2018: Habit Tracker [FREE DOWNLOAD]

So, 2018 has made its grand entrance.

You have your resolutions on the table (maybe).

The question is—will you ever get to them?

Is it going to be the same story again where you give up on your resolutions midway?

Maybe, maybe not…

 

* * *

 

Oh yes, Happy New Year! Guess what? I spent NYE at home. No heading out, no countdown, no drinks, no people. Surprise, surprise! I’m not upset. I simply miss my bed.

Let’s cut to the chase because I am excited to share the ‘Habit Tracker’, a journaling style that I discovered a couple of months back while browsing through Instagram (mainly via @lifebywhitney who is a journaling genius). Before that, some context below.

 

2017 journaling experience

Throughout 2017, I was using the Traveler’s Notebook (midori size) as my main public journal. I bought three types of diary inserts: Monthly, Weekly Horizontal, Weekly Vertical—all already dated. Very, very honestly speaking, I’m so done with weekly journals. They are an absolute pain to maintain if nothing much going on every single day. My life isn’t that happening on a daily basis and I’m not the most hardworking person kay. Sure, one would recommend filling the blank, lonely spaces with quotes and what not but personally, I don’t see the productivity in doing so unless you’re really into quotes or writing lines weekly like a kindergarten kid. Wait, did you say leave it so minimal? What a waste of good quality Japanese paper…

I have no complaints about the monthly insert, which I have purchased again for 2018. I know that this insert will be used well to summarise each month and also include my usual highlights at the bottom for reference—a habit I picked up so that I can compile everything into a spread at the start of the following year. They help a lot in recollecting memories that you could’ve easily forgotten throughout the year.

Pictured above is the two-page reflection spread inclusive of resolutions from the previous year and a very summarised report on them. Feel free to replicate it.

For 2018, I already know that I won’t be able to commit to ones that are designed for dated weekly and daily entries. In attempt to make journaling more productive, I picked up the Free Diary <Daily> insert (item 005) for the Traveler’s Notebook. In a grid format, each insert has a total of 60 undated days—a design which helps a whole lot in reducing the stress and pressure to pen down every single thing every day.

 

Creating your Habit Tracker

What are your resolutions or long-term goals? How can you achieve them?

Habit Trackers have many functions—namely to focus on smaller goals at a time as they are monitored daily, weekly or monthly. If you have bigger, long-term goals already penned down and you’re figuring out how to achieve them, Habit Trackers will do you well. They are often used amongst the bullet journaling community but I think this is a flexible system that can be used across any type of notebook, so long as you have a pen to get started.

The first step is to break it down. If, for example, your goal is to run for a marathon, use the Habit Tracker to mark if you have completed a certain number of kilometres weekly. Example #2, if you plan to save $6k by the end of the year for a new phone or laptop, the Habit Tracker is great for you to keep in touch with your savings. Other suggestions include:

  1. Drinking water
  2. Not snack before bed
  3. Say ‘good night’ to your parents/roommate/sibling
  4. Show gratitude to somebody
  5. Read a short article
  6. Stop typing “lol” at the end of every text – some people are serious about this
  7. Do morning stretches
  8. Don’t complain
  9. Put $10 in the jar
  10. Take vitamins

The list goes on and on but if you have an end-goal to focus on, these small “habits” will be more purposeful:

  1. Drinking water – Reminding yourself to hydrate
  2. Not snack before bed – To control your hunger at night
  3. Say ‘good night’ to your parents/roommate/sibling – Be in touch with your loved ones
  4. Show gratitude to somebody – Appreciating others around you
  5. Read a short article – Improve reading skills and focus
  6. Stop typing “lol” at the end of every text – Keep your messages clean
  7. Do morning stretches – To feel more fresh every day
  8. Don’t complain – Patience tester
  9. Put $10 in the jar – To save up for a year-end trip
  10. Take vitamins – Some people need reminders to take their medication

Interestingly enough, while doing some research online, some “habits” include paying bills, watering plants (easily forgotten, I can vouch for that), and going to bed on time. For couples, track how active your sex life is—especially if you would like to have kids and need to monitor how lifestyle differences or changes affect your mood. The possibilities are endless!

This is my Habit Tracker for the month of January. Yes, odd numbers are annoying but we have to suck it up and deal with it. The grids have made it foolproof for designing the chart and this is really easy to draw out. Anyone can replicate this, trust me. I made no reference online while doing this. Easy peasy!

Insert: Free Diary <Daily> [005] Traveler’s Notebook

Protip: If you have a lined journal, simply use a ball pen to draw vertical lines.

