This article includes an excerpt from Atomic Habits, my New York Times bestselling book.
If you want to stick with a habit for good, one simple and effective thing you can do is keep a habit tracker.
Elite performers will often measure, quantify, and track their progress in various ways. Each little measurement provides feedback. It offers a signal of whether they are making progress or need to change course.
Gabrielle Hamilton, a chef in New York City, provides a good example. During an interview with the New York Times, she said, “The one thing I see that consistently separates the chef from the home cook is that we taste everything, all the time, before we commit it to the dish, right down to the grains of salt. We slurp shot glasses of olive oil and aerate them in our mouths as if it were a wine we were trying to know. We taste the lamb, the fish, the butter, the milk before we use it… we chew salt to see how we like it in our teeth, on our tongues, and to know its flavor, its salinity.” 1
For the chef, tasting the ingredients tells them whether they are making progress toward their desired end goal. It provides the immediate feedback they need to get the recipe just right.
Like a chef improving a recipe through trial and error, we often improve our habits through trial and error. If one approach doesn't deliver the desired effect, then we adjust—like a chef tweaking the amount of an ingredient.
However, there is an important difference between getting feedback while cooking a meal and getting feedback while building a habit. When it comes to building a habit, feedback is often delayed. It's easy to taste an ingredient or to watch bread rise in the oven. But it can be difficult to visualize the progress you are making with your habits. Perhaps you've been running for a month, but you still don't see a change in your body. Or maybe you managed to meditate for 16 straight days, but you still feel stressed and anxious at work. 2
Habit formation is a long race. It often takes time for the desired results to appear. And while you are waiting for the long-term rewards of your efforts to accumulate, you need a reason to stick with it in the short-term. You need some immediate feedback that shows you are on the right path.
And this is where a habit tracker can help.
The Habit Tracker: What It Is and How It Works
A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit.
The most basic format is to get a calendar and cross off each day you stick with your routine. For example, if you meditate on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, each of those dates gets an X. As time rolls by, the calendar becomes a record of your habit streak.
To make this process as easy as possible, I created the Habit Journal, which includes 12 habit tracker templates—one for each month. All you have to do is add your habit and start crossing off the days.
Placing an X on each day is the classic look. I prefer something a little more design-oriented, so I shade in the cells on my habit tracker. You could also use checkmarks or fill your habit tracker with dots.
No matter what design you choose, the key point is your habit tracker provides immediate evidence that you completed your habit. It's a signal that you are making progress. Of course, that's not all it does…
Habit tracking is powerful for three reasons.
- It creates a visual cue that can remind you to act.
- It is motivating to see the progress you are making. You don't want to break your streak.
- It feels satisfying to record your success in the moment.
Let's break down each one.
Benefit #1: A habit tracker reminds you to act.
Habit tracking naturally builds a series of visual cues. When you look at the calendar and see your streak, you’ll be reminded to act again.
Research has shown that people who track their progress on goals like losing weight, quitting smoking, and lowering blood pressure are all more likely to improve than those who don’t. One study of more than sixteen hundred people found that those who kept a daily food log lost twice as much weight as those who did not. A habit tracker is a simple way to log your behavior, and the mere act of tracking a behavior can spark the urge to change it.
Habit tracking also keeps you honest. Most of us think we act better than we do. Measurement offers one way to overcome our blindness to our own behavior and notice what’s really going on each day. When the evidence is right in front of you, you’re less likely to lie to yourself.
Benefit #2: A habit tracker motivates you to continue.
The most effective form of motivation is progress. When we get a signal that we are moving forward, we become more motivated to continue down that path. In this way, habit tracking can have an addictive effect on motivation. Each small win feeds your desire.
This can be particularly powerful on a bad day. When you’re feeling down, it’s easy to forget about all the progress you have already made. Habit tracking provides visual proof of your hard work—a subtle reminder of how far you've come. Plus, the empty square you see each morning can motivate you to get started because you don't want to lose your progress by breaking your streak.
Benefit #3: A habit tracker provides immediate satisfaction.
