5 reasons tracking your habits in your bullet journal is NOT helping!

We spend so much time talking about tracking your habits in your bullet journal and yes, for some this might be great! But, for others, it might just add to the overwhelm of starting with the Bullet Journal Method.

The reason I decided to discuss this topic was because (and if this was you reading this – please it is not meant as a dig but an illustration of my concern) I saw on a facebook page, someone asking what to track in their bullet journal, there were tons of examples and the person went off and tracked ALL the examples. 

I finished reading the thread IN SHOCK! How could tracking all the suggestions be helpful at all, and have we gotten to a point where the needle is starting to hit the “extreme caution” part of life? There was zero way that poor person was ever going to succeed, and at one point she even questioned by she should track her alcohol intake, when she doesn’t drink.

It was so obvious this wasn’t sustainable and I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about some of the reasons you might want to reconsider your habit tracking in your bullet journal or planner and why a refresh might be in order!

If you want some amazing tracker spreads,  of if you are wondering “what is a habit tracker?’ you can check out our other bullet journal habit tracker posts here

Questions that we get regularly about habit trackers include:

  • What is a habit tracker?
  • What should I track in my habit tracker?
  • Where should I write my habit tracker?
  • How can I add things to my habit tracker?
  • How do I make a habit tracker?

While these are all valuable questions, what they are focusing on is the habit, and not always the task or behavior leading to the habit you want to change. Thinking about what to include can feel really overwhelming and I get it, especially when you are starting out, you want to feel productive and in control.

*Please note that if you have been given a directive from a medical professional to track certain things, this does not replace their recommendation and is solely an opinion piece. 

1. Your bullet journal habit trackers are focusing on the wrong things

When we start analysing what habits we should track in our bullet journal we can go down a number of rabbit warrens!

We open this up for discussion, starting with Craig Anderson, owner of Appliance Analysts who agrees with my sentiment of focusing on the wrong things through tracking, he goes on to say;

Tracking your habits can be a great goal – but it’s not always helpful. It can lead you to focus on the wrong things. Developing a habit is about striving to be a better person – but sometimes we focus too much on the act itself and lose sight of our bigger picture.

The solution is to make sure you’re tracking for right targets. Think about any pitfalls you may stumble into before you commit to a new goal. 

I think for me what makes this relevant is that often we are so focused on say tracking hours of sleep, that we lose sight as to why we are tracking our sleep in the first place. 

SOLUTION: Think about what you are currently tracking, is it working or are you focusing on the wrong goals? Rethink your goal setting strategies!

2. Tracking the Habit in your bullet journal, itself is not enough for behavior change

Dr. Mike Bishop Founder, Summerland Camp Track at Camp Pocono Trails, talks to use about his learnings from coaching young adults;

I would argue that tracking behaviors alone is not sufficient enough for sustained behavioral change.  While the tracking of behaviors is the only commonality that behavior change experts can agree on, how behaviors is tracked and the goals set are often quite different, depending on which expert you speak with.

For example, any major weight loss method involves tracking.  Atkins requires you to track carbs. Weight Watchers requires tracking of calories.  Other diets track portions, such as Richard Simmons “Deal a Meal.” Some diets track only fat grams.  The one thing all diets require however is tracking.

Bishop goes on to talk about how we can manage tracking behaviors in your journal;

When the daily tracking is linked to big picture items, the motivation to stay on track helps create long-term success.

We’ve found it helpful to journal as you track behaviors.  Write down your hopes and dreams, the idealized “you” that you are trying to become.  Keep these thoughts in mind as you work each day to become a healthier, happier person.

I think what is an important takeaway here is, that we are very often tracking actions and tasks, and not modifying the behavior that leads to the negative activities and tasks.

SOLUTION: Strip back what you are tracking, and determine which ones are linked to negative behaviors and which ones are merely just negative tasks. Once you determine which is which you will be able to set goals and trackers that help you achieve sustained behavior change.

3. Tracking your habits might become obsessive

Morgan Taylor, Finance Expert & CMO for LetMeBank, talks about how tracking your habits could lead to obsessive and destructive behaviors;

Generally, having data is helpful for coming up with a game plan. However, tracking personal habits in an effort to change habits could be counter productive, because it can create obsessive behaviors – diet restrictions, rep or step counts, or calorie counting. These behaviors could cause lasting problems from body breakdowns to mental disorders. Tracking habits can leave an individual with low self esteem if they don’t meet strict goals created through unrealistic expectations.

