“Habits are the compound interest of self improvement” – James Clear
This time of year, everyone is talking about goals. And New Year Resolutions. And Progress. And taking over the world.
In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits he talks about the importance of how habits help you not only to play the game, but to actually win the game. But how do you know if you’re winning the game unless you’re tracking your progress?
Enter Habit Trackers.
The basic goal is simple… Choose a few habits you want to track (such as waking up on time, exercising three times a week, writing every day) and track their progress over a certain period of time. We are hardwired to love rewards, and seeing all those checkboxes checked for a whole week straight is a reward in and of itself. And it doesn’t help if there is a cupcake at the end of the rainbow, let’s be honest. Unless of course your habit is to eat healthy, then picture dried seaweed or a small handful of unsalted cashews at the end of the rainbow.
Tracking habits in Notion
If you’ve been around here before, it will come as no surprise that I’ve chosen to track my habits in Notion. I am all-in on Notion. I’ve spent over a year and a half going deep inside of Notion learning all the ins and outs, and I am loving all these new updates they have come out with recently. Since I use Notion everyday for all Blanc Media / The Sweet Setup / The Focus Course related projects (and my own side projects), it made sense that I would use it to track my habits.
Notion is completely customizable — which is great — but can also be a bit intimidating if you are new to Notion.
A while back, I wrote about how I was tracking habits in Notion, but the app has changed a lot since then along with my process. So now I’m introducing the new and much-improved (and heck-of-a-lot easier) way to track your habits in Notion.
Note: I turned this Habit Tracker into a Notion template. There is a download link at the bottom of the article
My Ultimate Notion Habit Tracker
Before embarking on this journey of creating the Ultimate Notion Habit Tracker, I did some research. There have been some great updates to Notion recently (such as repeating tasks and templates and fancy new icons) and I wanted to take full advantage of them. I also looked around the internet to see what was out there and saw lots of great templates, including Notion’s own Habit Tracking template.
But I thought I could make something with a bit more pizazz.
I also love my Notion workspace to be visually pleasing. I love to choose a color pallet and find inspiring photos from Unsplash (thanks to the amazing Notion + Unsplash integration) and let my workspaces bring me joy and inspiration.
Let’s dive into what I came up with.
This Habit Tracker has four views. The Weekly View (in a table), The Calendar view, The Visual view (my personal favorite), and the All Habits view.
It also features one of Notion’s newest updates: Repeating Templates. So now you don’t have to create a new card for each day of the week, it does it automatically. Can we just take a moment and appreciate how great that is?
I tried to get my dad into Notion last year and his biggest complaint was, “Why do I have to create a new card for each day of the week? Shouldn’t Notion just do it for me?” And I couldn’t agree more.
Well, now, it does! You just have to tell it exactly what to do. And test it. (Lucky for you, I already did that for you — you can download the template at the bottom of the article).
And thanks to Marie Poulin’s Notion Mastery’s private online forum, I was able to find a hack so that each repeating template automatically adds the date to the card when it is created so that the entire thing runs on autopilot. All you have to do is check off the habits you accomplished that day.
Let’s take a deeper look.
All The Views
There are four main views (but you are free to add more or delete ones that you don’t find helpful!)
This view is set up to show you all the cards (in a table view) for the current week.
You can see all the habits you are tracking, the date, and a progress ring, and a special motivational message (we’ll get into that in a bit). This view is Grouped by
Date and then by
Week and sorted by
You can jump into this view each day and check off the habit you’ve completed easily.
This view is pretty self explanatory. You can see all the cards for a specific month. You can also check off habits from this page, but only certain properties are shown from this page. You can adjust which habits are shown by going to the three dots next to the blue New button on the left, then clicking Properties, and then choosing which ones you want to show on the calendar.
This is my favorite view. As I mentioned before, I love beautiful inspiring images, so in this view I added lots of cool images (mostly in the grey scale).
