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Use a planner to track your habits

A feminine-presenting person sits wearing a white shirt and black pants sits cross-legged on a cream-colored carpet. They're holding a weekly planner, opened to the week of May 11. They're about to write something in the planner using the fountain pen they're holding in their right hand.

Try using a planner to track habits that you want to form or break in 2024. Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels.

Habits are both hard to form and hard to break. You need to set a goal and be consistent. One way I motivate myself to stay consistent is to keep track of whether I've performed the behavior I'm trying to stick with or to break. Forming a streak makes me reluctant to break it. Having a visual cue nudges me to stick with it.

I used to use a paper wall calendar for this. Wall calendars are great because duh, they're on your wall. You can track your habit at-a-glance.

What most wall calendars lack, however, is space to write things. Those squares are not very big. Once you write in birthdays and deadlines, there isn't a whole lot of room to write other things.

Last year, I decided to try a weekly planner instead of a calendar. I settled on a Leuchtturm1917 medium A5-sized planner planner. For 2024, I bought another, along with some Stalogy Circular Washi Tape Patches to color-code my habit tracking.

Although the name suggests that planners are designed to help you plan, I find them more useful for tracking after the fact. A weekly planner offers more space to write than a monthly planner or standard wall calendar.

The Leuchtturm1917 medium planner uses two pages for each week. This provides ample room for noting my mood, food, and personal fitness bests. Two one-date-per-line pages at the beginning of the planner help me track at-a-glance habits that I'm trying to build or maintain. Importantly, for my purposes, is that the planner's days aren't segmented into hour-long blocks. I don't care to track when I completed a task, only whether I did.

Each week also has its week number printed in the lower outside corner. Two sewn-in bookmarks help you keep your place. Leuchtturm1917 planners, similar to Moleskine notebooks and planners, also have a pocket inside their back cover.

That pocket is a perfect place to store those Stalogy stickers. At 5mm, they're slightly too wide for the boxes of the Project Plan pages, but I'll use them there anyway. Because they're only 5mm, they don't take up too much space on week pages. 5mm is also the perfect size for most dot-gridded and square-gridded journals.

Why not use an app?

Privacy, mostly. Apps be snitchin'! I'd rather keep some habits to myself. Paper also has benefits beyond privacy.

  • I can write down my habits at bedtime, without a gadget shooting blue light at my eyeballs.
  • I need light for reading and writing, but paper does not need electric or battery power.
  • Paper planners can better withstand spills or drops in the tub.
  • Weekly paper planners often weigh less than phones and tablets.

You'd be surprised by how much a few tenths of an ounce make when holding items in your hand or carrying them in a bag.

If you're trying to build new habits this year, consider buying a weekly paper planner to track your progress. I think it's a great way to hold yourself accountable for things you want to change.

Also see:

JetPens, which is a fantastic retailer of all things stationery-related, has a guide to using a regular notebook as a habit tracker. JetPens' whole goal is to sell you stuff. Keep that in mind as you read.

That said, the guide includes cool products like monthly calendar stickers and stamps that turn any notebook into a planner. Calendar stamps and stickers let you use your notebook for multiple purposes —¬†perhaps a combined habit tracker and work journal.

I personally prefer the low-effort nature of pre-printed planners. If you want to inject some art and creativity into your life or carry one notebook instead of multiple notebooks, you might prefer customizing a notebook instead.