SOLUTION: If you notice you are becoming more and more obsessive about tracking your habits in your bullet journal and you note down the line that these are not working for you, evaluate them. If they are things you wouldn’t usually track, but are tracking them because you saw someone else tracking them in their bullet journal, even more reason to reevaluate them!

4. Tracking your habits in your bullet journal can make you feel like a failure

Stacy Caprio, Life Coach talks about how tracking habits detracts from action doing the habit; 

Tracking your habits can get in the way of actually committing to the process of doing them and make you feel you have failed if you mess up even one time. It’s better to stay in the moment and gently correct yourself if you feel you cross the line on a habit or aren’t doing what you’re supposed to be doing. This way you don’t feel like you’ve failed every time you mess up once, and you’re more in the moment as opposed to tracking and watching yourself from the outside.

Lilia Manibo, a writer and editor at Anthrodesk, agrees with this notion and adds;

For some people, tracking habits can be a way to be productive. Also, it can be time-consuming. Of course, you will have to spend some time on the instances of having  your habits tracked. Instead of delegating the time to other tasks, it will be spent on how you track and evaluate your habits and actions.

It can also be a reason for you to lose self-esteem and confidence. You can be disappointed or frustrated when after tracking your habits, you will found out that you fail. You might have set goals but then you failed. It can affect your mindset and it can trigger you to lower your motivation.

Andrew Alexander is the Author of The Cure for Happiness: Timeless Secrets to a Stress-Free Life & Deconstructing Motivation: How to Effortlessly Motivate Yourself to Do Anything in Life; and talks about how not having the right tools in place to support your behavioral change when tracking habits;

When you are stuck with a bad habit and not working with a professional coach or psychologist, you really lack the tools to make the changes you are looking for. When you want to change, but are unable to do so, you start blaming yourself, judging yourself, and it really builds up the negative emotions associated with this.

For example, you are overweight and you’re really struggling to eat healthier. You binge eat, you regret it later, and you continue to feel sad. From an emotional health standpoint, the solution for this is to replace the self-judgement with self-love and unconditional acceptance. By telling yourself that it’s OK to have this habit and understanding that it’s a normal part of being a human, this practice alone really helps set the stage for not being dragged down by it.

Being dragged down about feeling unaccomplished with those habits and tasks is a read downer, and if you notice that you are losing motivation when you do not complete tasks then reconsider how you display the trackers in your bullet journal.

Solution: Reconsider how you display your habit trackers in your bullet journal. Is it showing you that you haven’t done something for 3 weeks? Then it probably isn’t something you should be tracking, but, as above, rather consider the behavior leading to the inactivity on the habit you are trying to track. 

5. By Tracking your habits you may lose the ability to self reflect

Michae Sebastianl, a CMO of skyscraperseo.com  talks us through how habit tracking causes us to lose sight of what we are actually trying to achieve and removed our ability to consider other options;

Tracking our habits motivates us to become a better person. But somehow it could not be helpful to us because we tend to focus on those things ONLY, we also become slaves to ourselves just because we are tracking these habits we are forced to follow it, Our scope for thinking and creativity is limited because we restrict ourselves from doing other things,we never learn and explore new things. 

When there is a need for adjustment or change in the routine we easily get distracted we think that this thing has to be done and lastly, it interferes with our other activities just because you are tracking your habits you may not be able to do this or that. Your actions become dependent on what you should do and these can affect so much of our mental health since we become to focus on tracking our habits we become self-conscious that could lead us to having anxiety and from there it will already affect our state of being; Physically, Mentally and Emotionally. It will worsen our life to be better.

When you rely on a list of things to tell you how you are going, you might miss some of the more important things. For me, and I’ll be honest, I’ve been tracking my mental health and tricks to improving it, but I was so focused on those metrics that I didn’t notice that I had put on 15kg! 

SOLUTION: Don’t pigeonhole yourself into a list of trackers in your bullet journal that might not actually work. Think about some more abstract things you could track, like number of compliments you recieved, times you stopped to have a mindfulness moment etc. Not everything is black and white with trackers and being aware of some of the traps you might fall into, will help you with a sustained change at the other end!

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