This view is in the Gallery layout and the card preview is the page cover, that way you can see the cover images. In each template I set a different cover image for each day of the week. They are sorted the same way as the Weekly View, so I can see all the cards for each week, with the newest at the top.
I don’t have many properties shown on these — just the progress ring, the motivational message, and the daily highlight — but you can change them to show whichever properties you want.
All Habits View
This is where some of the real habit tracking magic happens. In this view, you can see your progress for each habit. Not just over a specific week, but over the entire time you’ve been tracking it.
You could also add a date filter if you wanted to see your habit’s progress in a certain time period. This is a great way to see and celebrate your progress.
You might be looking at this Habit Tracker and thinking, “Wow that’s a lot of habits to track”. And you would be correct — it is a lot.
I added a lot of habits to this tracker to give you ideas of what to track. Ideally, you would be tracking 2-3 habits, not 7. If that seems like a lot, start with just one. Choose one habit to change your life.
Let’s take a look at the ones I’ve added to the Habit Tracker:
- Startup Routine
- Shutdown Routine
- Water Intake
Writing Habit: this is a great habit to track if you want to start writing more. Say your goal is to write a book by the end of the year. Your habit could be to write 500 words a day. If you aren’t planning on writing a book any time soon, you could change the name of the property to “Journal.” All you have to do is journal a page a day.
Exercise: If your goal is to get healthier this year, that most likely includes exercise. Keeping track of your workouts is a great way to celebrate your progress.
Reading: Creating a habit of reading 15 minutes before bed is a fantastic way to disconnect from technology, relax, and learn something new. And you know the old saying: a reader is a leader.
Photo: I love this habit. Take a photo a day, then you can upload it to your Notion card (or create a fun album in your camera roll). A photo a day doesn’t mean an accidental screenshot, but a fun, inspirational, or beautiful photo of something you see or experience during your day. It’s a good way to find joy every day.
Meditate: This habit looks different for many people. Having some quiet time to yourself, reading through a devotional book, taking a walk in the middle of the day… It’s a good way to clear your head and take care of your mental health.
Startup/shutdown routine: In the Focus Academy, David Sparks hosted a workshop on Startup and Shutdown Routines (replay now available in Accelerator). It was one of the most popular workshops. He shared about how important it is to have a startup/shutdown routine in your work week. It helps you to start your day on the right foot and turn off your work brain at the end of the day.
Water intake: It turns out drinking water is important. And I like progress bars. There’s science (and math) involved in how much water you’re supposed to drink each day. Something along the lines of your weight in ounces divided in half. Since that seemed like a lot of guessing on my part for a template, I just put 10 cups of water as the average (🤷♀️).
For this property, you can just input the number of cups of water you’ve drunk that day and it shows you how close you are to your goal. If you choose to track this habit, feel free to adjust it to the correct amount by adjusting the Divide by number to your goal of how much water you need to drink.
None of these habits feel quite right? Feel free to change them! This habit tracker is meant to empower you to make progress and lasting change.
You can now change the icon for properties. Which is pretty cool, at least to me. That is why I have specific icons for each habit. You can easily change them by clicking the name of the property, then on the icon you want to change. Then just pick the new icon you want!
Progress Ring and Motivational Messages
In addition to adding the cool images, this is how I added some pizzazz to the Notion Habit Tracker. I am going to be honest, this took a lot of tinkering and testing. Notion has an advanced formula feature that is not for the faint of heart, but thanks to Marie Poulin’s Notion Mastery class, I was able to include a very special formula to spit out (somewhat) motivational messages when you complete your habits 😏.
In short, the Progress Bar and Motivational Messages properties use a formula to tally how many habits you’ve completed that day and show you your progress (using a progress ring) and display a motivational message.
First let’s look at the Progress Ring
Right now, the formula for the motivational messages and progress are based on the number of habits you are tracking. If you delete some of the habit properties, the formula will say that you are never completing all your habits, even when you are.
To adjust the formula for the progress bar, edit the property and change the “Divide by” number to the number of habits you are tracking. So if you want to track 4 habits, you would change the “Divide by” number to 4. Easy.