 

Habit Tracker Template [CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD]

For those who do not own a journal and wish to not purchase one, I have designed a monthly Habit Tracker template for you to download, print (at your office maybe), and use at your own ease—FOR FREE.

How do I use this?
  • List out ten habits that you would like to do (or not do). Keep the outcome positive so that the next step will ensure you have less blank or crossed out spaces by the end of the month.
  • Colour in the days where your habit is “done”. For negative habits, if you have managed to avoid them, colour in as “done”. e.g. If you wrote “No McDonald’s” (negative habit) and you didn’t have McDonald’s for the day, colour in (positive outcome). If you had, leave it blank or cross out.
  • Cross out or leave blank the dates where your habit is “not done”.

Each page is for one month. At the bottom of the chart, you can see two sections:

  • Highlights: To record anything important that has happened for that month
  • For Improvement: After evaluating your own Habit Tracker, what would you like to focus on next month? Will they help you achieve your future goals? How can you improvise to speed up a certain process or make it better and more efficient?

 

A couple more tips

The free sheet above has only ten spaces to fill up. I decided to not include more than that because having more than ten items to track each month on a daily basis would be insane. Keep them straightforward and fuss-free to interpret.

If you have a notebook or journal already (ideally A5 or midori-sized), draw in your own Habit Tracker. You don’t have to write numbers in each space (unless you’re punishing yourself). Your sheet does not have to be fancy-schmancy but if you’d like to make them gorgeous, here are some ideas:

  • Tombow Dual Brush Pens — Use brighter colours like orange, light green, or any that are not opaque.
  • Koi Colouring Brush Pens — Current favourite: Coral Red.
  • ZIG Brushables — Those of lighter shades for shading work too.
  • Zebra Mildliner Highlighters — These are also pretty for photos btw!
  • Stabilo Boss Pastel Highlighters — I just got them recently from Cziplee because they were on sale, and I absolutely love them because they’re so cute and tiny.

p.s. Touch Turq = Touch of Turquoise (the full name was too long so I discovered this short term somewhere online and thought it was brilliant)

My style changes whenever I want to as the months go by, so I will be experimenting with more designs if I can. Keep up with my updates on Instagram! Current goal is to recreate the round-shaped Habit Tracker.

Do not throw away your previous sheets!! Store them in a folder or put them up on your refrigerator. No, this is not Hoarder Emily telling you to not throw things away. Your sheets are great to look back on at the end of the year.

Last but not least, I feel I should remind you that the Habit Tracker is NOT a punisher. Do not beat yourself up if you cave in for a soda when you’re supposed to be off sugary drinks for the entire month. Do not throw a fit if you don’t seem to be colouring in every single day. Instead, take time at the end of the month to evaluate on your progress and then create little goals from there onwards. It is perfectly okay to compromise with yourself. The point here is to be able to make progress at your own pace.

 

Questions?

I’m a message away from Instagram or you can drop me an email at emilychoong.biz@gmail.com.

Happy journaling! Feel free to tag me to share your Habit Trackers :)

 

 

Entry inspired by my dear friend, Gwen.

Travel: Turkey (Film Series)

Camera: Olympus OM-1
Film: Fujicolor 400
Dated: December 2017

Coastal life.

 

Seagull feeding while cruising.

 

Cruise sightings.

 

A quiet café in Balat.

 

How tea and coffee are served.

 

Soaking in the sunset.

 

Taking off.

 

Against the sunrise.

 

 

Awaiting tourists.

 

Let Go

I somehow, just somehow, couldn’t digest the fact that I was standing on the first finish line. It was an emotional goodbye to a serene spot surrounded by trees where I sought refuge from the noise of the world to get work done.

Drivers have lost their way trying to locate this hidden white giant on a hill, and many were afraid of driving up the slope; afraid of the unknown. It was always good to see that people were willing to learn something new. Their reactions towards discovering the unknown—a quiet area visually guarded by nature—were individually different yet all the same interesting.

I watched as the place welcomed new visitors and witnessed old ones walking through the door and never coming back—and always wondered why. The balcony was where I parked myself (especially when it was raining) with my notebook and a [subpar] cuppa to sail through thoughts after a long day. It was the solitary moments I’ve always wanted and needed—and this was the perfect place. How could I ever leave?

That taught me to let go. I took comfort in knowing that I was blessed enough to have experienced this opportunity. Life must go on, and I wouldn’t have known where to go without having been here first. At least, the very least, I get to look behind and smile at what I’ve built, knowing it’s in capable hands and that it will be standing solid for a while.

– November 2016.

 

Fitting In

Today, just somehow, I decided to put on a pair of jeans that I have not touched, what more looked at, for the longest time—and it fitted perfectly. You have no idea how overjoyed I was. Being able to button up without having to suck in your layers of fats was, to put simply, bliss at its best.

