In January of 2017, a friend and I embarked on a photo-a-day journey together. Our goal was to take at least one photograph each day for an entire year. At the end of 2019, Katrina Kennedy, the originator of CY365 (Capture Your 365), turned her focus toward Pinterest. Since then, my buddy and I have recycled Kennedy’s CY365 prompts from 2018 and 2019. If you’re looking for a new idea to sweep you into 2022 with creativity and energy, read on.

On January 2, 2017, the CY365 photo-a-day prompt was something like "Word". I chose courage as my word for 2017 and it's suited me well ever since.
On January 2, 2017, the CY365 daily prompt was something like “Word”. I chose courage as my word for 2017 and it’s suited me well ever since.

What Photo-A-Day Prompts Did For Me

Not only has our daily practice improved my skills and competence, but it’s taught me how to truly see beauty in the mundane. Following the “Capture Your 365” daily prompts taught me a number of valuable lessons:

  • You don’t need a lot of time to pursue your goals, but you do need consistency
  • Doing something for a few minutes daily hones your eye, skill, practice, and interest in something
  • Using a prompt helped narrow down the possibilities, as writing prompts do for writers faced with a blank page
  • The lessons provided through CY365 taught me how to see and what to appreciate — what matters most to me
  • Having a photography accountability partner helped increase my consistency
  • Seeing how my partner interpreted the prompts gave me additional ideas of things to try with my own craft
  • Nearly five years of daily photography has provided me with plenty of visual material for my blog. Unless noted for a particular photograph, I have shot every photo I post on my blog.
My photogenic dog Ajax has been the source of many hundreds of photographs.
My photogenic dog Ajax has been the source of many hundreds of photographs.

A New Idea: 31 Prompts

For 2022, we’ve decided to try something new. Instead of repeating the 2018 prompts again, we will each come up with, and share, a month’s worth of prompts. We’ll follow one set of suggestions for the odd months and the other during even months. As a bonus, we can see if any trends evolve from six photographs in each of the sixty categories.

While my offering won’t be presented in as elegant a format as Katrina’s, perhaps it will inspire another reader to pick up a cell phone or DSLR and capture their own 365.

The author and Ajax pose on the summit of Mailbox Peak.
The author and Ajax pose on the summit of Mailbox Peak.

Week 1

  • D1: Inspiration
  • D2: Favorite
  • D3: Green
  • D4: Circles
  • D5: Landscape
  • D6: Self-portrait
  • D7: Family
An example of a photo that could fit several prompts from Week 1 - family, favorite (tree topper), green, inspiration. Get creative!
An example of a photo that could fit several prompts from week one – family, favorite (tree topper), green, inspiration. Get creative!

Week 2

  • D8 Blue
  • D9 Often Overlooked
  • D10 Water
  • D11 Confidence
  • D12 Illuminated
  • D13 Children
  • D14 Pink
A pair of flamingos we spotted during a trip to the Galapagos Islands in August, 2018 would be perfect for the Pink prompt in week 2.
A pair of flamingos we spotted during a trip to the Galapagos Islands in August, 2018 would be perfect for the Pink prompt in week two.

Week 3

  • D15 Nature
  • D16 Sweet treat
  • D17 Spiral
  • D18 Friendship
  • D19 Purple
  • D20 Books
  • D21 Rainbow
On "Pi day" (March 14) we sometimes make a berry pie to celebrate, a photo that could match either the "sweet treat" or "purple" prompt.
On “Pi day” (March 14) we sometimes make a berry pie to celebrate, a photo that could match either the “sweet treat” or “purple” prompt in week three.

Week 4

  • D22 Snack
  • D23 White
  • D24 Generosity
  • D25 Repetition
  • D26 Entertaining
  • D27 Photographer’s choice
  • D28 Sports
Capture a Photo-A-Day to Celebrate Your Year
This auto-timer shot of our monstrous snowman could work for White, Entertaining, or Photographer’s Choice in week four.

Week 5

  • D29 Love
  • D30 Favorite color
  • D31 Inside

How this technique can work in other areas

Lest you wonder what on earth this has to do with making change… read on! While I was waiting for a timed animal observation during a recent Colobus monkey watch at Woodland Park Zoo, I created several lists like the one above. One included 31 tips for extreme self-care, from petting a dog to getting a massage to having a special meal.

Capture a Photo-A-Day to Celebrate Your Year
Our special “celebratory meal” usually includes sushi and makes for an elegant food photograph.

The other included 31 tips to get more exercise into your life. You could use the exact same technique for whatever routine area of your life you would like to “Gamify” (i.e. make more fun) while adding some sparkle and novelty. Perhaps you’d like to be more consistent with your writing. Can you make a fun list of 31 writing-related tasks? Or maybe you want to come up with free fun things to do with your family. Try a shoebox filled with 31 ideas.

The more fun you can inject into your prompts, the more likely you are to do whatever it is you’re putting off. This technique allows you to trick the left part of your brain that falls into habits easily and allows for the more creative right part to get involved. As an extra holiday bonus for you, by sharing in the comments your own top five tips for either “extreme self-care” or “adding more exercise”, I will send you my complete list of 31 in either category. Gamify! Game on! Happy holidays!