Finally, tracking feels rewarding. It is satisfying to cross an item off your to-do list, to complete an entry in your workout log, or to mark an X on the calendar. It feels good to watch your results grow and if it feels good, then you’re more likely to endure.
Habit tracking also helps keep your eye on the ball: you’re focused on the process rather than the result. You’re not fixated on getting six-pack abs, you’re just trying to keep the streak alive and become the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts.
Habit Tracker Ideas
Alright, those benefits sound great, but it's not necessary to fill your habit tracker with every habit that makes up your day. In fact, if you're already sticking to a habit, then it seems like extra work to me to track it as well. So what should you measure in your habit tracker?
Habit tracking can help kickstart a new habit or keep you on track with behaviors that you tend to forget or let slide when things get busy.
In Atomic Habits, I recommend using the Two-Minute Rule, which suggests you scale your habits down until they take two minutes or less to perform. You can track whatever habits you want in your habit tracker, but I recommend starting with these super small habits to make sure that you are at least showing up in a small way each day. I'll share some examples below and break them out by daily, weekly, and monthly habits.
Common daily habits to track:
- journal 1 sentence
- read 1 page
- meditate 1 minute
- do 1 push up
- stretch for 1 minute
- write 1 thing I'm grateful for
- make your bed
- wake up by [TIME]
- go to bed by [TIME]
- take a shower
- floss teeth
- weigh myself
- take medication
- take vitamins/supplements
- play [INSTRUMENT] for 1 minute
- contact 1 potential client
- prioritize to-do list
- say “I love you” at least once
- put all dishes put away
- take a walk outside
- call mom
- walk the dog
Notice that most items on this list can be completed in two minutes or less. Make your habits so easy that you can stick to them even on the hard days.
For something to become truly habitual, you need to repeat it frequently. As a result, most habits are daily. But it can also be helpful to use a habit tracker for various weekly or monthly routines. These behaviors won't become “automatic” like tying your shoes or brushing your teeth, but a habit tracker can remind you to complete them nonetheless.
Common weekly habits to track:
- publish blog post
- take out trash/recycling
- do the laundry
- water the plants
- tidy up your bedroom
- write a thank you note
- review finances
- transfer money to savings account
- pay off credit cards
- pay bills
- deep clean the house
You can also use a habit tracker to simply count how often you do something. For example, if you want to keep track of how many days you travel for work each month.
- days spent traveling
- conduct weekly review
- conduct monthly review
Finally, you can use a habit tracker to measure what you don't do. I call these “habits of avoidance” (that is, behaviors you are trying to avoid).
Habits of avoidance:
- no alcohol
- no Netflix
- no online purchases
- no soda
- no sugar
- no caffeine
- no smoking
Again, the Habit Journal offers a proven template and the fastest way to create your habit tracker. No need to spend an hour drawing your own grid. Just write your habits down and you're ready to go.
How to Get in the Habit of Using Your Habit Tracker
Despite all of the benefits, a habit tracker is not something that makes sense in every situation or for every person. Many people resist the idea of tracking and measuring. It can feel like a burden because it forces you into two habits: the habit you’re trying to build and the habit of tracking it. That said, nearly anyone can benefit from habit tracking in one form or another—even if it’s only temporary.
What can we do to make habit tracking easier?
First, manual tracking should be limited to your most important habits. It is better to consistently track one habit than to sporadically track ten. I tend to keep my habit tracker simple and limit it to my three or four most important habits.
Second, record each measurement immediately after the habit occurs. The completion of the habit is the cue to write it down. (This is a twist on the “habit stacking” approach I discuss in Chapter 5 of Atomic Habits.) 3
Here's the basic formula: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [TRACK MY HABIT].
- After I hang up the phone from a sales call, I will mark the “call 1 potential client” column.
- After I finish meditating, I will fill the “meditate for 1 minute” column.
- After I put my plate in the dishwasher, I will complete the “put all dishes away” column.
Basically, what we are talking about here is getting in the habit of using your habit tracker. These little rules help you remember to pick up your habit tracker and mark off another accomplishment.
How to Recover Quickly When Your Habits Break Down
Finally, I want to discuss what to do when you fall off the wagon.
