Productivity, Health & Habit Tracking Tools
“If it's important you'll find a way. If it's not, you'll find an excuse.”.

 

Each time I mention about my habits, tracking tools and 60-day challenge, I get a lot of questions on how and what I use. Thought I’ll share it in a post so I don’t have to reply individually. I honestly believe that I have managed to build a great system with the apps I am using. I am annoyingly obsessive in the things I want to know… and I will research them to a great deal. So,… the things I will recommend work very well, even if they are not the best. (Eg: You may use an Apple Watch and I don’t or there may be better apps launched.). 🙂 

I’ll start with my philosophies of building habits, what I do and end with what I use (with links to them and pictures for easy reference).
Just to add, I believe that everything should be 80% based on scientific theories instead of just “feelings” or “spiritual” but how this, of course, is up to individuals. 

PHILOSOPHY

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” 

I need to share my philosophy to ensure alignment in the approach and thought process, not because I need an audience. An explanation of how I approach things prevents misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations.

I believe in constant reinventions and self-improvements. Many people see self-improvement as a “woo woo“, “you-must-be-a-loser” lens… but I am a sucker and lap up these things. I believe in always trying to find ways to maximise peak performance. I want to focus on what’s important, prepare for life’s big events and show up as the best version of myself when it counts. Only then I can take care of my loved ones, teams and business teams. Also, forming good habits, no matter how small, always create ripple effects.  

While some people have found shortcuts and great hacks and usually reach the desired destination faster, I tend to be a struggler. For example, I always envy and admire Jaelle Ang, my cousin/ friend. She has always managed to hack her way with great discipline and success. For me, I don’t have that high tolerance for pain… and am seriously lazy.

Here’s what I believe:
– Stacking good habits require a system with the path of least resistance*
– Success deserves rewards, failure demands reflections

– You need to track the changes to know how you fare
– Building habits take time and perseverance

– The advisable way is to do small changes but I tend to be all-or-nothing

*Basically the best process is one where:
1) you don’t allow yourself to bargain with yourself
2) SO EASY you can’t or don’t think of not doing it
3) you have no chance of opting out
Best if it’s a part of your routine. For example, a 5-minute workout while you are making coffee.

Trust me, we are all lazy. No matter how self-motivated you are, there are times where you will convince yourself NOT to do something. Or maybe, that you deserve a break or a reward for being good. At times, you will even cave in and binge on the very things you are not supposed to do… countering all the good that you have been doing. It happens and you should never trust and depend solely on your intrinsic motivation. But you shouldn’t beat yourself up too much and wallow in self-pity or blame. 

The key to loving yourself deeply is doing what you say you’re gonna do. Doing what needs to be done, even when you don’t want to do it. ESPECIALLY when you don’t want to do it. 

Put past what you think or want. Don’t break the promises you make with yourself. Fulfil the contact with yourself, so you build a foundation to be a better version of yourself.

WHAT ARE THE HABITS I AM TRYING TO BUILD?

These are daily habits I am trying to build, with the difficulty level, some personal thoughts on why I do them, benefits and what tools I use. (You should choose your own!)

For the 60-day challenge :

Read more on my journey throughout the 60-day challenge

  • 45 minutes of workout (hard)
  • No alcohol (EXTREMELY hard)
  • 8 glasses of water (easy)
  • Read a book for 10 minutes (easy)
  • Follow a diet of choice (medium)
Daily habits:
  • Cold shower every morning (easy)
  • A 15 minutes Visualisation exercise (easy)
  • Say “I Love You” 100 times (hard)
  • Uplift 1 person (easy)
  • No desserts (hard)
  • Mandarin recitation for 20 minutes (hard)

As you can tell, I have a varying degree of success with my habits. 😉

WHY AM I TRYING TO BUILD THESE HABITS?

“Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.” ―Stephen Covey

Our outcome is a lagging indicator of our micro habits.

The daily habits are few SIMPLE lifestyle changes but it’s tough AF. Don’t confuse simple & easy. Some of the most simple things in life are also the most difficult. 

