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How to use a Habit Builder

Following my Introduction to Habit Builders, this guide explains how to use our builder and is applicable to many of the other Habit Trackers available.  Take a look around, as always the key is to find something that you like, get started and learn what works for you.


Inspired by Solution Focused Coaching we start by writing want is wanted in the Focus section, after all knowing your direction is pretty important if you want to go anywhere. It’s motivating to have an overall theme or purpose for habits, it helps keep momentum, provides inspiration, guides decisions and encourages you to notice new things that will help. 

As an example, a common theme in leadership coaching is balancing work and other aspects of life, so the Focus could be “Better work and personal life blend”  

Habit builder detail

Now think about what you’ll do More of to help achieve the focus, you’re looking for things that will contribute to successful habit building.   It could be anything from courage, energy, practice or thinking time.  

So, to achieve  “Better work and personal life blend”  we may need more of “Being present, discipline, drawing boundaries, enjoying moments“

If you are trying to stop a habit it’s generally more motivating and likely to succeed if described with what is wanted, or a replacement habit, so ‘Less Coffee’ becomes ‘Maximum two coffees per day’.  ‘Stop being late for work’ becomes ‘Be there at 8:55am’.


Now you’ve set the scene, list the things you want to do, your desired habits.  Simply write habits in the left hand column.  Habits can be anything you like, you own it.  We're looking for an accumulation of small changes which build up to take you in the direction you want to go.  Aim for items that you can observe and have a high degree of control over.  They should blend value, challenge level and achievability.    


In our example the habits that will take us towards “Better work and personal life blend” could be: Leave desk for forty five minutes at lunch, Strict end to work day, Socialise on Fridays.


If you’d like to keep your initiatives private, use codes, symbols or acronyms, should anyone see your Habit Builder all they’ll know is that you are working hard towards something.


Returning to the chart, the numbers along the top typically represent days in a month, but can of course be used however you like, including smaller periods of time such as morning, afternoon, evening.  Don’t wait for the next month though, get started now.


The next step is to think about how to rate your progress for each habit. The clearer and more repeatable the rating is the easier it is to gauge progress and hold yourself to account.

For my own builder I use a range of symbols:

Tick - did it, achieved

Cross - not achieved 

Line - Not applicable that day, especially useful for cheat days.

Rating or scale - An assessment of how it went; a number, emoticon, traffic light, High, Low, Medium. 

Number - The actual quantity of something, minutes of an activity, coffees’ drunk, blocks of time spent on an activity.


Thinking beyond binary pass/fail ratings adds new perspectives and insight, as does looking for trends, trying to beat a previous streak or personal best is highly motivating.  The rating is a way to visualise progress, but the real goal is to discover what works and do more of it


For example, consider the goal of finding more time to think and make progress on important topics, a pretty common theme in professional coaching.  Let’s say the idea is to think for forty five minutes each day.  Logging time dedicated to this across a month should indicate when it is most likely to happen, for instance Mondays and Fridays might show a string of 0 minutes, but curiously the Thursday session always works.  Now we can explore what circumstances lead to that, and what can be learned to make other sessions better.

Habit builder icons

Working with a Habit Builder is a great way to make progress towards goals.  All that’s needed is the discipline to use the builder and the honesty to reflect and learn from what it shows you.  There are more tips for successful habit building in the next article.

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