Every habit streak ends at some point. Perfection is not possible. Before long, an emergency will pop up—you get sick or you have to travel for work or your family needs a little more of your time. Whenever this happens to me, I try to remind myself of a simple rule:
Never miss twice.
If I miss one day, I try to get back into it as quickly as possible. Missing one workout happens, but I’m not going to miss two in a row. Maybe I’ll eat an entire pizza, but I’ll follow it up with a healthy meal. As soon as one streak ends, I get started on the next one. I can’t be perfect, but I can avoid the second mistake.
Generally speaking, the first mistake is never the one that ruins you. It is the spiral of repeated mistakes that follows. As I write in Atomic Habits, “Missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit.”
Too often, we fall into an all-or-nothing cycle with our habits. The problem is not slipping up; the problem is thinking that if you can't do something perfectly, then you shouldn't do it at all.
Sure, a perfectly filled-in habit tracker looks beautiful and you should strive to achieve it whenever possible. But life is messy. In the long run, what matters is that you find a way to get back on track.
How Long Do I Need to Track My Habits?
One of the most common questions I get is “How long does it take to build a habit?”
You'll see all kinds of answers: 21 days, 30 days, 100 days. One popular answer right now is 66 days because there was one study that found that, on average, it took 66 days to build a habit. However, even within that study the range was quite wide depending on the difficulty of the habit.
I find that people are really trying to get at something else when they ask, “How long does it take to build a habit?” What they often mean is, “How long until it's easy? How long until I don't have to put much effort in anymore?”
Look, all habits get easier with practice. But this line of questioning ignores the real purpose of building better habits in the first place.
How long does it take? The honest answer is: forever. Because once you stop doing it, it is no longer a habit.
A habit is a lifestyle to be lived, not a finish line to be crossed. You are looking to make small, sustainable changes you can stick with for years. And a habit tracker is one tool in your toolbox on the road to behavior change. It is an effective way to prove to visualize your progress and motivate you to show up again tomorrow.
This article is an excerpt from Chapter 16 of my New York Times bestselling book Atomic Habits. Read more here.
The biggest problem founders and small owners have is that they’re experts in their field and novices in what it really takes to effectively run a . That’s what usually trips them up, sooner or later.
Don’t let that happen to you. Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know about business, starting with these 15 tips guaranteed to help keep you and your company out of hot water. Some are straightforward, others are counterintuitive, but they’re all true. And some day they’ll save your butt.
Always make sure there is and will be enough cash in the bank. Period. The most common business-failure mode, hands down, is running out of cash. If you know you’ve got a cash flow or liquidity problem coming up, fix it now. You can’t fire bad employees fast enough. You just can’t. Just make sure you know they’re the problem, not you ( see next tip ).
The problem is probably you. When I was a young manager, my company sent us all to a week of quality training where the most important concept we learned was that 90 percent of all problems are management problems. When things aren’t going well, the first place to look for answers is in the mirror.
Take care of your stars. This goes for every company, big and small. The cost of losing a vedette employee is enormous, yet précurseurs rarely take the time to ensure their top performers are properly motivated, challenged, and compensated. Your people are not your kids, your personal assistants, or your shrink. If you use and abuse them that way, you will come to regret it. Capiche ?
Learn to say ' yes ' and ' no ' a lot. The two most important words business owners and founders have at their disposal are “yes” and “no. ” Learn to say them a lot. And that means being decisive. The most important reason to focus – to be clear on what your company does – is to be clear on all the things it doesn’t do.
It boggles my mind how little most entrepreneurs value their customers when, not only are their feedback and input among the most critical information they will ever learn, but their repeat business is the easiest business to get. Learn two words : meritocracy and nepotism. The first is how you run an organization – by recognizing, rewarding, and compensating based solely on ability and achievement. The deuxième is how you don’t run an organization – by playing favorites and being biased.
Know when and when not to be transparent. Transparency is as detrimental at some times as it is beneficial at others. There are times to share openly and times to zip it. You need to know when and with whom to do one versus the other. It comes with experience.
