Paper Clips Create Habits

Written by on January 19, 2020

Kyle Macdonald got an idea of trading an ordinary paper clip for something bigger and better. So he put an ad on Craigslist asking if anyone wanted to trade.

Someone then traded in his clip for a fish pen. The fish pen was then traded in for a doorknob with a funny face on it. The doorknob was traded in for a Camping stove. The stove traded in for a generator. This went on to include an afternoon with Alice Cooper. A rare snow globe. Finally, an acting contract in a movie which was traded in for a house.

In about 15 trades he had turned a paper clip into a House! Now every time you look at a paper clip and toss it aside, think each of these could be a new house!

In fact, today’s habit is about having a bowl of paper clips in front of you.

The problem with habits is that we have no way of measuring or visually seeing the progress of things we do every day. The repetitive tasks. Tasks that we know we should be doing. But often get scared of the sheer number.

For example, if you have a sales role. The task given to you is to make 20 sales calls a day or 40 sales calls a day. At the start of the day, this number seems so huge that we shove it aside. We try and avoid the task completely. Today’s habit is all about breaking it down into something manageable, less scary and visual.

It’s so simple, have two bowls. One with 40 paper clips in it, if the target is 40 and another empty bowl. Every time you finish a sales call, transfer one paper clip into the other bowl. Don’t count the number of clip or calls. You are done when all the clips have been moved from one bowl to the next. By not counting the number of clips you are not intimidated by the number!

It is that simple!

What if you want to give up a habit or do the 100 days no sugar challenge. It is easy if you stop thinking about the end goal which is 100 days. Instead, take a hundred paper clips and join them to form a long chain. Next, hang them in a prominent part of your home. Every day that goes past and you stick to your challenge, take out one clip from the chain and place it aside. Soon you will have a bowl full of clips and a chain that’s visually getting shorter. This keeps you motivated.

If you are a budding author and have given yourself the task of writing a thousand words a day. Or two thousand words a day. Break it up into 100-word chunks and use the paperclips to make sure you finish the goal set out each day.

I am currently writing a book on habits and techniques like this are what’s keeping me honest and focused.

Using this paper clip technique is brilliant for repetitive tasks done during the day. As well as for longer duration tasks. It is cheap and fun to do.

At the end of your goal give yourself a reward and incentivise yourself. This keeps you looking forward to the outcome.

So your simple habit for keeping track of creating big habits starts with getting a bunch of simple paper clips. Next, decide which of your habits you want to track. You could have one set, for office habits on your desk. You could have one set for the habits at home.

Start a 30 day no sugar challenge and use this as a way to keep track without feeling intimidated.

Just like Kyle Macdonald traded in his paper clip for a home. You can trade in each paper clip for the life of your dreams. One clip at a time!

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