Using a habit tracking app for EMS self-improvement

One method that has helped me is tracking my accomplishments toward turning the goal into a habit


Updated September 14, 2015

Building a positive habit, or breaking a negative habit, is a challenge. Some, like smoking or drinking coffee, are extremely hard to break because of the accompanying chemical addiction. Others, like eating more fruits and vegetables or reading thirty minutes each day, just require persistence and patience.

Six months ago, on January 1st, many of us pledged  to lose weight, exercise more, eat better, floss daily, write a daily blog post, read an EMS research article each week or attain some other goal. Converting that resolution into a habit is a significant challenge.

One method that has helped me is tracking my accomplishments toward turning the goal into a habit. Not long ago, I set a goal to lose about fifteen pounds. My first step was a daily food journal. Using the MyFitness Pal app, I recorded every calorie I ate or drank, along with my weight every day.

At first, this was an arduous additional task that I struggled to remember to do. But as the days went by, the calorie tracking became part of my meal routine - prepare, eat and track. My increasing caloric awareness led to a gradual weight loss which helped reinforce the calorie tracking. My calorie tracking streak lasted for 30 days, but the subsequent diet change and weight loss has lasted 18 months and counting.

I recently used the Habit Streak app to track my success at doing a "plank," a type of core exercise every day. Once the "habit" was created, the app asked me every morning if I had done a "plank" the day before. The app gamified my exercise routine with useful stats, such as "days in a row completed" and "days completed out of total days."

Tracking a habit or skill might be useful to you as an EMS student or professional. "Days in a row" are just one way to score success toward a lifestyle change or developing a skill. Use an app or simply make tick marks in a pocket notebook to track success on:

  • Successful IV starts
  • 30 minutes of daily cardiovascular exercise
  • Days without a soda
  • Chapters read in a textbook
  • Patients assessed
  • Miles walked or run
  • Total amount of weight lifted during a workout

What habit are you trying to form or break? Have you successfully used a goal setting app? Share your experience in the comments.

About the author

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is Editor-in-Chief of EMS1.com. He is an educator, author, paramedic, and marathon runner. Ask questions or submit tip ideas to Greg by emailing him at greg.friese@ems1.com.

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