July 05, 2021 5 min read

Want to Form New Habits? A Visual Habit Calendar Can Help

→ Habit Tracking Apps
→ Big, Colorful, Non-digital Habit Calendars
→ Starting Again, but Stronger

We’re all familiar with the optimism that comes with resolutions to form new, positive habits – and the disappointment when those resolutions whither on the vine. Why, oh why, is it so hard to form new habits (and abandon the old ones)?

Adi Jaffe, Ph.D., set out to answer that question in a Psychology Today article aptly titled “Why Is It So Hard to Change Bad Habits?

His response: “Because there is not a system in place to help you get the job done….” And even when there is a system, it’s usually set up “to help you stop the bad habit, not give you the tools needed to adopt new, healthier ones.”

You seem like a smart guy, Dr. Jaffe, but we beg to differ. There are tools aplenty, like habit trackers that use a calendar format to help you monitor and record how often you perform a daily habit you’re trying to adopt. The trick is knowing how to use those tools to set your goals and then to have the discipline to track how well you follow through on them. In other words, the first habit you need to establish is habitually using your habit tracker. Sure, it’s a little ironic that you need to develop the habit of tracking your habits, but is a life without irony really worth living?

The great thing about habit-tracking calendars is that they’re inherently hopeful. They represent those rare moments in our lives when we’re honest enough with ourselves to admit some of our flaws while at the same time investing in a better version of ourselves. It’s beautiful, really. 

The method of habit tracking is pretty simple.

A quick look at your habit tracker gives you a good sense of how successfully you’re adopting your new habit. The more often you perform each task, and the longer you work on it, the stronger the pattern becomes until, Voila! It’s a habit. 

The Beauty of Non-Digital Habit Trackers

While most people might initially look to mobile apps for help, there’s an argument to be made for a more low-fi, physical alternative. An elegant, highly visible whiteboard is the perfect hack for creating a beautiful, effective habit tracker of your own.

In that Psychology Today article about habits, Dr. Adi Jaffe explains: “Two factors that effectively help people achieve the behavior change they desire are incentives and accountability.”

The incentives that truly motivate us are extremely specific to each person, and we don’t always understand which incentives will work and which ones our change-resistant selves will simply point at and mock. But I think we can acknowledge that there is something universally gratifying about checking off tasks on our to-do lists. Having a visual representation of our progress (especially one that’s colorful and aesthetically pleasing) is just so satisfying, so…incentivizing.

Now let’s talk about accountability. Once you put it out into the world that you want to eat more vegetables, or exercise every day, or go to bed earlier, you’re more likely to follow through.

What better way to keep yourself accountable than to actually write down your goals and place them where all can see? Make them bold and bright and can’t-missable. Even if you’re the only one who sees these goals, laying eyes on them each day will serve as a powerful reminder of the promises you made to yourself. 

If you do have others in your household, a well-placed habit calendar reminds everyone in your household that you’re working on a new habit. Changing your behavior is your responsibility, but you can still draw strength and encouragement from your family or roommates – or gloat about your success. Whatever works. And in those moments when you consider noshing on a midnight cookie, skipping your speed walk, or sneaking a cigarette, you’ll remember that your habit tracker is going to have a blank spot for that day, and everyone’s going to see it.

So Many Habit Tracker Options

Are you a person who likes to do things your own way? Do you prefer to improvise rather than follow a recipe? Does a blank page inspire you with all the possibilities? Your habit tracker of choice could take the form of the brand-new Jotters, our modern, two-sided whiteboards that take the place of notebooks or legal pads. There’s a wide-open whiteboard on one side and on the other, a familiar paper template – notepad, legal pad, graph paper, or dot grid. Maybe you’ll use the open whiteboard side to draw your own calendar, with a color-coded system to track your habit-forming progress each day. Then on the other side you could write encouraging notes to yourself or inspiring quotes. Place your Jotter on the kitchen counter, on your desk, at your bedside – or take it with you wherever you go. With our Tackie Markers, whatever you write is smudge-free!

Pro tip: Use a combination of dry-erase and wet-erase markers to build your tracker. Draw the dates and calendar grid with wet-erase markers and use dry-erase markers to record your daily successes. When you’re ready to restart your calendar at the end of the month, you wipe away only the dry-erase markings, leaving the calendar and dates in place for the new month.

Maybe you’re all about the benefits of the habit-tracking but care a bit less about the creative potential of the blank page. No worries. The Stickies Whiteboard Calendar gives you a month view – you fill in the dates and then each day, you can track your progress, noting with different colors whether you remembered to meditate, or opted to skip the weekday glass of wine, or limited your screen time. The Stickies Whiteboard Calendar sticks to any shiny surface, so its presence on your refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, or maybe the window in your office cannot be ignored.

If you envision your habit tracker more in list mode than calendar mode and you like seeing short-term progress, you’re in luck. The Stickies Week & Meal Planner offers a weekly view with plenty of space to write on, as well as an open section for writing notes or making lists. Perhaps the tool most tailor-made for habit-tracking is the Chore, Task, & Habit Tracking Chart (it’s right there in the name!). List the habits you’re working on establishing on the left side, and then each day when you achieve your goal, you can make that oh-so-satisfying check mark, or draw a cute little heart, or a big, bold plus sign. Whatever gives you that little thrill of pleasure.

Starting Again, but Stronger

It takes strength and humility to be honest with yourself about your shortcomings. That same moment demands hope and gumption to decide to do the hard work of getting closer to the person you want to be.

With a physical, visual habit tracker, you get a daily reminder of the progress you’ve made, or even of the areas where you may be falling short of your expectations.

And with your M.C. Squares whiteboards, at the end of the week, or month, you can celebrate, or recalibrate, and then you wipe the slate clean and start fresh.

Anthony Franco
Anthony Franco

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