8 Habit List Usage Ideas

We’ve had some great response to the Habit List post.


Here are several usage ideas for the Habit List:

  1. Negative Items – If there is something you are trying not to do, you can add it to the list as negative item.  For example, “Didn’t watch TV” could be one of the items on the list.
  2. Different Lists for Different Places – Part of the idea of the Habit List is to let you focus on your tasks with habit type items out of the way.  If your habit list gets long, you might want to use different lists separated by where you will use them.  For example, you might have one list for exercise, another list for work, and a third for your home stuff.
  3. Teaching Your Kids – The Habit List also makes a great way to track those little things you want to do to help your kids learn.  For example, you might have an item for going over the alphabet with your toddler each day, or sitting down and reading a book.
  4. Kid Chores – The Habit List can also be a great way to help your children remember chores.  Items like “make your bed”, “brush your teeth”, and “do homework” are all great candidates for the list.  When I was growing up, my mom made lists like this for us.  If you have access to a large printer, you can even print the list out in a large wall calendar size.
  5. Did and Didn’t markings – Normally you want to place a check in the box when you accomplish an item and leave it blank when you didn’t.  However, if you find yourself slacking, you might consider putting an X or some other mark in the box for items you didn’t do.  This helps keep the undone item from being entirely passive.  If it is something simple you may find that you’d rather go ahead and quickly do it so you don’t have to give yourself a “bad” mark.
  6. Keep it Visible – Personally I’ve found that if my Habit List gets covered up, I stop thinking about it.  Be sure to keep it somewhere visible where you can see it.  If you just set it on your desk where it will get covered with other papers, it is easy to start ignore it.  By putting it on the wall or somewhere else where you can easily see it, your brain will notice it and think about the tasks on the page–even if you aren’t consciously looking at it.
  7. Tell Someone Else – One of the best ways to increase the number of habits you check of each day, is to take a few minutes and explain it to someone else.  You can show it to a co-worker, friend, spouse, etc. To your subconscious this will elevate the importance of the list and help solidify it as a priority.
  8. Don’t Break the Chain – Part of the idea of the Habit List is to have a light weight list of things you want to do on a regular basis, but where it doesn’t matter if things are skipped every once in a while.  There are some habits where you don’t want to ever skip a day. For Seinfeld one of those habits was taking some time to write jokes.  Here is an article about how Seinfeld used a method similar to the Habit List to improve his jokes.  (Thanks to Collin for sending me the link.)  You can accomplish the same thing by having a section of your list of items where you don’t want to break the chain and another section for things that just need done every once in a while.  I would suggest putting the really important items at the top of the list and fill downward and the less important items at the bottom and fill upward. That keeps them separate, but allows you to add new items if necessary without running out of room.


  1. says

    When I was implementing GTD in a notebook, I found that many of my tasks were recurring — habits that I wanted to force myself into. So I eventually made them a separate list, like you have here (but yours is prettier).

    What would be the best way to fill out this PDF via software rather than by hand? Just find some PDF reader that lets you add notes?

    I run on a Mac primarily.

  2. tony says

    Hello, Mark, I am very intersted at your posts. the habit list picture looks very beautiful, can you tell me how to draw it? thanks.

  3. says

    Any chance you can post or provide your OmniGraffle file so that I can have a nicely printed list of my habits rather than relying on my poor hand-writing?

  4. Mark Shead says

    @Nick – I would recommend printing it out and filling things out by hand. I’m looking at making a PDF version that is actually a form that can be saved, but I don’t quite have all the tools I need.

    @Tony – it was done with OmniGraffle.

  5. carol says

    this is a great tool – i’ve been using it this week and have really been enjoying it. i’m a new academic, trying to get used to structuring my own days – i’m using the habit list to make sure i’m covering all my reading topics and working steadily on syllabi creation and lesson plans. while those things could be considered long-term projects, they’re actually the daily, unending work of an academic, so, for example, making it a habit to pick up a text and read for 30 minutes keeps me from having to pull student-like all nighters when i need to be ready to teach in the morning.

    mixed in with the academic tasks, i’ve included other gtd/flylady/zen habits/et al kinds of tasks – working with the tickler file, flossing my teeth, exercising, making my bed and keeping the kitchen sink clean. it makes for a funky and kind of long habit list, but with my days being almost entirely my own to structure – which can be kind of overwhelming – it’s actually hugely helpful. thanks so much for sharing it!

  6. says

    Thank you very much for sharing your list. Now it’s being used in Brazil :-)
    I’ve just mentioned it in my blog. Hope that’s ok.

  7. Inca says

    Great idea.

    I like the idea of printing it out and having it where I need it at all times.

    But I also like to have the computer add up all the little checks for me.

    So, I made up a very similar looking form in Excel…and it is great.

  8. says

    Very nice work, I must say… This habit list has helped me a lot from last few days. Initially I had started with a single list which was fine and now I’m using 3 of them:

    1. Personal
    2. Company
    3. Negative Habits

    The best thing is, you dont have to maintain all those repetitive tasks in your growing to-do’s. Now my to-do also looks neat..

    Thanks a lot…!!!

  9. Jennifer says

    I came across this template years ago and it’s been one of those few things you come across in your life that is worth it’s weight in gold. Well, it doesn’t weigh much, but you know what I mean! Recently, I’ve been using it in conjunction with an eBook I discovered called Mini-Habits, and together, they work very well. Thanks so much for sharing this template – very well-designed. I had tried to design my own habit-forming template and was fussing-around with various charts designs in Word and Excel when I came across yours – I remember thinking it was so perfect! I also recall feeling very grateful that someone was generous enough to share the results of their own labours. So an overdue thank-you for that. Cheers.


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