I have been setting new years resolutions or goals for as long as I can remember. I have journals filled with lists of 10 resolutions from each year. Some items got completed or accomplished and crossed over, some goals came back year after year. I’ve tried many different types of journals and agendas to keep track of my steps towards completing or achieving these goals as well as to manage my never-ending to-do lists, busy schedules, plans, and projects. Over time I created a fusion of methods from various journaling systems I tried, taking the components which fit my needs the best. Still, there was something missing while I was trying to keep my daily schedule completely under my control.
You see… I plan, I schedule and I prepare, yet every single day life happens. As a parent, interruption is almost inevitable no matter how much I plan and prepare to reduce the risk of derailment due to diversions and distractions. Life gets in the way of my best laid plans and at the end of the day I feel guilty to let my priorities slip out of my hands. I feel like a failure.
Lightening the mental load
In addition to the guilt of letting life get in the way, there is also the strain of mental overload caused by the many hats I have to wear, many decisions I have to make during the day and the priorities I have to order. I realized I needed a more practical method that would not only enable me to reach my goals or complete my projects on time, but more importantly help me lighten my mental load, burdened by being responsible for multiple people and things.
“Habits reduce cognitive load and free up mental capacity, so you can allocate your attention to other tasks.”James Clear, Atomic Habits
Planning my ideal day
I did an exercise while back where I listed the activities I would do on my ideal day if I were the sole owner of my own schedule. It was a powerful exercise to discover what mattered most to me. However, it wasn’t really practical for me to include them on my agenda every single day. So I’ve started keeping track of “my ideal day” routines with a “Daily Tending List” on a weekly basis as a part of my pen & paper based agenda in 2016.
This was a bit later after I decided to remove “LOSE WEIGHT” from my goals list indefinitely and just make sure I work out and eat healthy every single day no matter what my weight becomes instead. My daughter started hand-lettering and bullet journaling at the end of 2019 and she also started keeping track of her daily routines.
“If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.”James Clear, Atomic Habits
Establishing our routines and good habits
I’ve written multiple posts on the importance of routines in children’s and parents’ lives. Established routines help parents manage their daily and weekly schedule without having to spend too much brain power on what to do next. Being spontaneous can be fun but it also requires a lot of mental energy, which is a limited resource, especially when you are a parent.
Routines are especially helpful in stressful times such as the lockdown and quarantine we are living through. They provide a calm cocoon of familiarity against all the uncertainty and unpredictability. When anxiety and stress give us mental paralysis, established routines and habits keep us making things happen instead of drifting away with the flow.
Creating my habit tracker
At the beginning of 2020, after reading Atomic Habits, I started to focus on my routines and building desired habits based on my goals, instead of just focusing on the goals themselves. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, because as the rest of our daily structure crumbled down with pandemic lockdown we as a family tried to sustain with whatever was left by sticking to those routines and habits.
I created a daily habit / routine tracker printable that I created for each month. Even though there are apps and software, I prefer to keep a paper and pen agenda and journal. I keep my routine tracker sheet in my agenda / journal as a bookmark on the current day. Even though I might have multiple responsibilities, tasks and to-do items thrown at me, I make sure I get to the items in my daily habit list by the end of the day. This tracker helps me stay accountable. Seeing those little squares gets filled up gives me quite satisfaction and motivates me to keep going.
I made a habit of planning my daily schedule either from the night before or early in the morning. I am a working mother so my schedule fills up very quickly with obligations, assignments and appointments and frequently overflows to the following days. I make sure I have enough buffer left for the desired routines and habits.
I know from experience that anything critical I need to get done, I have to do it as earlier in the day as possible. As the day grows older, the risk of life getting in the way increases.
Progress over perfection
What happens you get sidetracked and miss your routine once despite all your efforts? One of the most important mental tricks I learned from Chalene Johnson is to get rid of the “all or nothing mentality“. I never beat myself up for missing a day in my routine such as missing a workout or not reading with kids one evening. I make sure I pay attention to the reason for the setback and I set my environment up or prep my conditions for success for the next time. Just dust off and get back on track.
Children can use the habit tracker too
My kids use the tracker for their classes and homework as well as extracurricular activities. Since their school is all online and they spend their whole day in front of the computer, they make sure they stay active, getting outdoors, and drink enough water during the day. Habit tracker came particularly handy during summertime which was completely unplanned, unscheduled, and unstructured. They tracked their music practice, reading, and writing activities.
Even though we know they wouldn’t miss a single day, they also track “gaming” because it’s a priority.
At the end of 2021, kids and I held an informal reflection session for 2020. The year sucked for most of us in terms of creativity and productivity. We just lost our focus and went into survival mode. I decided if we were to make something better of 2021, we have to keep our eyes on our goals. I added our year’s resolutions at the back of our habit tracker
I am so happy with my habit / routine tracker that I decided to share it with you.
You can download Practical habit / Routine Tracker. In this free habit tracker pdf template you will find:
- an empty habit tracker form that you can fill in on your computer for every month of the year.
- two blank trackers without the month name for my friends who are into hand lettering so that they can personalize it.
- a template for your year’s goals or resolutions. You can print it out on the backside of your month’s habit tracker.
How to use the habit /routine tracker
- Download the template, fill out the habits and your goals with a PDF reader on your computer before printing it out or
- Print it out blank and write on it with your most fun stationery.
- I print them out on an 8.5″ x 11″ white card stock
I hope you’ll find the habit tracker as helpful and motivating as I do. As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback.