Day 5: Keep a Habit Journal

As I mentioned a few days ago, I have five habits I’m trying to maintain as part of my regular routine during the month of May. These habits are:

  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Exercising 5 days per week
  • Blogging every day
  • Logging at least 5,000 steps
  • Reading for 10 minutes

One of the tools I’ve found to be very helpful in tracking my progress as well as serving as a regular reminder of my intentions is a habit journal.

I kept a habit journal for the first time in early 2019 after having read Atomic Habits for the first time. I had purchased The Clear Habit Journal* along with the book.

I still have that journal and I’ve used about half of it, but I’ve since switched to just using a simple small notebook (a Baron Fig Confidant* to be precise) with the dot grid paper.

How Do I Use a Habit Journal

The basic idea is to write down the things you want to do. In my case, there are five things: mindfulness, exercise, blog, 5k steps, and read. Then, add columns for each day of the month.

As you complete a given activity on a given day, tick that box.

I’ve missed exercising one day, but that’s ok. My goal for exercise is 5 days per week.

Tips to Make a Habit Journal More Effective

Not all habit journal practices are created equal. While I’d be lying if I pretended to be some sort of habit journal expert, I have found at least two things to be true about effective use of a habit journal.

First, use your habit journal to track positive habits rather than to try and break negative habits.

What I mean by that is that habit journals are good at reinforcing positive habits, like “exercise 5 days a week”, but are not very good for breaking bad habits, like “don’t eat sweets.”

I don’t know why this is, I’ve just found it to be true. Pretty sure James explains why this is true in his book*, but I don’t remember why.

Breaking bad habits and building good habits require different practices. While I’m pretty ok at creating good habits, I’m fairly terrible at breaking bad habits, so don’t come looking to me for advice on that front.

Second, keep that habit journal handy!

Your habit journal will be a lot more effective if you see it repeatedly. I keep mine on my desk, right next to my keyboard and mouse. It’s a constant reminder of the habits I want to practice each day.

My habit journal in its natural habitat. I always know where it is and it reminds me to stick to my habits all day long.

I’ve found a habit journal to be a strong source of positive reinforcement in establishing and maintaining good habits. If you’ve never used one, I recommend you give it a try!

*Not an affiliate link.

4 thoughts on “Day 5: Keep a Habit Journal”

  1. Interestingly, while I like the idea it’s just really hard for me to get on board using a physical journal. Mainly because of conducting almost ALL transactions online via email and chat for the past decade, my handwriting looks more like chicken scratch.

    • There’s probably a digital equivalent that would be just as effective. I’ve always gravitated back towards keeping any sort of lists / logs on actual paper. I’d say it was because I didn’t get into computers until I was nearly an adult, but I think you’ve got a couple of years on me so that excuse probably doesn’t carry any water with you. 🙂

    • That’s cool. I’m big on folks doing whatever works well for them. I don’t think a Google Sheet would give me the reinforcing kick-in-the-pants I’m after, but I’m sure it’s a great and easy choice for others.

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