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Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Advice

Thanks, Jerry

Lifehacker shared a piece of advice on getting things done a little bit at a time. The advice comes from Jerry Seinfeld, right at the top of his career, to a new (then) comic and (now) software developer:

[Seinfeld] said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself – even when you don’t feel like it.

He then revealed a unique calendar system he was using pressure himself to write.

Here’s how it worked.

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.

There are a few things that I try to maintain by doing every day, like cleaning the house and blogging. It’s easy, though, to let things go for several days. I’m going to give this method a try.

6 replies on “Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Advice”

My Chain of thought. . .
I was thinking about this method and how it could be used in reverse to chart compulsive behaviors.
I would have a chain from two winters past where I ate Pumpkin Pie everyday. A nice chain of checking or pimping my Myspace last fall. A chain on the summer right after my divorce, I won’t name the behavior. A chain of knitting when I first started to knit a few years back. Right now I would have a chain of posting comments to people’s blogs.
Also I thought the chain could be linked to multiple behaviors. Not too many, maybe three. Like, today I washed the dishes, checked the mail and walked the dog.
Anyway, I think it’s a cool idea and it feeds on our desire to be a little compulsive about things because one would compulsively want to keep up the chain.
That Seinfeld, he’s brilliant.

Sure, you could reverse the system, and you should if you want the motivation to change things in your life. Someone once said that building a new habit is like building a rope one strand at a time. That’s what I like about this system. It helps build ropes (I hope).

Porter – I don’t know you, but I felt related to you when I first say your clamshell and barnacle photo via Bri’s blog. Now that I’ve spent a couple of away-from-work, relaxed hours with Bri and have heard the bare outlines of the story of Wendy and you, I just want to write a note to say that I’m sorry that Wendy is gone and that I wish you well. — Jane

Thanks for sharing the advice Porter! I like the idea of having the chain on the wall, staring at me, reminding me not to break it. My challenge is that if I do break it, I feel like a failure and usually give it up…Know what I mean? I need to learn how to not “throw the baby out with the bathwater”…I wonder how I can translate that to the calendar????

Yeah, I know what you mean, Pam. Everyone has broken chains in the past. What really got me about Jerry’s advice, though, is “Don’t break the chain.” It has a zen-like simplicity.

I got home late last night. I went to pick up kibble for Cinder and was about to go to bed when I realized that I had to work on Project X or else I would break the chain. I realized I was making a choice to break or not break the chain at that moment.

At 1 a.m., I fulfilled the requirements of Project X, and put an X on my calendar. That’s an important part of it, too. Making the X is a ritual. Don’t do the thing five days in a row and then go back and put five Xs on your calendar. Do it and then celebrate doing it by making the X.

This is all theory for me still, but I think this is how it’s supposed to work.

Don’t break the chain,

Porter

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