I was in the middle of some packing but this rare occasion obviously hit me harder than expected. So, I paused for a good half an hour, slouched in my desk chair, and thought of what exactly I’ve done the past couple of months to arrive at this point.

It wasn’t the easiest half an hour.

This would be the entry where I’m opening up about how much I have been beating myself up for my body for reasons not unheard of. They can all go under an umbrella labelled “Insecurities”. [Clarification: I do not have any eating disorders] 2016 was the year that I decided to start dealing with them by going back to the gym and running on Saturday or Sunday mornings for a short few months (and completely gave up after that because it was messing up my sleep schedule). Running for 2km straight was such an achievement (good lord #SMH) and the rewards were major[ly calorific] (tbh, it didn’t really help that much). 2016 was also the year that I sinfully, truly glorified the idea of brunch and at some points, work was also in the way. Hence, so many breakfasts were skipped just to accommodate whatever feasts I would be indulging later in the day—or at least I thought it was the right thing to do.

I was a mess who didn’t know where to start.

I used to be so certain that I would rather be a happy glutton than an unhappy person with a strict diet. “Diet” was a forbidden word in my vocabulary and I was so compelled by the idea of food therapy just because eating makes me feel so much better. Being single was also the perfect excuse. I couldn’t give a damn about getting the whole “ideal body type” with hopes of finding the man of my dreams. Sorry, fried chicken >>> men.

That was such a toxic phase, I admit. I was in so much denial at first but after much thought, I can safely say that I was unhappy. Something had to be done.

November was month I took off to travel to Seoul, Hanoi and Penang, and to get myself back together. By the end of the month, it was as if I was given a new set of lungs that allowed me to breathe so much better. I have never been happier reconnecting with some friends and making new ones, some whom I’m very grateful for today.

In December, I found myself surrounded by a more positive and motivating environment—and I’m very glad that I chose that path. Work was different and at a more productive pace. There was this drive to look after my body better by watching what and how much I eat. I had no issues with having salads and proteins for lunch(!). Skipping breakfast meant suffering till lunch time because of how much more energy was required. I am very thankful for this change not just for a better job, but also for the people around me who never fail to inspire.

2017 came at the perfect time because this meant starting afresh. The first thing wanted to do was to try to not skip breakfast throughout the year. So far, I’ve missed seven. Those were the days where I needed (and could afford) to sleep in from all the late nights.

I never knew the importance of breakfast until lately. I regretfully, shamefully admit that I was one of those people who would skip them all the time because “I had more important things to do”. I find myself enjoying toast with peanut butter, or sometimes some of mom’s cooking in the morning. For the more pampering-worthy days, I would get up earlier to make a trip to a regular cafe for coffee and American-style scrambled eggs on toast with a side of avocado. Breakfast is also when I can afford a few precious minutes of reading books that I have bought way too long ago to the point where the layers of dust have become the new book covers. But above all, the most meaningful mornings are when my parents would join in for breakfast.

I have not set foot into gym in months, I’ve been eating so much better, and yet I have lost 3kgs since November. This change has made me so much happier to the point where breakouts  are more rare and have saved many facial trips. I have been shopping for clothes a little more (I used to despise it because I would rarely find clothes that I would like and could fit into = demotivation) and have been putting more effort into how I dress every day. This is just me taking on what I have learnt when I was traveling in Japan—that dressing well meant that you know how to take care of yourself.

Fitting into those old pair of jeans meant so much, you have no idea. At the end of the day, this is a continuous journey of self-development and I’m still a work in progress.

 

Back to Snail Mail: Postcards

In this digital era, people seldom send mail to their friends. Why do that when your friend is just a Facebook message away, right?

I personally still love sending postcards to friends who are overseas as a way of showing love and appreciation. Postcards are precious if you think about how the person has taken time to write them, buy stamps and send it to the post office in the midst of their daily activities.

This entry is inspired by a couple of friends who have been asking for tips on how to write and send postcards. Hopefully you will be on your way to the post office with confidence to look for postcards and stamps after this!

overseas-postcards
Some postcards from friends who live or have traveled overseas. Thank you!

How is a postcard different from standard mail?

While standard mail requires envelopes and charges go by weight, a postcard is a category on its own. It is a rectangular card with no envelope, not folded, and is designed for short and simple messages. They require stamps (they do not have special stamps) and are for non-commercial use only.

How much does it cost to send a postcard from Malaysia?

