and focus on just the most important, essential habits. That doesn’t mean that there’s not room in your life for those things. It just means that you may have to prioritize since we all have limited time and have to choose wisely how we spend it.

Related Post: What Is A Bullet Journal And How To Start One

How to use a habit tracker?

Using a habit tracker is simple. On a single page, list the habits that you want to track down the left hand side of the page. Across the top of the page, you will have a column for each day of the month. Everyday, simply color in the boxes for each completed action or task.

For some people, it may be possible to do this throughout the day as you do things. For others, this might be something that you do at night before you go to bed.

If you’re just getting started, I would recommend adding only habits that are already well established in your daily routines and one or two new ones at the most. There are a plenty of options when it comes to creating your habit tracker. You can:

  • Draw a habit tracker on a blank piece of paper
  • Create a habit tracker page in your bullet journal
  • Make a habit tracker in Excel
  • Use a habit tracker sticker page
  • Download my free habit tracker printable page

How to draw a habit tracker?

Drawing a habit tracker is simple as well. You can Just draw on a single page with a horizontal layout (i.e. wider than tall) since there are usually more columns than rows. You can use this image as example to draw your own.


For best results, use a good ruler for straight lines. Grid paper or dotted paper will make the job even easier.

How to make a habit tracker in Excel?

If you want to create a habit tracker in excel, it’s simple to do. Just list your habits in the first column and label the columns to the right for each day of the month.

Or you can just use this one: Habit Tracker Excel Template

Or you can just download one of my Google Sheets habit tracker templates and import it into Excel. Here are two versions, one for letter size and one for A5 size:

Habit Tracker Google Sheets Template: Letter Size

Habit Tracker Google Sheets Template: A5 Size

If you’re a Google Sheets user, you can also make a copy of the Google Sheets template (just click on “File”, then “Make a copy…”) and save it to re-use every month.

How to make a habit tracker in a bullet journal?

To make a habit tracker in a bullet journal, you have a few different options. If you’re using a dotted bullet journal, just use the dots as guides for your columns and rows and draw your habit tracker directly on the page.

Alternatively, you can use a habit tracker stencil specifically designed for bullet journaling. Or you can just order habit tracker planner stickers on Etsy and place them directly in your bullet journal.

How to use habit tracker stickers?

There are several different types of habit tracker stickers. Some of them are meant to be added to your existing planner, like the ones shown below.

These would be particularly helpful if you are focused on maintaining one or two specific habits or forming a new habit. They wouldn’t work as well if you want to track a longer list of habits.

Others habit tracker stickers are meant save you the time it would take to draw a habit tracker in your bullet journal or other planner. You would stick them down on a page and be ready to track for an entire  month.

This habit tracker sticker is designed specifically for the Passion Planner and covers the section below the calendar in the blank space to mind map, which is a great option is you are more interested in habit tracking than mind mapping. It also comes in multiple color options.

These stickers are super cute too, if you want to track specific habits like no sugar, no junk food, study, yoga/meditation, no spend, etc.

Habit Tracker Ideas

Now that you’ve hopefully learned everything you need to know about habit trackers and habit tracking, here’s a list of 101 habits to get you started today! Choose the ones that are already established habits to reinforce and one or two new ones to establish.

101 habit tracker ideas

There you have it – you just learned all about habit trackers. You now know everything you need to know to get started with this powerful tool for maintaining and creating good habits.

So, your next step is easy – take action on what you just learned. Because the sooner you do, the sooner you’ll benefit from your good habits!

That’s why I’m going to give you a tool to make it easy to get started today. Download my free printable habit tracker template.

So, go ahead. Jump in and get started today – you’ll be glad you did!

Do you use a habit tracker? What are your best tips for habit tracking? What new habits do you want to create?

Thank you so much for stopping by and I hope you’re having an awesome day!

If this post was helpful, click the image below or click here to pin it on Pinterest. 🙂

beginner's guide to habit trackers