See Progress With the “Paper Clipʺ Strategy

Making progress is satisfying, and visual measures—like moving paperclips—provide clear evidence of your progress.

Learn my exact note-taking system to capture the best ideas from articles, podcasts, videos, and so much more.

In 1993, a bank in Abbotsford, Canada, hired a twenty-three-year-old stock broker named Trent Dyrsmid.

Dyrsmid was a rookie and nobody expected too much of him. But he made brisk progress thanks to a simple daily habit.

He began each morning with two jars on his desk. One was filled with 120 paper clips. The other was empty. As soon as he settled in each day, he would make a sales call. Immediately after, he would move one paper clip from the full jar to the empty jar and the process would begin again.

Within eighteen months, Dyrsmid was bringing in $5 million to the firm. Not long after, he landed a six-figure job with another company.

Trent Dyrsmid’s story is evidence of a simple truth: success is often a result of committing to the fundamentals over and over again.

The “Paper Clip Strategy” works particularly well because it creates a visual trigger that can help motivate you to perform a habit with more consistency.

Here are some ways you can use the paper clip strategy for your own goals:

  • Hoping to do 100 pushups each day? Start with 10 paper clips and move one over each time you drop down and do a set of 10 throughout the day

  • Need to send 25 sales emails every day? Start with 25 paper clips and toss one to the other side each time you press Send

  • Want to drink 8 glasses of water each day? Start with 8 paper clips and slide one over each time you finish a glass

Grab a box of standard paper clips, two standard paper clip holders, pick your habit and start moving those bad boys from one side to the other.