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One Trick That Will Change Your Life in 2021

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

To start, I’m going to take you back to the year 2019. A world before COVID-19 as we know it. Hard to imagine, right? I mean, it’s been such a long time since we were able to *insert your desired activity*.  

Back in late 2019, I read a book called Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. As an avid reader of self-help books, I was drawn to the book due to its popularity and positive reviews. However, as someone who has read MANY repetitive self-help books, I wasn’t expecting much. 


“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.”

― James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Suffice it to say, the book was (for me, at least) life-changing.

By all means, habit trackers were not a brand new thing by the time I had put them into action for myself. No siree, bob. In fact, back in 2016, I had a habit tracker app that I kept to build good habits. Perhaps my lack of motivation five years ago turned me off, or my unwillingness to open up the app every single time I completed a habit. 

Nonetheless, I failed to keep up good habits. But there is no doubt that the book Atomic Habits brought back the very notion of keeping and building better habits to improve my mediocre lifestyle. 

A month after reading the book, in January 2020, I decided to start the new year with a bang. With a piece of scrap graph paper, I grabbed a couple of coloured pens and wrote down the habits I wanted to start and break for the month. 

One year later, I am proud to say that I have read more, jumped more rope, listened to more podcasts, drank more water and ate healthier, all with the help of a simple habit tracker.

But what is a habit tracker exactly? 

A habit tracker is simply a way to measure whether you did a habit or not. The most basic set-up is to get grid paper and tick off each day you stick with your habit. For example, if you read one chapter on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, each of those dates gets an X or ✓.

If you’re still not convinced, here are three reasons to start keeping a habit tracker.

1. A habit tracker motivates you to continue while also holding you accountable.

James Clear wrote on his website that, “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.

Habit tracking provides visual evidence of your hard work, reminding you everyday of how far you’ve come. Also, I don’t know about you, but to me, there’s something unsatisfying about seeing an unchecked box on a sheet full of checkmarks. The feeling of checking an empty box is an underrated joy. 

2. A habit tracker can also help you break old habits

Not only can a habit tracker help you build and maintain good habits, but it can also help you break your bad habits. If you want to stop going onto TikTok for long periods of time, for example, you can write down on your habit tracker: ‘Do NOT watch TikTok videos while class is happening’ to help break the terrible habit. It’s true that old habits die hard, but with the help of a tracker, it’ll be much easier to let go.

3. A habit tracker can help you focus on your long-term goals and achieve them

Let’s say you want to learn how to speak Spanish by the end of the year. How will you do it? Well, one way is to write down one step you can do every day on your habit tracker. By doing, say, one Duolingo lesson every day, in a month, you will have done 30-31 lessons! In one year, that’s 365 lessons! Unless it’s a leap year, in which case you will have presumably done 366. Your goals are closer than ever when using a habit tracker. 

If you’re still hesitant about starting your own habit tracker, remember this: at the end of the day, what have you got to lose? Not to mention, when you see the completed habit tracker for the month, I have no doubt that you will experience a surge of pride.

Of course, keep your habits manageable and follow the S.M.A.R.T. process to further ensure you check off that box in your habits tracker. Eg. Don’t write ‘Do pushups’, instead write, ‘Do five pushups’.

So if you’ve got a bit of time on your hand to draw a couple of lines here and there or don’t want to waste any of your printer ink, get a piece of graph paper and start tracking your habits!

Good luck!

Download your free habit tracker today! 

Amanda Noor

Toronto MU '24

Amanda Noor is a fourth-year Creative Industries student at Toronto Metropolitan University. She's a huge movie and TV buff and American history and political junkie. When she's not writing articles for Her Campus, you can find her watching sitcoms from the 80s and 90s or daydreaming about living in New York City.
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