Now let’s look at the beast, the Motivational Messages.
The theory behind this is easy to understand. The formula calculates how many habits you’ve completed and it displays a message. If you decide you want to track all 7 habits and you are fine with the messages it displays, then you don’t have to touch it! But say that you want to track less than 7 habits and you find the messages to be a bit much — this section is for you.
Note: The Messages property uses the Progress property to calculate the number of habits completed, so if you delete the progress property, the Messages property will not work.
To adjust the formula for the Messages property, edit the property, and then click edit the formula.
Here is the cheat sheet for the formula:
if(prop("Progress") >= #HOW MANY HABITS YOU COMPLETED, "MESSAGE"
So if you are only tracking 4 habits, delete the formula string (the one above) for every extra habit that you’re not tracking any more and change the number (colored in maroon) in the remaining strings to reflect how many habits you are going to track.
Let’s look at an example. Currently, the string for the message if you complete 7 of your habits is this:
if(prop("Progress") >= #7, "#killingit"
Say you want to only track 4 habits and want to change the message, here’s what you would need to change:
if(prop("Progress") >= 4, "You did it!”
(Note: this is collecting data from the “Progress” property, which is why it says
Progress inside of the parentheses.)
The formula input box will tell you if something is wrong, and what character is broken. Know that every string needs to be closed with parentheses at the end, and in the current formula all the closing parentheses are at the very end of the formula (it looks like
)))))))) ) For every string you remove, you will have to remove one of the
) from the end of the string.
Don’t edit the
concat(format(prop("Progress")), " — ", string at the beginning of the formula. Just the
if(prop("Progress") >= #HOW MANY HABITS YOU COMPLETED, "MESSAGE" strings!
If you don’t find the motivational messages, well motivating, you can delete the property! Don’t worry, I won’t be offended.
Notion has been rolling out a lot of new features. My second personal favorite (my first has to be tabs) is repeating templates. I set up new repeating templates for each day of the week that duplicates at midnight each day. I could have created a single template that repeated every day, but I wanted to differentiate each day’s template for two reasons.
First, I wanted each day to have a different cover photo. This is mainly for the Visual View, which we already talked about. The second reason is that I added different journal prompts inside of each card.
Inside of each card there are two journal prompts. One of the prompts is the same every day, and one of them is different depending on the day of the week. The question that is the same every day is one of Shawn’s favorite journal prompts: Today was a good day because…
As I mentioned before, this template also automatically adds the date on the day it was created, so it adds itself to the right date on the calendar. It fully runs on autopilot. It’s pretty great.
Who knows. Maybe I can finally get my dad to use Notion.
A big component of tracking your habits is being able to easily check things off. For those of us in the iPhone world, we can do this pretty easily using a Notion widget that shoots you straight to the Habit Tracking page.
Here is how you create it:
- Go to your Home Screen and long-press on an app to bring up the contextual menu, then tap Edit Home Screen. You can also long-press anywhere on the Home Screen to enter jiggle mode.
- Tap the + button in the top left corner, and search for Notion.
- Choose the first widget called Page (you can also swipe and see all the different kinds of Notion widgets you can add).
- Tap + Add Widget.
- Move the Widget around until you find the perfect spot for it on your Home Screen (I put mine on the first page front and center so it’s easy to access and reminds me often to track my habits).
- The widget will say Tap and hold to set up. Tap and long-press on the widget to bring up the contextual menu, and then tap Edit Widget.
- Choose the correct Notion Workspace and Page (Notion Habit Tracker) you want to link, and then tap back on the Home Screen and — Voila! You can now easily track your habits throughout your day!
This Habit Tracker could be taken to the next level (as if it’s not already a bit next level). You could embed your task list in each card to show everything due that day, or bring in your project database and show what you’re working on to make it a bit more all-encompassing. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
This Habit Tracker is meant to help you make progress on your habits and focus on being consistent over a long period of time. That is where results and lasting change come from.