When tracking a habit, there are two essential ways to do it:
- Track your time (or something similar, like word count or page count)
- Check-mark that you did it
Most people think of the second option when it comes to habits. Do you floss every night before you go to bed? Check-mark each night you complete this. Did you pack your gym bag and put it in the car so it would be a reminder to get to the gym on your lunch break? Check-mark each week day you do this.
This is a great approach to starting new habits. It’s also a great way to maintain them.
The Multihabit system, though, is focused entirely on the first way to track a habit.
Those of you taking my Multihabit course on Highbrow will appreciate how, with some creative thinking, it’s possible to map out even up to 100% of your day like this.
Is this method better than the more popular check-mark method?
I would say these methods actually both work well together, but putting the time-tracking method first actually sets you up to be more successful.
To appreciate why, let’s see an example.
Many people want to get in the habit of exercising. What does it mean to exercise, though?
We rarely put a timer on and then just simply “exercise”. Usually, we have a list or agenda.
If you’re a runner, then exercise means going for a run outside or on a treadmill. If you’re lifting weights, then exercise means getting in reps on your sets. If you’re into sports, then exercise means playing that sport or practicing it. If you’re just wanting to lose some weight you might try aerobics, like a stair-climber or elliptical, or perhaps some Zumba classes.
In either case, doing your workout takes time. How much time?
There’s no way to know that if you don’t track it.
Why would you bother tracking your time on your workout though? Isn’t it enough just to check-mark that you did it, and shoot for a certain number of days in a week?
Here is where the power of our system comes in.
Most of the time, when you skip your workout for the day, it’s because you’re convinced you just don’t have the time for it, or you just don’t feel like it.
When we approach exercise this way, it’s a black box. How much time does a workout actually take?
When you get started, it might seem like a small commitment. But over weeks, then months, that unmeasured time at the gym starts to feel ominous.
Tracking your exercise habit with a count-up timer changes that.
Here’s an example of what working out might look like if you use the check-mark method:
Here’s what it might look like if we used a count-up timer instead:
Monday: 45 mins (run)
Tuesday: 48 mins (weights)
Thursday: 38 mins (cardio)
Monday: 45 mins (run)
Tuesday: 25 mins (weights)
Thursday: 20 mins (cardio)
Monday: 25 mins (short run)
Tuesday: 20 mins (weights)
Thursday: 28 mins (cardio)
What’s radically different about the two?
Notice what happens in weeks 2-3 in our timer method. By tracking the time you took on week 1, you immediately noticed you were putting in way too much time on weights and cardio. So, in week 2, you spent less time on them. (As well, in the check-mark method, at the end of week 2, you got quite sore from spending too long lifting weights and didn’t recover in week 3, making you not want to continue.)
Notice also that the check-mark method has naturally worked its way into your tracking. In this case, it’s become a session note. This is what I mean about how putting time-tracking first lets you use both methods together, covering all your bases.
By developing a time-tracking mindset, you set better bounds on your exercise time, making it sustainable.
This can be applied to any habit, provided you define the habit carefully. In the coming weeks, we will see plenty of examples of how to do this.
Stay tuned for next Tuesday, when we’ll cover more examples of how to use the Multihabit system.
p.s. if you enjoy this newsletter and have suggestions for future articles, please hit “reply” and let me know.