Spreadsheets that changed my life: Part 2 — The (dumb) Habit Tracker
Habits. Some good, some bad, some healthy, some not — all of us have them, most of us are conscious of them, and very few of us try to shape them. Atomic Habits by James Clear says that the word identity stems from the Latin phrase essentias identidem, which means being repeatedly. And given that our habits are essentially what we do repeatedly, they form the core of our identity. (It’s a good quick read that I recommend pretty highly)
Like most people, I was conscious of the fact that I needed to improve my habits to hit my goals, but wasn’t sure how to make sure I was on the right path to doing so. One of the solutions that Clear recommends in the book is to define what our habits are and measure how well we hit them. You can use OKRs to define what habits you should be measuring, but that’s a topic for a separate blog post entirely. As for measuring your habits on a daily basis, given my love for multi-coloured, neatly organized spreadsheets, there’s a really simple template that I use to measure how well you’re doing on your habits. (It’s so simple that you could call it dumb)
I deliberately wanted this to be dumb because most habit trackers on iOS or Android are unnecessarily complex with too many features and not enough visibility on how you’re hitting all your habits. The template is a set of rows and columns — each row is a date on the month, and the columns are organized into Themes of Life (Work, Fitness, Relationships, etc.) and each theme has a set of habits that you want to measure. Against each day and each habit, you mark Yes if you do it, No if you don’t, or N/A if it doesn’t apply on that day. Based on how many you hit, your success percentage becomes:
SuccessPercentage = 100 * (Nyes - Nno) / (Ntotal - Nna)
I usually aim for 80+% on any given day but, ymmv. You can find the template here. Make a copy of the sheet from the File menu to start configuring it for your own habits.
Like with the Expense Spreadsheet, it only works if you consciously make the entries every couple of days at least — I have a recurring todo on my Todoist to keep reminding me of this. And once you have the basic template in place, updating it is a 5 minute job.
PS: If you really are hell-bent on using an app for this, there is one. It’s pretty decent, but I have found it broken in places — it’s called Habitify and the paid version allows you to add as many habits as you want.