5 Steps to a Successful Habit Shift

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I write a lot about habits here, or experiments really, that help us learn what we can do with or without. Some of the experiments are small (Daily Gratitude November), some turn out to be huge (5 Things A Day) and the successful ones tend to have a few things in common.

We've had a very successful habit shift this month. You know we live in a paperless home but I believe digital clutter can weigh us down just as much. You see, we've been taking a lot of photos lately. A lot. There's this cute little thing in our world that we can't get enough of.

We have the intention of capturing and sharing at least one image every day for the first year of Peanut's life. This has led to thousands of unsorted photos sitting in a folder in our Dropbox account. Bummer! We would go through photos here and there but never really felt on top of them. Until this month! Here's what we've done and what tends to help a new habit stick around here:

1. Be specific.
 The more concrete and actionable your habit is, the less energy is required to actually do it. We have a goal: to sort through the thousands of photos from the last nine months. If it goes well, we'll continue to sort through the backlog. To be specific, we defined sorting as: deleting bad photos (so important!); transferring the rest to folders (we sort by date); and choosing some to share with family or even print for frames or the baby book.

2. Start small. Commit to an easy daily task. We have thousands of photos to get through but we probably wouldn't be smiling at each other if we sat down to sort them all at once. Deciding to tackle just a few on a daily basis is much more manageable and, even more important, makes it easier to sit down and start!

3. Find a trigger. It can be really helpful to have an existing routine or habit to piggyback off of. Our morning and evening routines are pretty solid but we didn't want to add more time to them. I noticed that after putting Peanut to sleep, I spend 12 minutes pumping milk and have that time that I can focus on another activity. The pumping has to happen or we won't have milk when I go out so it's a great routine to connect with our photo sorting.

4. Time box. It really helps to know that this task isn't going to go on forever. All we have to do is start and it will be over very quickly. (This is more important for annoying habits and not super cute ones like this ;) After saying goodnight to Peanut, I set up to pump and we spend 12, and only 12, minutes sorting through photos. We usually get through a week's worth which means we're getting ahead! 

5. Have a simple system. We have folders set up so all we have to do is delete the bad ones as we scroll through Preview. At the end of 12 minutes, we place the remaining ones into folders and we're done!

++ And then we do it again tomorrow. It would be okay if we had to miss a day but we would work really hard to not miss two. If we miss two or feel that the habit is too difficult to keep, we would look at what's not working and make some adjustments.

Are you interested in making small life changes? I'd love to know what habits you're trying to shift and what's working for you!!

+ When it comes to productivity, I've been inspired by a number of sources. If you're interested in diving deeper into habit stickiness, check out Zen Habits and Asian Efficiency