It’s a jungle out there.
We live in a soup of marketing messages, advertisements, and media channels that are constantly pulling at our attention and awareness. Because we get so distracted, we give into the resistance and we stop doing work that matters. This is so bad, that many early entrepreneurs spend all day dreaming about success without making any real progress.
It's a very narrow road to success and most of us don't stay on the path.
To get ahead in this world, you need to be doing things differently than everyone else. You can’t be the person who spends 6+ hours a day watching TV, mindlessly internet surfing, or using your mental RAM to dream about what your “life would be like if you just had _____”.
You need a complete view of your life, a way of measuring the actions you take, how you spend your time, a method that allows you to know what’s working and what isn't.
In my early 20’s I wasn’t living the life I had envisioned.
Each day I would spend 2+ hours at the gym, 8+ hours at work, 8+ hours sleeping, and 5+ hours finding ways to distract myself so I wouldn’t have to face reality (NFL, commuting, Breaking Bad, ESPN, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon shopping Etc).
I had no idea where I was going, what I was doing, and was clearly not making progress towards my goals.
After getting completely fed up with my inability to take action, I posed the following question:
“What can I do to make sure that I’m making consistent progress towards my goals? ”
The question ate at me for months, but I knew there was ONE THING that was completely in my ability to control: My Daily Habits.
The Matrix Method For Tracking Your Progress
In the early 2000’s classic ‘The Matrix’ with Keanu Reeves (probably his best film), the main character Neo gains the ability to see what is going to happen in real time. He is able to see everything going on and make decisions based on his complete view of everything.
This allows him to start dodging bullets, jumping off of buildings and become the master of the matrix.
While you shouldn’t try to dodge bullets or jump off of buildings you can learn how to create a top down view of your life. Just like Neo (Keanu)!
For the past 600 days I've been tracking how I spend my time in an effort to quantify how fast it takes to create a new habit and track my progress towards my goals. I've tried just about every method for making myself more consistent and tracking daily habits is the most effective method I've found.
Keeping It Simple
If I completed the habit, I got a "1" for the day. If I failed to do it, I gave myself a "0".
Keeping it binary is the best way to do it. It removes any ambiguity and forces you to look at things in black and white.
Each day, I tallied the number of habits I completed and gave myself a habit completion score. The score was then pushed to a graph giving me a visual aid judge how I was doing.
Here's what my first attempt looked like:
What I Found out
Initially I wasn't very good. In fact, I was failing (59% execution for the first 2 months).
Being extremely impatient and hyper-analytical I started testing everything and reading like a madman. A couple hundred books and thousands of hours of research went into creating a system I used to turn new behaviors into habits.
After much testing (and re-testing) I found I could create new habits (that actually stick) in a fraction of the time that's normally required using to ‘Matrix Method’ as direct feedback.
When I wanted to change something in my life, I added it to the list and then tracked my daily execution. Today there is 25 habits that I try to do everyday.
A Look at Recent History:
Cause and Effect
Our habits define us. This is why it’s so important to have this area of your life handled.
In a world of 7,000,000,000 people you need to be working smarter than everyone else in order to get ahead.
The 'Matrix Method' allows you do this by taking your personal development to the next level.
HERE'S HOW TO DO IT
NOTE: This method is really only for Excel, Google Spreadsheet, or Mac Numbers users. There are plenty of other habit tracking apps out there if you are looking for a "turn-key" solution.
Open XCEL, Mac Numbers, Or Google Spreadsheets.
Write out a new action or habit that you want to develop (broken into separate categories).
After executing the new habit, give yourself a reward immediately after doing it. The reward can be as simple as listening to an awesome song, drinking coffee, smelling vanilla extract (releases serotonin ) or high - fiving yourself (yes I’m a weirdo). This creates a positive association with the new habit and allows your to execute the habit in the future without taxing your willpower stores.
Each morning fill out the spreadsheet from the previous day.
If you did it, give yourself a "Green 1". If you fail to do it, give yourself a "Red 0".
Doing this method will take a grand total of 3-5 minutes out of your day, which is well worth it in my opinion.
The Finer Points:
- This method works best when combined with other habit forming techniques, especially when you create a strong neuro-association after completing the new habit. The stronger the brain association the easier it will be to execute the habit again.
- Doing the daily check in with yourself is a great way to keep you focused and motivated. This type of self-monitoring has been shown in a few studies to improve goal follow through and execution. 
We are the culmination of the consistent actions we take and like Peter Drucker said, "what get's measured get's improved".
Therefor if we take the time to measure our daily habits, logic follows that they will improve.
It’s as simple as that.
- Dennis, F. (2011). The narrow road: A brief guide to the getting of money. New York, N.Y.: Portfolio/Penguin.
- Keller, G., & Papasan, J. (2012). The one thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results. Austin, Tex.: Bard Press.
- Ross, F. (n.d.). 16 habits you should do everyday. Retrieved March 31, 2015, from https://fergusonross.com/16-habits-you-should-do-every-day/
- The Matrix [Motion picture]. (2001). Warner Bros. Pictures :.
- Hall, K. S., Crowley, G. M., Bosworth, H. B., Howard, T. A., & Morey, M. C. (2010). Individual Progress Toward Self-Selected Goals Among Older Adults Enrolled in a Physical Activity Counseling Intervention. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 18(4), 439–450.
- Page, D. T., Kuti, O. J., Prestia, C., & Sur, M. (2009). Haploinsufficiency forPten and Serotonin transporter cooperatively influences brain size and social behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(6), 1989–1994. doi:10.1073/pnas.0804428106