Lots of apps, services, and even paper products are out there to help you with habit tracking — the sheer selection can be overwhelming. But did you know you already have a tool that you can easily use as a habit tracker? I’m talking about your favorite Google Calendar application.
We’re all looking for ways to improve ourselves, get healthier, and be more productive. However, many of us struggle with building the habits that guide us toward these goals.
James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits offers insights on this topic. Two key actionable suggestions James makes are:
- Plan your habits. You will likely forget or avoid your habit if you don’t.
- Review and reflect on your progress.
Let’s look more closely at these points and how Google Calendar can help you with them.
Planning Habits with Google Calendar
The first and most crucial part of habit building is a “cue” — something that triggers you to start the activity. One of the simple ways to make the cue obvious is to make a specific plan for it.
The simple way to apply this strategy to your habits is to fill out this sentence: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
James Clear, “Atomic Habits”
Looks familiar, doesn’t it? That’s right — it looks exactly like an event in your calendar.
Google Calendar is a perfect tool for planning. In fact, any habit-tracking app trying to introduce this functionality is bound to be inferior. Following are several features you’ll find useful for habit planning in Google Calendar.
With many daily events, your calendar might become messy and unreadable. Google Calendar allows you to create multiple separate “calendars” and turn their visibility on and off at any time.
I recommend creating calendars for different life contexts: work, family, personal, etc. This strategy will make it easy to switch between contexts with just a couple of clicks.
Most habits can be planned as daily or weekly events. Let’s say you want to start attending a gym regularly. You choose to go twice a week and find that you’re free on Monday and Thursday mornings. Google Calendar provides a very flexible and simple interface to plan your gym days.
You can also cancel, reschedule, or change individual events, even if they’re part of a single, recurring event.
Google Calendar has a reliable system of notifications, so you’ll never forget about an upcoming activity. You can choose email or push notifications, and push notifications will work nicely with your smartphone application or smartwatch.
Such a reminder is a perfect example of a “cue” that will trigger you to start a desired behavior.
Integrations with Other Services
Probably the Google Calendar’s most underestimated advantage is its connectivity. Hundreds of services and apps are already integrated with it, so you don’t need to manually create events for many of your activities because your specialized apps can take care of it.
Let’s say Strava is your favorite app for running. You can set up automatic creation of Google Calendar events for each of your runs. Or imagine you’re using Italki to learn Spanish. Italki will send you an email with a special Google Calendar event creation link every time you schedule a lesson.
By taking advantage of such integrations, you’ll make habit tracking truly effortless.
Reviewing Your Progress with Google Calendar
Now that all your habits are well planned in your Google Calendar, they’re easily visible in the familiar interface. You’re getting notifications and doing your best to stick to your good habits. A week passes, and it’s time to take a look at your progress.
The Weekly Review will sharpen your intuitive focus on your important projects as you deal with the flood of new input and potential distractions coming at you the rest of the week.
David Allen, “Getting Things Done”
Google Calendar is great for planning and is very reliable storage for your events, but it lacks retrospective functions. Thankfully, My Good Week is here to help with that.
My Good Week is a service that lets you look at your calendar data in a new way:
- Tracks many activities independently by filtering events by name, description, or location
- Provides a calendar view for selected activities
- Displays statistics per week, month, quarter, or year
- Has retrospective charts that make it easy to notice long-term trends
Before installing a bunch of apps on your phone, consider using tools that you already have and with which you’re familiar. Google Calendar is a great planning tool. Together with My Good Week, you get all the power of the Google Calendar with rich retrospective functionality to boot.
Habit-tracking apps requiring data entry come out every day. These apps also routinely disappear, along with your data. Be careful not to trust your data to unreliable services.
We’ll cover more topics on how to track and quantify events in your life, set achievable goals, do reviews, and many other productivity principles in the next articles. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss an issue!