Habit trackers: How they work and why you need one

House of Wellness TV co-host Jo Stanley has credited keeping a habit tracker with helping her stay accountable to living her best life. Here’s how and why you should keep one too.

Forming more positive habits and breaking less helpful ones can be one of the most effective lifestyle changes you can make towards living the way you want to and reaching your goals.

According to US research, about 40 per cent of people’s daily activities are performed each day in almost the same situations, so if something is a habit it’s almost effortless to do it.

So while it makes sense to want to shape our habits according to our desired behaviour, the actuality isn’t so simple.

“The reality is when we’re talking about changing habits or creating new habits, motivation comes and goes,” exercise scientist, performance coach and author of Pull Your Finger Out and Stop F*cking Around, Craig Harper says.

How a habit tracker can help?

Keeping a daily habit tracker can help you stay on track towards forming habits to benefit you.

“A habit tracker provides a greater level of self-awareness around what you do and provides a level of structure and accountability and process, which matters,” Craig says.

“When we’ve got something that makes the process a bit more methodical and scientific, it tends to keep us doing it for longer.”

What is a habit tracker and how do they work?

A habit tracker isn’t rocket science.

“A habit tracker is essentially a physical or online diary that maps behaviour,” Craig says.

“And behaviour is the catalyst for change. It really is just an individual record and diary of behaviour, progress and outcomes.”

There’s plenty of apps available designed to help you keep your positive habits on track, or it’s easy to whip one up yourself using a good old fashioned diary or exercise book.

“The challenge is to be consistent and proactive when we ‘can’t be bothered’,” says Craig.

“Any tool or resource that helps us be more consistent with our behaviour will help us along the journey toward our goal.”

tracking habits

What are the benefits of keeping a habit tracker?

There are a few key advantages to using a habit tracker.


A habit tracker helps you stay accountable to the habits you want to develop.

“Most people lack accountability,” Craig says.

“A habit tracker provides structure, process and self-awareness around what we’re doing.”


Habit trackers can provide a unique insight into what motivates you and at which times of the day or week.

“When we’re talking about tracking habits around health and wellness, when we keep a record, over time we can create our own blueprint,” Craig says.

“It helps us understand what works for us, because there’s no generic program that works for everyone.”


A habit tracker provides immediate satisfaction.

Whenever you tick off a completed goal, the brain releases dopamine, which is commonly associated with the brain’s pleasure and reward system.

This creates a snowball effect as the positive feels from accomplishing a goal, and watching your results grow, make it more likely you’ll want to continue doing it – thus form a habit.

How long does it take to form a habit?

Repetition is key to forming a long lasting habit, but according to Craig there’s no fixed timeframe it takes for a habit to stick.

“That’s the great unknown,” he says.

“It varies anywhere from a month to years depending on the individual, the habit, and what psychological state they’re in.”

Common habits people track

  • Meditate
  • Alcohol-free day
  • Go for a walk or run
  • Exercise
  • Take medication
  • Walk the dog
  • Journalling
  • No desserts
  • Drink enough water
  • Eight hours’ sleep

Written by Claire Burke.