I'm not entirely sure who thought of this first. It certainly wasn't me. But darn if it isn't an effective hack - to keep a visual grid about your habits and the consistency with which you keep them up.
You see, seeing your progress is infinitely more powerful than merely knowing or thinking about it. I talked earlier this week about consistency and how I'd realized how important it is to keep up your good, hard-to-earn habits even during a day off - meaning, if you are to respect yourself and feel like you've earned a day off, you should execute those habits consistently every day, even during vacation.
With this task, the visual consistency tracker to the rescue!
Draw by hand or design with an appropriate software a grid of your choosing. Seven blocks wide is handy for one-week rows, and you can have as many rows as you like - if the change you seek is to be held indefinitely, have at least 52 rows spanning a year ahead. (You can make another tracker for the next year then.) Mark the weeks and the days of the week so that you know without a doubt which square on the grid is today. Write the habit you're trying to establish at the top of the grid.
Then, every day, depending on whether you executed the habit, you get to cross the day's square. You can also color it with any color you wish - the point is that when you step back from the paper after a couple of weeks, you can easily tell which days you did it and which days you failed.
The act of crossing or coloring the day's square will enforce the habit - because, deep in your heart, you want to have an unbroken chain in your visual consistency tracker. Keeping the chain unbroken will become so important to you that you'll do just about anything to execute the habit that forms the chain.
Because let's face it - an unbroken chain is more pleasing to the eye than a broken chain. And that's why it's important you have a visual tracker - thinking about a broken chain won't affect your brain the same way as seeing a broken chain, or fearing it.
While you can track how many hours you work each day, or how many hours you exercised, I recommend using a binary scale - either you did something, or you didn't. I also recommend a bold color on a light background - for example, red colored squares on a white paper. I also recommend making a large enough grid, spanning at least one year ahead. Keep the paper at hand so you can see it multiple times a day (and thus remind yourself about your task) and cross off the successful days.
Soon enough, you've changed your life.