The main reason why I want to challenge myself is for mental fortitude. I want to work my “limiting” beliefs as I keep making excuses for myself, want to break the patterns of weaknesses and compromises I’ve built over the course of my entire life.

Every single thing I do is built on my discipline and ability to keep my own promises to myself. This, to me, is true discipline and #selflove

  • Cold shower every morning (medium)

    I hate cold showers and LOVE really warm baths. Doing this is a challenge because each time I have to do it, my body screams in protest.

    A few months ago, I was listening to a podcast about how an ex-Navy Seal encourages this. The scientific reasons are because it improves your health by a) improving your circulation b) treats inflammation c) treats depressions d) relieves muscle soreness & more. 

    …. but the non-scientific reasons, which is why I am doing it is a) it’s an instant mood booster, b) makes me feel I achieved something by doing something I hate in the morning, c) generally perks me up.

  • A 15 minutes Visualisation exercise (easy)

    Why visualisation? To be honest, it’s because my mind is hyperactive all the time and sometimes, mediation just doesn’t cut it for me. Visualisation is a “technique widely used by athletes, surgeons, musicians, and business leaders. When done consistently and deliberately, this science-backed technique increases focus and performance. It brings out the natural talents and abilities you already have within you.”

    It helps me to think of the future I want and how I feel when I achieve them. It enables me to create, set and think of my goals in vivid details. Visualisation helps me to focus on what’s important, guide my feelings, thoughts and energy into productive and helpful intentions. For me, whatever I want to achieve must first be real in the mind before it becomes real in life. I believe we need to do this by visualising the future as if it’s already happened.

    I use EnVision app for this. EnVision is a guided visualization app designed to help you achieve your goals and live the life you truly desire.

  • Say “I Love You” 100 times (hard)

    Self-love is about accepting that you are ENOUGH. Despite your flaws, you should accept yourself as enough. Like many others, while there are certain things that I am proud of, I can also be overly critical of myself. I don’t think I am smart enough, successful enough, pretty enough, slim enough… so I need a constant reminder to accept myself as is.

    This is hard because it’s time-consuming, I get uncomfortable doing it. It just feels weird.

  • Uplift 1 person (easy)

    I told myself I want to connect with 1 person every day. Even if it’s just a “hey, how are you?”. I try to find one person and send some (virtual) love and encouragement. I think it’s always good to be kind and check in on others, especially in this tough, uncertain time. 

  • No desserts (hard)

    I have a super sweet tooth and really enjoy my desserts. I know sugar is bad blah blah but I think since young, I have been wired that desserts complete a meal and that it’s a reward. I am trying to untangle this but it takes time.

    Just like a good steak, I can’t resist having a dessert.

  • Mandarin recitation for 20 minutes (hard)

    Ahhhhh… this is a super tough one. I used to love Mandarin and was in Chinese schools my whole life. I love the language and how beautiful it is. I was really good at it, in fact, I’ll consider myself top 25%. But I have stopped using Mandarin and realised how horrendous my linguistic ability is.

    So, what I do is to try to listen to Mandarin business podcasts (will write an article on my recommendations) and to practise reading out Mandarin news article out loud. Oh. My. God. I am terrible and it has been a struggle. I am so bad that I groan out loud all the time. It is an uphill struggle. 

    But hey, no pain no gain. My goal is to be able to conduct a proper speech in Mandarin by June 2021.
Habits tracking 60 day challengeFor the 60-day challenge :
  • 45 minutes of workout (medium)

Some of the limiting beliefs I want to conquer with the daily challenge is: 
1. Increasing metabolism in the mid-30s
2. Increase muscle mass & strength

While I have always love exercising, doing this challenge has made me be more mindful of my schedule. I have to try to rearrange and find pockets of free time to ensure I get my 45 mins exercise. Still bummed that I cannot run due to my dislocated knee.

Now that I have a daily workout cadence, on the days that I don’t do strength training, I take the walks as a chance to walk, reply to emails or messages, write, clear my head ..& THINK. 

There are some days that I don’t want to exercise and it takes everything I have to actually do it. It has been raining constantly, some days, I just want to lie in bed and snuggle under covers. So cold brrrrr.

