Exercise, sleep and nutritional habits are the most important three behaviours you’ll need to focus on if you want a lasting healthy change. To help improve the quality and consistency of these three healthy habits, you need to analyse them on a
regular basis.
One of the most effective ways to improve your habits is to track them objectively, with a simple journal system. By tracking your exercise, sleep and nutritional habits, you can accurately reflect on how effective they are for you — and whether or not a change is needed.

The benefits of tracking

Tracking encourages and motivates you to do even better after you see all the effort you’re putting in; it makes you more self-aware, understanding and accountable for your actions, so you know if you are on- or off-track. It also removes a large number of errors and self-serving biases, which we humans are very good at creating when reflecting on our own behaviours.
Journals and tracking one’s actions have been around for ages, and are still highly effective. With all that being said, many people take a semi-consistent and largely unaware approach towards their exercise, sleep and nutritional habits. For example, they may try something for a few weeks, become unhappy with the results and then give up, but without knowing why it didn’t work for them.
Tracking your habits changes this completely, as it allows you to look back and determine if you really did what you intended to do, how consistent you were about it and understanding patterns that may have led to failure.
Here are four healthy habits you can track.

  1. Bedtime and wake-up times
    Record these every morning, for the night before. Sleep is a big hole in many people’s lives, so turn the tables and turn the lights out when you need it.
    Something to remember is that adequate sleep equals better weight loss and muscle repair, while inadequate sleep equals weight loss plateaus and more likely muscle soreness. This one is simple, but vital.

  2. Pedometer step count
    Be sure to record the steps you’ve taken daily. There is a clear, positive connection between steps each day, weight loss and vitality — the more the merrier!
    Numbers are incredibly useful, especially when a machine does the calculating for you. Whether that’s a $20 pedometer or a luxurious Apple watch, it’s all the same — because steps are steps. A pedometer makes it easy to track exercise; you just need to write it in your journal at the end of the day.

  3. Junk food logs
    Many people “eat healthy” but don’t lose any weight at all. This is often because they also forget the junk food on top of those healthy calories — a phenomenon known as dietetic amnesia (joke).
    If your problem is too much junk or you simply want to be more accountable, write down the junk you eat and the context (feelings and events) leading up to it. Instead of punishing yourself, observe your behaviour, understand it and you’ll be much more likely to reduce this bad habit.

  4. Healthy food logs
    The value of eating nutritious foods is clearly established already, so for a really simple way to improve this habit, write down the amount of vegetables and fruits you eat every day. Keep it simple; for example, record the number of vegetables and the number of fruits you ate. This will encourage you to continue eating well and promote this habit once you see it all on paper. Then always praise yourself for the healthy foods you’ve eaten.

Give it a go yourself

If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot of effort, think again! There are only four things you need to write down, which is an investment of two minutes each day, or just five to 10 minutes each week. It’s worth it!
So if you’re keen to make a positive health change, start tracking your exercise, sleep and nutritional habits in a journal that you’ll check every week. It is a super effective way to make your healthy habits stronger and more consistent. ☐

Other tricks and tips

To make it more likely that you don’t miss a day, keep the record on your phone or tablet in notes/draft text messages, or somewhere similar. This covers you if you don’t have your journal handy. An electronic and portable journal is possibly even more reliable than old fashioned paper, as we nearly always carry smart phones and tablets with us these days.
Use this journal system to maximum effect by making a weekly review of your healthy habits. A review can provide greater insight into your actions, by simply asking yourself, have I done well? Could I do better? Are there any issues I need to address? This will reflect your strengths and weaknesses, which can help you prioritise for the week ahead.