Habit Tracking: How I stay healthy with a hectic schedule

“You’re so busy… how do you stay motivated to be healthy when things get hectic?” 

I get this question often, so I feel the need to address it with a long-winded answer in today’s post. This isn’t the typical “discipline over motivation” speech. It’s way more than that.

Yes, I would agree that I am busy between starting a coaching business and earning my PhD (on top of being a wife and trying to maintain my health and fitness goals).  I have a lot of work to do all of the time, and I thrive on having a lot to do.  I have learned to focus on what actually matters and what to set aside for later.  I say “no” to things that don’t need to be on my radar.  This isn’t always an easy thing to do.  As I said, it’s a learning process. 

Rather than trying to be busy, I aim to be productive.  When I need a mental break, I take one.  When I need to take a day off from the gym, I do so.  I am constantly asking myself, “what am I trying to accomplish right now?” or “What is the purpose of what I am currently doing?”  It really puts things into perspective.  

However, constantly questioning your motives isn’t enough to get on top of your schedule.  There’s SO MUCH to do and to think about – work, school, social life, relationships… and on top of that, if you aren’t where you want to be health or fitness-wise, add grocery shopping, meal planning, working out, confusion with what’s working and what’s not… next thing you know, you’re having a mental breakdown because you’ve taken on too much and you’re overwhelmed. 

I was always running out of time, always wondering why I was so angry all of the time, and my mental health was a disaster.  I was doing too much.  So how did I add balance in my life and end up healthier on the other side? 

Enter habit tracking. 

What is habit tracking?  Well, it’s pretty simple.  If you think about it, humans are creatures of habit.  We carry on the same way for months and years at a time, not paying too much attention to what is helping us or what is hurting us.  While you might think your schedule changes a lot day to day, in all honesty, you do the same things.  

Tracking habits is simply measuring when you do or do not do something (healthy or unhealthy).  Don’t think you are naturally a creature of habit? 

Does this sound familiar?  You press “snooze” a few times in the morning because you deserve those extra 20 minutes of sleep.  You manage to make it out of bed, rush to get ready, grab a quick breakfast, and speed to work or to class.  You’re completely exhausted because you stayed up late the night before cleaning up the kitchen or doing something else you put off until the last minute.  

You constantly work late, so you’re rushed during your evening workout, and you don’t have time to cook dinner, so you order pizza for dinner.  Not every day is like this… but maybe 2 or 3 days per week?  By Friday, you finally get your life together and feel like you’re “back on track,” but then the weekend rolls around and exhaustion sets in again.  How do I know this is you?  Because it was me, dude!  

When I started tracking my habits, I realized just how much I was mistreating myself, and I started implementing healthy habits slowly over time.  It has made a world of a difference!

I recommend writing down how many times per week you order food out… or writing down how many times per week you work out… or how many hours per sleep you get each night.  Do this for maybe 2 weeks and see what you come up with.  What’s the point of all of this?  

DATA. You can directly compare what is directly contributing to your health versus what is not or even what is working against it. 

I am a scientist – I collect data in a lab.  Why wouldn’t I treat myself the same way and start collecting data on myself?  The point isn’t to objectify myself into some lab rat.  The point is to see change over time.  We all know our behaviors don’t change overnight!  When we can look at data that clearly show what is helping versus what is hurting our health, we can see what needs to change and what we can keep!

Here are some of the habits that I have tracked:

  • Nutrition (calories, macros, water intake)
  • Workouts and activity
  • Reading at least 10 pages from a book
  • Something I wanted to get better at like handstands, flexibility, or something else

How I track my habits

At the beginning of each month, I write down three things that I want to do consistently or improve upon.  Then, each day, I aim to do those three things intentionally and with a purpose.  For each day that I do them, I put an “x” on my calendar.  At the end of the month, I assess my progress, and I can directly see that where I put an “x,” that’s where I improved or made the most progress.  

I have filled my time with healthy habits and slowly removed habits that weren’t serving me.  These things included going to bed too late, eating fast food, working late, going out drinking, associating with toxic people, and a few others. I work with my nutrition clients to help them see that what they previously thought was not affecting their health is actually contributing to poor eating habits or lack of control over their health and nutrition.   

What happens when I miss one day or a few days in a row? Do I completely erase all the data that I have collected and give up? NO! I simply get right back to it the next day. I am not starting from the same point that I did before, and neither are you!

What this all boils down to is really just how you spend your time.  Maybe you spend way more time on your phone than you thought.  Maybe you thought you were eating way fewer calories than you originally thought.  This method really puts things into perspective. 

After reading this, I hope that you start tracking your habits so that you can see how you fill your time.  This way, you will be able to objectively see how your habits are affecting your life!

If you really want to improve one or more things about your life, get tracking, and watch the success and improvement unfold right before your eyes!  

This blog was inspired by the book Atomic Habits by James Clear and my husband, who started tracking his guitar practices to get better and eventually went on to start a band. 

Cover photo by Happiness Maker from Pexels

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