In the past few years, I have been experimenting with different systems for self-improvement. For most of my experiments, I use my graphic design skills to develop some visual chart or framework to track my thoughts or progress in some area. The most recent system I designed has been very successful in helping me and my family develop habits and daily rituals. It is a simple sticker chart that tracks the daily, weekly, and monthly goals of each member of the family. This system has been more successful than anything else we have tried so far.
The purpose of the goal chart is to help my family develop habits that will help us grow individually and collectively. The chart has one section for the goals of each family member such as individual daily reading goals. There is also a section for goals that can only be accomplished collectively such as daily family prayer.
Here are some pictures of our January and February sticker charts:
February is partially complete because I am posting this on the 12th.
For this experiment, no one is rewarded individually when they have earned a certain number of stickers. The system is set up to reward the whole family. My hypothesis is that this will help create a sense of shared purpose and unity and to encourage family members to motivate each other. This month, for instance, we all agreed that when we achieved 10 perfect days — where everyone finished all of their goals for that day— we would go out for ice cream as a family.
The sticker chart system is not meant to get kids to do chores around the house. I want to avoid teaching my kids that chores are only worth doing if they get something in return. This is another reason why the system is focused on self-improvement and uses collective rewards.
In addition to helping us develop better habits, the sticker chart system has other benefits as well. It replaces some of the chaos of life with a feeling of order, structure, and consistency. It is an aid as we talk with our kids about the importance of connecting short-term goals with long term wants and desires. It also helps our young kids understand the basic mechanics of the calendar, giving them a better sense of days, weeks, and months.
The system isn’t perfect however. Sometimes it can seem like it is just about filling in the numbers. For example, one of my my daughter’s goals is to draw a picture every day. One day she did a cursory drawing with very little effort just to get a sticker. Another issue is that the current version of the sticker chart tracks our progress for the length of the whole month. It is great to see the progress over a whole month, but it can seem too rigid if we are ready to adjust or add goals in the middle of the month. Hopefully these and other issues can be resolved as the system evolves over time.
Update: I added the latest sticker chart to my downloads page. I will update the sticker chart monthly to reflect the upcoming month.