Trust your gut. This phrase is often repeated but rarely understood. It means that your own instincts are an extremely valuable decision-making tool. Too often we end up saying in retrospect and with regret, “Damn, I knew that was a bad idea. ” But the key is to know how to access your instincts. Just sit, be quiet, and listen to yourself.
Protect and defend your intellectual property. Most of you don’t know the difference between a copyright, trademark, trade secret, and patent. That’s not acceptable. If you don’t protect and defend your IP, you will lose your only competitive advantage.
Learn to read and write effective agreements. You know the expression “good fences make good neighbors ? ” It’s the same in business. The more effective your agreements are, the better your relationships will be.
Far too many fondateurs run their like an extension of their personal finances. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Construct the right entity and keep it separate from your personal life. Know your finances inside and out. If you don’t know your revenues, expenses, capital requirements, profits ( gross and net ), debt, cash flow, and effective tax rate – among other things – you’re asking for trouble. Big dysfonctionnement.
You don’t know what you don’t know. Humility is a powerful trait for leaders, and that goes for new business owners, veteran CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and everyone in between. More times than not, you will come to regret thinking you knew all the answers. Behind every failed company are dysfunctional, delusional, or incompetent leaders. The irony is, none of them had the slightest idea that was true at the time. Even sadder, most of them still don’t. Don’t end up like one of them.
For every success you have in growing your market share, another or other businesses will inevitably lose ground. Here are 11 quick and easy business tips to gain a competitive advantage over your rivals and insulate yourself from the threat of new entrants in the market.
Of course, we all want to spark growth and increase revenue. But the way you do this in a sustainable way is to focus instead on the building of a loyal database of avid fans. Content marketing, paired with optimized website forms and intelligent fax automation follow-up is critical to business success. This approach builds trust by giving away free value before asking for someone’s hard-earned money. Not an spécialiste in creating optimized lead generation pages on a website ? No worries, use a trusted tool like Leadpages to make it happen.
Like it or not, folks out there aren’t searching for your brand, they’re just looking to solve a problem or find a particular type of product ( unless you run Starbucks or Adidas ! ) Don’t list all the benefits your product brings. Focus on the solutions. Explain to the customer in simple, straightforward terms how or why your product can help them or assist in the attainment of their goals. Consider FedEx’s iconic slogan : When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. This was a clear example of addressing widely-spread anxiety about the reliability of delivery services. Run through some market research to profile your target customer. How does your product or service – and your delivery and and price point – solve other people’s problems and make their lives easier or more pleasurable ?
Dropping prices doesn’t necessarily raise sales, for instance ( though it will definitely squeeze margins ). If you place yourself as a premium brand, then your customers aren’t necessarily value-driven in the first place, and cutting prices could even tarnish your brand. Consider this case study from Robert Cialdini’s seminal book ‘Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion’ : a jeweller sold out of turquoise jewelry after accidentally doubling, instead of halving, the price. The inflated price tag lent the product an unwarranted cachet ! If you are a premium brand, there are ways to optimize your pricing without lowering prices. For example, offer the quality-conscious customer an ‘exclusive’ benefit that your rivals do not or cannot provide. If you are at the value-driven end of the market, on the other hand, don’t assume slashing prices means incurring a loss. Low pricing can help you rapidly onboard a heap of new customers who may also buy other items in your site and return again. Context also counts for a lot with pricing. The best way to sell a $5, 000 watch, for instance, could be by putting it next to a $10, 000 watch. Think strategically when it comes to deciding any price point.
Yes, it sounds obvious, but it’s so very important ! Whether consciously or not, people are more likely to buy a product if they like the sales assistant who’s attending to them. While the employee’s personality obviously has no bearing on the price or your product’s ability to serve their needs is irrelevant. Friendly customer-facing staff will always attract more sales. Be rigorous in hiring people who are genuinely cheerful, friendly and outgoing. Make sure your training program teaches them to adopt a consistently friendly approach that puts customers at ease and feel like a priority.
Say you’re a bricks-and-mortar store and you’re getting a rush of customers as closing time approaches… why not close up an hour later ? While this may cause disgruntlement among équipe, solve this venant by getting creative with rosters. Monitor customer footfall throughout the day and week to identify your busiest periods, and staff people accordingly. You can also reduce headcount during quieter periods to offset the higher costs and longer sérieux hours created by your extended opening hours. It’s a win-win !
