Hacking Habits

A single spreadsheet helped me become a more disciplined person. After a year of using it myself, I want to share the spreadsheet, explain how it works, and dissect its impact on how I spend my time.

Mehul introduced me to tracking habits with Google Sheets in grade school. Today, he and I hopped into a wacky virtual chat room to talk about building / breaking habits, what’s worth measuring, and how to quickly cultivate new habits. Scroll down to watch this week’s animated addition.

The Goods

Here’s my Habit Tracker Template. Track the habits you care about and score yourself based on how well you do. The sheet’s color-coded to indicate the “health” of each habit, so after a while, you’ll have a solid visualization of your performance over time.

Make a copy of the sheet to use it yourself!

How does it work?

I’ll use reading as an example. I wanted to read more often, so I chose to read for an hour every day. I gave myself a target score for the year, and at the end of each day I’d score myself based on how well I did.

Read for one hour: 1
Read for thirty minutes: 0.5
Don’t read: 0

Because the spreadsheet is designed to measure consistency, I never gave myself a score above 1, even if I achieved more. Reading for two hours one day and skipping the next isn’t the same as reading for an hour on both days.

These numbers contribute to an overall score that I can compare to my target score for that habit. At a glance, I can see how well I’m doing and evaluate which of my habits need more attention.

For a year, I tracked the habits listed above: reading, meditating, sleeping, staying hydrated, and working out. Each habit was simple enough to complete regularly, but meaningful enough to have a positive impact over a longer period of time.

How did I do?

Score-wise, pretty poorly. I set high standards for myself, and fell short of those goals when more valuable parts of my life took precedence. I don’t regret letting my habit scores slide in favor of spending time with people I love or doing things that energized me— that’s what makes life exciting.

When filling out my habit tracker became a satisfying part of my daily routine, I found myself becoming more intentional about how I spent my days. If something didn’t feel like a good use of time, I got better at turning it down in favor of keeping my habits up. Confidently turning things down— and learning to do so elegantly— allowed me to make room for people and activities that mattered. After a year, my spreadsheet wasn’t all green— it was riddled with yellows and reds. But after holding myself accountable for habits I cared about, I became the kind of person who values measuring progress, consistency, and prioritizing what matters most. That’s more valuable to me than any one habit.

Because this spreadsheet measures consistency rather than quality, it’s hard to tell if you’re improving unless you measure both. Even though I didn’t read every day, I feel like a faster and more attentive reader now. Even though I didn’t work out five days a week all year, I feel stronger and more athletic. In addition to staying consistent, I want to be more deliberate about measuring quality moving forward. Maybe I’ll make another spreadsheet and write about it in a year!

This week’s animated addition

This week’s installment of Talk to Things isn’t a solo episode— it’s a conversation. Between two colorful worms. There’s something special about sharing a virtual space with someone, especially when you don’t need any fancy hardware to get it working. Watch a couple worms talk about picking up and maintaining new habits.

Thanks for reading and watching. If you have any feedback or suggestions for me, feel free to reach out on Twitter or via sagarramesh.com.