Lesson learnt: You cannot depend on your intrinsic motivation. You have to be committed to a process with the least path of resistance.

I’m someone who needs to be constantly “productive”. That’s why I feel bad about 45 mins workout every day. I make myself feel better by learning from educational podcasts.

I am judicious about introducing “rubbish” content into my mind. I don’t watch any reality TV. IMHO, most are “crappy” content. Which is why I cannot bring myself to watch Indian Matchmaking or Selling Sunsets – even though most people said it’s entertaining & funny.

Productivity tip: I listen to podcasts, usually business, finance or investment ones. Or interesting interviews about motivation. 🙂

Read more on my journey throughout the 60-day challenge

  • No alcohol (EXTREMELY hard)

My fleshed-out thoughts on trying to quit alcohol.

Everyone knows that this is the hardest for me. Ain’t gonna lie, I never thought it’ll be possible for me to go 10 days without alcohol. I LOVE to drink. My friends even made bets that I won’t last past 2-3 days. 

One of the reasons I want to stop consuming alcohol is to push my productivity and maximum performance.

After all, we can’t control what’s happening in the world (and it’s sad). The only thing I am in control of is how I regulate & manage myself. 

I’m all about efficiency and will like to spend the 4.5 months on how I can optimise for maximum performance. 

Many have kindly advised me to do things in moderation and not have a 0 to 1 goal. Drink in moderation. But for me, this might works better because:
1) I tend to negotiate with myself “One won’t hurt…”
2) I am an all-in or nothing person in general.

  • Read a book for 10 minutes (easy)

Very easy as I love to read and it’s my way of shutting out the world. Will write a book on books recommendation soon.

  • Follow a diet of choice (medium)

This will be a long discussion altogether but I try to follow Intermittent Fasting16-8. 🙂

  • 8 glasses of water (easy)

WHAT DO I USE TO TRACK THESE HABITS?

  • For workouts & sleep: Fitbit

I spend 2 weeks researching and reading about Apple Watch and Fitbit. I had both but chose Fitbit Charge because:
– I only wanted a fitness tracker, not a smartwatch. I want to track my workout but personally don’t want a smartwatch. I find it intrusive and will rather a separation.
– I wanted to track my sleep and I think Fitbit does a better job. Not because of its technology but because of the 7-day battery life. I don’t have the patience to remember to charge and wear a watch. I basically don’t take out my Fitbit now, other than the weekly charge. 

  • For workouts – Sweat app

This is the app by Bikini Body Guides (BBG) by Kayla Itsines. I don’t like the BBG as there is a lot of jumping and it might not be good for my knees and ankles.

I follow the Kelsey Wells program as it focuses more on strength training and muscle building.

Both are good but I prefer Habit. It’s easy to use and a nicer interface. I much prefer Habit and I customise my daily habits using colours as categories.

Streaks, however, wins when you want to look at your overall results. Streaks is also more popular and have a larger download.

Habit vs Streaks 

When I do, and that’s pretty rare (hehe), I think Simple is the top 3 apps for intermittent fasting tracking.

EnVision is a guided visualization app designed to help you achieve your goals and live the life you truly desire.

Measures number of hours you sleep, time asleep, deep & REM sleep and restoration. 

Measures number of hours you sleep, time asleep, deep & REM sleep and restoration. From their introduction – “Become a better sleeper using 100 years of sleep science. We help you automatically track your sleep debt and circadian rhythm.”

Rise Sleep - Sleep Tracking & Analysis App
Rise Sleep – Sleep Tracking & Analysis App

To end off, this is a great infographic on how to develop habits. Have fun. 🙂 

P.S: If you find this useful, please feel free to share the article. 🙂 But please do not reproduce or copy without asking. 
how to develop good habits

©Anna Haotanto, 2020. No part of this article or site, annahaotanto.com may be reproduced in whole or in part in any manner without the permission of the copyright owner.

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2 replies on “Productivity, Health & Habit Tracking Tools”

Great summary, thanks for publishing this.
Quick question? Shouldn’t it be “I love myself” rather than “I love you”? That’s what I recite to myself everyday. Self love is the beginning of all relationships!

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