Apparently, I missed a great productivity tip from Jerry Seinfeld that Lifehacker published way back in 2007. Seinfeld’s advice to would-be comic Brad Isaac was as follows:
He 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 revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here’s how it works.
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.
Building a chain of success is a great motivator. I’m not one for working in a single location, however. Sometimes I work out of my office at the Elgin Technology Center, sometimes a coffee shop, my home office, or even the leather recliner in our living room.
That makes having a big wall calendar impractical. Thankfully, there are software developers out there who have the same problem and have solved it with a technology solution.
There were a number of sites created following the Lifehacker post in 2007, but it seems most of them have been shut down or haven’t been updated in a while. One, however, is pretty much perfect: Don’t break the chain.
With Don’t Break the Chain, you create as many “chains” (goals) as you’d like and the site creates a calendar for you. You simply click the calendar day when you complete that chain for the day and the site keeps track of it from there.
Here’s an example chain of mine for spending time in Devotions:
Hopefully if you’re reading this in the future, I have lots of days filled in :-)
I can confirm that this is a great motivator when I manage to keep a chain going. On the other hand, when I haven’t kept a chain going, it gets me down and it actually demotivates me. YMMV.
In another post, I’ll detail the chains I’m using.