Using Trackers to Plan, Organise and Prioritise
Trackers are a very useful way of planning and organising your life, and are a fantastic use of your Bullet Journal alongside your daily, weekly and monthly logs. If there are good habits you want to get into, goals you want to track, or tasks that need completing, using trackers is a great way to organise all these in a format that's fun and engaging.
The ADHD brain finds it challenging to organise information and process it into action towards a predetermined goal. We have all the information somewhere in our heads, but arranging it in a way that makes sense is often a huge challenge.
This is where trackers come in! Rather than keeping all the information in our heads — where it isn't easily processed and directed — trackers get the plan out of our heads and onto paper in a format that tells us exactly what needs doing and when, as well as the importance of each task.
A tracker is, at its core, a calendar-based logbook, planner, and diary all-in-one, which allows you to plan, track, and record smaller achievements over time, often towards a pre-planned end goal, in a way that's fast and easy.
Trackers are better than to-do lists for the ADHD brain because they help with prioritising and organising things as well as planning. A to-do list only tells us what needs to get done, it tells us nothing about when they should be done or their relative importance to the other items on the list.
Trackers can be extremely simple, such as a list of tasks and the days of the week they need doing. Or they can incorporate several different goals, habits and tasks that all relate to the completion of a larger project.
In your Bullet Journal, trackers can be included on the same page as your Monthly Log, Daily Log, or on a separate page entirely. Wherever it makes the most sense to you. Don't know what these are? Check out my free guide to Bullet Journalling!
Task trackers are designed to keep track of routine, mandatory tasks you do on a regular basis, such as household chores, weekly reports at work, and bills to pay. They will show you both when they are due, and when they actually got done.
The simplest task trackers are organised by task along one axis, and frequency along the other. This gives you a visual snapshot of what needs to get done and when. When a task is completed, the box is shaded.
Let's look at a monthly household chore tracker that I used in my Bullet Journal as an example:
In this example, a thicker border is drawn around the squares on the dates each task is due. When the task actually gets done, the rest of the square is shaded in. If you miss the day the task should have been done, shade in the square on the date it was actually done. This way, you can see the areas you sometimes struggle and look to make improvements.
Task trackers can also be used for less frequent tasks, which is particularly useful for the ADHD brain as it's often difficult to remember things that need doing at regular intervals but spaced far apart. Examples of such things you may use a task tracker for include:
reading the meter
Here's another example from my Bullet Journal:
Try creating a task tracker for some of your mandatory routines that you would like to make sure you get done (think about what you currently struggle with). Draw/write it out in your Bullet Journal, on a separate piece of paper, or a whiteboard.
One of the most frustrating aspects of ADHD is the difficulty in achieving self-improvement targets we set for ourselves, no matter how hard we try or how much we want to reach them. This is because of our impaired executive functions making it difficult to plan ahead, organise our thoughts, and direct our actions towards a predetermined target.
This is what makes habit trackers some of the most empowering trackers to use. Habit trackers track the things you want to make into routines for your own self-improvement rather than things you have to do as part of being a functioning adult (such as chores). In short, they help us to achieve the goals we choose to set for ourselves.
Let's say you want to develop a good habit of drinking eight glasses of water each day this month. To start this tracker you would create a simple table, with the days of the month in the row headings and the numbers one to eight in the column headings. Each time you drink a glass of water, mark it off on your table. At the end of the month, you will be able to easily see the days you managed to (or didn't) drink enough water.
Here are some examples of things you can use habit trackers for:
daily meditation or mindfulness practice
going to bed at a set time
having a clean house at the end of each day
practicing a skill, such as a musical instrument
regular self-directed study
It's a good idea to make these trackers extra engaging and less of a grid or list, so that you want to use them and you're more likely to stick to the habit. It's also a good idea to keep them easy to fill in and use, for the same reason.
When using habit trackers in a Bullet Journal, some people find it better to put all the trackers for the month on one page. Others find that putting weekly trackers on each weekly spread works better for them. Here are examples of both:
Habit trackers can also be combined, each forming part of a larger goal. For example, the daily habit of drinking eight glasses of water could be done alongside eating five servings of fruit and vegetables, and exercising for twenty minutes, each as part of a larger goal of improving your overall health and wellness.
Try creating a simple grid-form tracker for something you would like to do every day of this upcoming week. You can do this on the next blank page in your Bullet Journal, draw it up on a separate piece of paper stuck to your bedroom wall/office cubicle, or use a whiteboard. If you need to, set a timer or alert to remind you to fill it in.
Goal trackers are great ways to set yourself challenges for long-term self-improvement. They work by dividing a major goal into sub-goals, then again into targets, then habits and finally routines.
Let's suppose you're starting out learning the guitar, and you want to improve. What major goal would you like to set yourself? Make it SMART:
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.
Major Goal: For this example, let's take "pass grade 1 guitar within a year".
Sub-Goals: You know the grade 1 exam consists of the following elements: pieces, scales & arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests. Take a sheet of scrap paper and divide it up into sections to create these four sub-goals.
Targets: For each of those four sub-goals, look at what steps you need to take to achieve them. For "scales & arpeggios", the exam requires you learn two major scales (G & F), two minor scales (A & E), and two arpeggios (G major, E minor). These become your targets. List these below your sub-goals.
Habits & Routines: For each target, think about what will allow you to achieve them. To "learn the scale of G major", you could decide that you want to practice it every day for ten minutes until you've got it. The practice is your habit, and doing it every day for ten minutes is your routine.
Now, add up your habits to check your daily workload. If each habit takes ten minutes and there are ten of them, that's two hours every day! Does that seem doable? Remember, part of creating habits that are easy to stick to is ensuring they don't take too much commitment in time or arduous effort.
If the workload seems too great, you can rearrange the habits so that you just do a few each day. The goal will take longer to reach, but it's much more realistic.
Want to write your dissertation? Reduce stress? Start a blog? Pass your driving test? Pick a major goal that's SMART and divide it into sub-goals, targets, and habits & routines. Use your Bullet Journal, a sheet of paper, or a whiteboard.
Task Trackers, Habit Trackers and Goal Trackers are all great ways to start setting meaningful goals for yourself in small, simple steps. Try out different ones and see which work best for you. Get creative and enjoy the results!
If you want to learn how to start a Bullet Journal, check out how right here!