Even in the digital age, some customers will always prefer to contact you by phone rather than fax or Facebook. While many online companies with tight margins eschew manned phone lines altogether, it’s worth giving customers the option of having a voice-to-voice conversation with your brand. By all means, slash the time and cost spent responding to queries by funnelling customers to standardized, pre-existing responses on your webpage ( i. e., FAQs ). But if their query isn’t listed in the drop-down menu of FAQs, then don’t make them click more than once more to find your phone number. Put it front and center on your web page, particularly if you’re a retail offering. ‘Live chat’ bots are an inexpensive way of offering real-time communication, too.
Why not give your happy customers a voucher with their purchase to redeem on your products and services ? If they love what you do already, they’re only going to love you more for this. It’s good for you because : It guarantees they will return to your store again. People hate to waste freebies ! When they return to your store to redeem their voucher, they may buy other items, too. If your business operates online, then the freebie could be strategically timed to coincide with a special sale. Oh, and guess what ? Chances are customers who have received vouchers or freebies won’t stay quiet about it either, so you could enjoy some positive buzz on social media.
Local businesses can arguably connect with their unique communities with much greater authority than any global chain. A local retailer, hair mobilier or gardening company can sponsor a kid’s sports team and offer deep discounts for OAPs at the same time. Some cinemas feature special ‘sensory’ screenings where parents can bring kids with autism ( who would normally be overwhelmed by busy, noisy environments ) to enjoy a movie in a relaxed, stress-free atmosphere. This reflects well on them and also guarantees them a loyal customer niche. Whatever you choose to do to support your community, make sure it authentically fits with your brand offering and business journey to date.
Social media is a great medium through which to build a solid relationship with customers – just don’t forget what ‘social’ actually means ! Soul-less corporate shop-talk won’t work on Twitter. Try to give your brand some ‘personality’ when you write updates or posts. This can bring its own risks, of course. But if you get it right, the benefits can be très grande. Develop a tone of voice that aligns well with your brand identity. Seek to inform, help, entertain or amuse. And most importantly – given the dire PR consequences – don’t patronize, try too hard to be funny, or tweet after a few alcoholic drinks !
Sometimes it’s better to be a master of one discipline than a jack of all trades. Admittedly, multiple revenue streams do spread your risk : if one falters, others can take up the slack. Nevertheless, consumers often associate ‘specialists’ with higher quality products or services than generalists. And with good reason, too : specialists typically invest all their resources into perfecting a solo product or service. So what should you specialize in ? tera state the obvious, it should be something in which you excel. You could also pick something with rising or recession-proof demand which is resilient to technological change in which you possess a competitive advantage over your rivals or where there’s an obvious gap in your local market. Own it, whatever you do.
Don’t ever get too satisfied with your business. You can always improve – and improve you must ! Don’t get me wrong : without the odd moment of smug satisfaction, what’s the point ? Do relish in the successful launch of a game-changing product or take pleasure in positive customer feedback. But don’t let your customers hear you banging on about it time after time ! Be alert to the common element that has led to the downfall of countless hitherto thriving brands : complacency. Imaginative, nimble and innovative start-ups often do better than big market leaders that just got lazy. You may be the disruptive innovator today, but tomorrow you could be the complacent market leader with a tired model. So try to be humble and always strive to improve. Seek inspiration from other entrepreneurs, from books and from seminars. The moment you think ‘mission accomplished’ is the same moment you become vulnerable to being usurped.
There are lots of ways in which you can improve your , and not all of them are complicated ! Try out the above business tips or integrate them with your existing strategies, and let me know how you go in the comments below. Guest Author : Faye Ferris is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Dynamis APAC Pty Ltd offices in Sydney. She develops the DYNAMIS ne change pas of brands and their expansion into the Asia Pacific region as well as BusinessesForSale. com, FranchiseSales. com and PropertySales. com. If you have an interest in partnering up with Faye or advertising on any of these websites in the APAC territories, please do not hesitate to contact her on faye@businessesforsale. com.