Published by Courtenay Schurman

Co-author of The Outdoor Athlete (2009) and Train to Climb Mt. Rainier or Any High Peak DVD (2002), author of Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills/conditioning chapter 4 (3 editions), and Peak Performance column for the Mountaineers Mag (2014-present). Member of PNWA, SCBWI, EPIC. Served on the steering committee for WOTS (2019-present). Completed UW Certificate program for Children's Literature and Memoir. Co-owner of Body Results, Inc. in Seattle. Climb leader with Seattle Mountaineers for over 15 years. Volunteer at Woodland Park Zoo since 2014.

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  1. I’ve got some catching up to do reading the blog posts but I decided to read the latest first – I’m spreading my wings and not necessarily doing things in a linear fashion! The inspiration is right on for me and I’m all in for a Photo-A-Day! One of my favorite words is “flow” and this project has those elements of weaving what I really like to do in a different way and I am curious what the project will reveal over time. At first, I am going to follow the prompts. But I am wondering if perhaps I will experiment with organic approaches where I observe wherever I am and let the prompt for the day come from what catches my interest or whatever is on my mind.
    Instead of focusing on “adding more exercise”, I have given some thought to how I can make S&S workouts more fun. I confess that sometimes, I focus on getting them “done” for the day. What I’m after is adding to the quality of my doing. So my idea is to rotate my focus for a particular session – I can choose among these for a session: breathing, gravity as I move & how that feels, following my language in my inner dialogue, what is showing up for me in my body. That’s what I’ve got so far! Any and all comments are appreciated!

    1. Hello Margie, non-linear is perfectly fine! Sometimes what I write refers back to other posts but that can whet your whistle for what else you might want to read. And organic experimentation is always welcome, the prompts are only meant to jump-start a person who might otherwise be feeling stuck. And interpretation of a single-word prompt is part of the fun!
      I love your “Gamify” approach to exercise, one of the things I try to do with clients who, for whatever reason, are feeling ambivalence or hesitation around exercise. The more fun something is, the more likely it will be completed. Where’s the fun in routine or drudgery?? Rotating focus is a great idea – you could come up with 31 prompts with body parts alone (how do the feet feel when balancing? How does my posture work when doing anything seated or using a ball?) You win for being first to comment on the”Exercise 31″ idea, and your free gift should hit your inbox shortly. Keep ’em coming, people!

      1. Aha! I knew you would open my mind to options. Thanks for sharing ideas on expanding upon “rotating focus”.

  2. I never know what to expect when the new blog post drops in my Inbox, but I know it will be inspiring and enjoyable reading.
    However, I was slightly taken aback by the invitation to do some “homework” !!! I was fine with you doing ALL the work about the weekly blog; did that REALLY need to change? 😊
    Well, no procrastination, let’s see what comes to mind… Monday workout, Tuesday workout, Wednesday workout, Thursday workout, Friday workout. Not too impressive…
    You can see that my brain immediately went to the “adding more exercise” category. I therefore decided to think of the “extreme self-care” instead.

    (1) Make a surprise call to someone I care about and haven’t “seen” in a while (possibly pretending to be a telemarketer.. may have to be TWO calls in a row)
    (2) Learn 3 breathing exercises (NO… “inhale” and “exhale” can’t be the first two)
    (3) Prepare a new mostly healthy recipe (have my wife grade the result while holding my breath, crossing 1 exercise from bullet (2) as well?)
    (4) Make drawings of my top 5 biggest fears and run them through the shredder (ideally while chuckling and flashing a mischievous grin)
    (5) Take a 30-minutes walk in the neighborhood, count the parked white cars, and proudly report the tally to my wife upon returning home (childhood habits die hard)

    Note: CY365 sounds so interesting! Knowing that I would likely spend countless hours just coming up with a list of prompts, I thought: there must be random word generators online (isn’t everything, and its opposite, online these days?).
    I tried the first one I came across and asked it for 5 words only. It gave me: Law, Poetry, Possibility, Cell, Teacher. Hmm.. Is it OK to try my hand at CY365 by (1) using the pre-K version of it: “CY7” or “CY31”? And (2) Letting someone else do the hard work (getting 31 words from the random generator) and having all the fun hunting for pics to take inspired by these words?

    1. These are great ideas, Gerard! Your free gift should hit your inbox shortly. Thanks for participating — you win the honor of being first to respond. I love your idea #4 — reminds me of the assignment I once got to draw the word “SHOULD” in big caps and then scribble the heck out of it until you can no longer see it. So satisfying.

      Yes, you can have a word generator spin however many days, weeks, or months’ worth you would like — 7 repeated 52 times, 60 repeated six times — I think that’s one of the reasons I loved Kennedy’s CY365, every year new material — but imagine the power you hold if you generate them yourself. Like Tori suggested earlier, coming up with an idea that resonated for her and generating the prompts on her own makes it personal and meaningful. I look forward to seeing what my photo buddy comes up with; I’m certain most of them will be different from the ones I came up with.

      Inspire on! And thanks for sharing a few of your deep self-care ideas!

  3. Courtenay,
    Your last blog about getting unstuck and this one are inspirational. They are timed well as people often struggle with these issues around the holidays. Thank you for sharing your creative ideas and insights!

  4. Courtenay, I enjoyed this week’s blog. You’ve inspired me to come up with prompts for December Morning Pages around Advent and the Solstice.