Halsted's Beautifully Human Habit Tracker

Isn’t this habit tracker beautiful?

paper planner filled in with lines that form patterns in the planner's grid squares

Halsted, whose site is cygnoir.net, kindly allowed me to share this photo of her journal, which accompanied her thoughtful post about switching from tracking her habits and moods with an app, to using pen* and paper.

Halsted also links to a video where she learned how to use three lines on a paper grid, to create lovely patterns as she tracks her habits.

Speaking for myself, I personally get discouraged by habit trackers built on a “don’t break” approach.

This approach – “don’t break the chain,” or “don’t break the streak” – works well for a lot of people, but for me, I just take it the wrong way when I can’t check the little box for that day.

Something eventually happens to break the streak: illness, my own or someone else’s; an appliance or a car breaks down; an emergency at home or at work. Then my streak is broken… and maybe, I wonder, maybe, so am I.

When the pattern on my habit tracker looks a little broken, I feel a little broken.

I’ve been wanting to resume habit tracking but until now, haven’t found anything that would make me feel encouraged to keep going, rather than feel like I broke something (“why can’t I keep it going?”).

What I love about Halsted’s pattern-creating method is that you can still track your habits, and yet it allows for the unpredictability and complexity of human life.

We are persons, after all, not machines.

And the pattern still looks beautiful. Instead of breaking a streak, you are building a unique, emergent pattern that mirrors your days.

Halsted writes,

“The “three lines” method (…) impressed me with its simplicity and its forgiveness. The pattern looks prettiest when I’ve done all my habits for the day, but even if I haven’t, the result is still pleasing to the eye and encourages me to try again tomorrow.”

Yes, indeed.

The beauty here is unbroken.

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Wondering how to manage your paper-based or hybrid paper-digital systems? Ask me a question.


Tip o’ the Fountain Pen

* To Halsted, who has helped me consider tracking my habits again. Fountain pen and notebook people, you’ll find a kindred spirit at cygnoir.net.


Bernard, H.M. (2023) ‘Habit and mood tracking in my Hobonichi Techo,’ 1 April. Available at: https://www.cygnoir.net/2023/04/01/habit-and-mood.html (Accessed: 24 April 2023).

Clear, J. (2019) ‘The Ultimate Habit Tracker Guide: Why and How to Track Your Habits’, James Clear, 14 January. Available at: https://jamesclear.com/habit-tracker (Accessed: 24 April 2023).

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