Linchpin Habits: Spring Cleaning Inside Out

Drinking Water Linchpin Habit

One linchpin habit can drive many others

Every spring I clean out closets, clear out the garden shed, empty the pantry and generally tidy up spaces in and around the house and office.  This ritual of spring cleaning clears away cobwebs, gets the old and out-of-use items removed or repurposed, and makes room for light, air, space , and potentially new items and new thoughts that will change the way I live and think.


I clean out not only my physical spaces, but also my mental, emotional and spiritual spaces inside.  Old thoughts that have hung around too long, wearing out their welcome and dragging me into unhealthy patterns make way for new initiatives, new thoughts and healthier habits of mind.  This year I’m harnessing some new ideas about changing my habits and working on making some bigger and more fundamental shifts.  One of the concepts I’m making greater use of this year, is the linchpin habit.  The idea is that there are certain habits that drive a series of other habits.  For one friend, her linchpin habit is to drink more water.  If she focuses on that, she feels like exercising more, she eats healthier food, she runs farther, she drinks more water…. it’s the beginning of a virtuous cycle for her that reinforces a whole series of other healthy habits.  All from just focusing on drinking more water.

My new habit for this spring is to be more conscious with downtime.  I find my creativity and energy are driven by having small breaks, focused family time, open spaces for nature and daily movement.  So each Monday I set out my 3 big work priorities for the week: what must get done this week.  This week I have some writing to do – an article, a blog post, a speech, and a proposal.  I’m also meeting with a potential new client to get approval on some work with them.  The top 3 are the proposal, the speech and the meeting – the article and blog will also probably get done, but after the others!  I also have personal goals for the week – days I will run, how far, what I will eat, what kind of movement I will build into the day, and relationships goals – focusing some time one on one with each member of my family, doing something nice for a friend, having the courage to do the right thing in my community.

In amongst all these goals, are a couple of linchpin habits that seem to make the most difference:  standing up and stretching between activities, and being intentional on Friday about how my weekend time will meet my larger needs for family, relationship, community, and health.  If I do just those two things, my relationship with time changes.  I clear out my emotional and physical pathways, clogged from sitting at my desk and focusing on one task, and prepare to be fresh and energetic for each new task, and I nourish my broader needs by honoring my higher intentions over the weekend and catching up with the people and tasks that got short shrift during the week.  I start the week fresh and ready to take on those “top 3″ priorities all over again…

What kinds of habits are you building this spring, and which habits are you ready to replace with fresher, healthier ones?

While you’re at it, read “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg and design your new habits around your current cues and rewards. It’s a fascinating read and can help you truly understand what is triggering your current “bad” habit and how to design a new habit that creates more of what you want.

And look for those linchpin habits that might drive other habits for you.  I know I’m going to start drinking more water.