It only costs one RM0.30 stamp to send a postcard to any Malaysian destination while international ones cost one RM0.50 stamp per postcard. Yes, you read that right. It is actually so affordable to send postcards overseas from Malaysia! I still remember sending postcards from Europe to Malaysia and they go for €1 – 1.70 each while the Australia Post charges from $1.85 – 2.75 depending on the zones.

pos-malaysia-gst
Screenshot from www.pos.com.my. Take note of the GST charges on stamp purchases implemented by Pos Malaysia recently.

How long will the postcards take to reach?

Honestly, it depends on the destination. It can take from a week up to a month (sometimes two months) depending on the efficiency of the post offices. As long as all your recipient’s details are accurate, it shouldn’t be a problem. Some countries may recommend purchasing a tracking service although I think it’s unnecessary.

How do I write my postcards?

Typically, the messages are written on the left half while the recipient’s address and stamp go on the right. Some postcards may be designed the other way around — as long as the address is clear.

postcard-guide

Be sure to place your stamp on the very top right. You may also include the name of the recipient above the address.

Your recipient’s address should at least contain: apartment / block / house number, street address, town / district, postcode, state and country (for international destinations). As for the message section, write anything you like! It could be a greeting or a very simple message like:

Hello from *insert city*! It’s raining heavily right now so I’m sitting indoors with hot cocoa and local biscuits. My AirBnb host’s cat is keeping me company.

If you are unsure, look for something happening in the present or a favourite memory of your trip so far. This also goes unsaid but please skip any sensitive information e.g. bank account details, the password to your diamond safe, etc.

Examples of more elaborate postcards:

sharons-postcard

Thank you for this postcard, Sharon! So beautifully done with her calligraphy work and stickers. You can check her out on Instagram @ronnycakes :)

postcard-example
Your postcard does not have to be all that flat. Wax seals, considering how well they stick, are no problem.

For postcards with no pre-drawn lines for addresses, you can always draw them in by yourself. I am absolutely confident that you can draw a few straight lines :)

Where can I buy postcards?

For touristy postcards, you can get them at souvenir shops or even at regular post offices. They go for a few Ringgit and are not considered expensive.

I personally love getting mine from Stickerrific @ Jaya One because of their unique designs. Here are some that you can get there:

old-postcards
Vintage ad postcards.

more-postcards
Top: Malaysian food postcards which I have been using to “torture” some Malaysian friends who are overseas.
Bottom: [NOT FROM STICKERRIFIC] Postcards from the Pansodan Art Gallery in Yangon.

malaysian-snacks-series
Childhood snacks postcards set — perfect for something nostalgic, especially if your recipient is a childhood friend.

watercolor-postcards
Travel life postcards by Taiwanese artist, Silver Yang.

The best thing about Stickerrific is that they can send your postcards for you. All you have to do is pay for the stamps (30 or 50 cents per card) and drop your masterpieces into the box provided at the counter. Alternatively, there is a post office at Jaya One as well that you can visit, located at 53.f-P2, Block D.

Tip: If you plan to get some postcards for keepsake, buy two! No harm doing that ;)

A couple more tips

hand-cancelling

Post offices have their ways of ensuring that people do not reuse stamps. This is called “hand-cancelling” — the stamp marks made across the postage stamps (see image above). They can also come in the form a few wavy lines. To ensure that your masterpieces are not ruined, be sure to leave some empty spaces around the stamp, usually towards the left hand side.

Other than keeping the address area as readable as possible, try not to use gel pens to write your postcards. Look for waterproof ones, ball pens, and you can always trust a Sharpie marker. This is in case of any unfortunate events e.g. bad weather where your postcard gets drenched, smudges appear, etc. Although these are unlikely to happen as postcards are usually well taken care of, it is best to be safe.

Some brands that I have used on postcards that have reached my recipients without any damage: Tombow (Dual Brush Pens, Fudenosuke), Pilot (Kakuno Fountain Pen), MUJI (ball pens – THE BEST!! I swear by these pens!)

If you are sending postcards from an unfamiliar city, always do your research beforehand or try checking with the locals when you arrive. Alternatively, you can ask your hotel to direct you to a post office near you. Some hotel services include sending postcards for you but the only downside of that is not being able to experience sending them by yourself.

For the more adventurous ones or if you would like to make new friends, you can try Postcrossing where you can send a postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person anywhere in the world. I have not tried it due to time constraints but one day for sure!

More than just a card

Postcards are lovely souvenirs for those who love handwritten crafts, and the best part of it is that you need not carry them back with you. I am always very happy when my friends ask if they can send me a postcard during their travels. You would be surprised how such a little thing can brighten up someone’s day.

These pieces of paper traveling around the globe are more than just paper. I believe that they carry meaning, so personal between the sender and recipient, that technology cannot ever replace.