Thursday, May 3, 2012

don't break the chain

Imagine you're talking with Jerry Seinfeld.  Not the goofy, funny, incredulous comic from on-stage, but the smart, dedicated comedian who's dead serious about his craft.  Jerry leans forward, and gives you this beauty of a productivity technique:

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. "After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain."

"Don't break the chain," he said again for emphasis.

I first read about this back in the summer of 2007, and it has been one of my go-to tools ever since.  It's especially powerful when I'm working on a new goal.

Once you've been working on a goal, project, or task, on a regular basis (ie: daily), for a long time, it becomes a habit, and the need to mark your daily progress dissipates.  But at the beginning, when you're working hard on something new, "Don't break the chain" is a great mantra.

In fact, last month I knew was going to be a challenge for me, as I had projects brewing on multiple fronts.  First thing I did was to build a Seinfeld-Chain calendar in google spreadsheets.  (my April results are below.)

I gave myself a green square for each day I was perfect, a yellow square for each day that was good but could have been better, and a red square for each day I failed.

Training long hours, writing and building this blog, being very conscious of what I was eating, and taking care of all my miscellaneous obligations.  Whew.  Turns out there's a lot green - good job, me.

Focus.  Single Task.  Work the Process.  Just Do it.  Each day, did you get it done? Give yourself a gold star.  (or a red x, or a green square...)

-Chris Butterworth