What is a Habit Builder and Why use one?
Habit Builders, or Trackers, help you work towards goals and get things done by providing an engaging way to see and celebrate progress. Those ‘things’ can be miniscule or massive, thoughts or deeds, the appeal of the Habit Builder is that it is highly customisable and tailored to the owner’s aspirations.
This article introduces Habit Builders, and is followed by a guide to using Habit Builders and tips for successful habit building. If all you want is a printable copy of our Habit Builder, you’re welcome, here it is.
At first glance Habit Builders look like a checklist of activities to be ticked off when complete, similar to children’s reward charts. Superficially simple there’s much more to it than keeping score. Used with consideration and dedication the Habit Builder can be transformational, the clue is in the word ‘habit’. Habitual behaviour helps us do those desirable things with less effort, energy and attention. You’ll recognise this in the skills you’ve learnt like talking or cycling. They were effortful to start with and are easier now, you may even be able to do both at once, that’s because they are embedded in you as collections of habits.
There are also habits we recognise as less welcome. None of these just happen, habits are built through time and repetition, not just repetition of the activity but of the cue and subsequent reward for performing the habit.
That’s where a habit builder helps, its focus is the repetition of small activities contributing to a larger goal. Sometimes these habits appear tangential but they are the foundations on which to build. For instance, Being better at work and feeling less stressed is benefited by habits like healthy eating, regular breaks and sleep routines. The goal of reducing procrastination might be supported by habits like breaking down tasks, managing distractions and taking regular recharge breaks.
These larger goals and supporting activities are often shaped during coaching sessions, and the thinkers I work with have found Habit Builders a productive way to provide motivation, and a little self-accountability, between sessions. Creating habits takes time and work, one research paper indicates anything between 18 to 254 days  so it’s valuable to have a way to view progress, indulge in a little gloating, or give yourself a pep talk.
I prefer the term ‘builder’ because it emphasises that this is a tool for change, compared to potentially passive ‘tracking’, building is more deliberate and purposeful, inspires other contributing activities and recognises the effort required. Despite its simplicity, significant sustainable personal change can start here.
Habit Trackers are frequently associated with physical behaviours, such as ‘Go for a 30 minute run’, when coaching I’ve found them equally successful with thoughts, and less tangible areas like ‘Focus on X‘, reduction of irritability or even smiling. We may also develop traits like resilience by developing habits known to promote it, such as gratitude exercises.
Habit Builders are quite intuitive but for the best results, the next article describes how to use a Habit Builder and get the most from your investment.
Ref 1 Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998–1009. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.674.