Don’t Break The Chain by John Holton

It’s the beginning of 2015 as I write this, and the various how-to sites are full of productivity “hacks” (i.e. hints or tips… why they don’t call them that, I have no idea why), about increasing your output and establishing new habits. One that comes up all the time is the “Seinfeld method,” the way Jerry Seinfeld established himself as a great comic.

When he was starting in the comedy business, Jerry figured out he had to write every day if he was going to make it. He bought a year-at-a-glance calendar and a red Magic Marker, hung the calendar on his wall, and, each day when he had finished, crossed out the date on the calendar with the marker. After a while, realizing how much fun it was to see his calendar gradually fill up with red X’s, he made it his goal not to have any dates that were not crossed off. He called it “Keep The Chain Going.”

I realized he was right, and that I had experienced it myself. I started on 750Words.com back in February 2012, and committed to completing the 750 words each day. The site told me after three days “You’re on a 3 day streak!” Then it was 4 days, then a few days later 7 days, then 30, 60, 90… Soon I was doing the 750 words just to see the number go up by one every day. Then, for some reason I can’t remember, after I had reached a streak of 403, I broke the chain. I felt terrible; I had broken the chain. I managed to get myself back on track, and, after a couple of false starts, I’m now (as of this writing) at 54 days in a row. I don’t want to let that chain get broken. And there have been times I’ve sat down at the computer at 11:30 at night (2330, if you keep time the way I do) and finished just before midnight. And, as tempting as it is to generate 750 words of “Lorem ipsum aliquat” etc., I’ve never had to rely on that to keep the chain going.

It’s been the same with my blogging. Last July, I challenged myself to blog at least once a day, every day, Monday to Sunday, for as long as I could. July 1 was the start of the Ultimate Blog Challenge (where you post daily for the month) and just kept going. Today, the chain stands at six months, eight days. I go to my web page and look in the upper left-hand corner at the calendar there, with all of its days marked off, and I don’t want to break that chain, either.

“Keep the chain going” is a technique that works for me, and for Jerry Seinfeld, and for others who have used it to establish a habit. Seeing the chain forming and keeping it going is a powerful incentive.

So, if you’ve been having trouble keeping a habit going, why not give it a try? Print a calendar (here’s a good source), use one of those calendars you get for free at church (it’s the beginning of the year, after all), or use this. Write your goal at the top of the page and hang it where you can see it. Every day you complete your daily goal, cross off the date on the calendar. Soon, if you’re faithful to the process, you’ll see a chain forming. Then, don’t break the chain.

All right? All right! Straight ahead!

~*~

John Holton

8 comments

    1. It does, but if you stay ahead of it, it works out well. I’m trying to have a few posts done ahead of time (for example, the A to Z posts, my Two for Tuesday posts, my Battle of the Bands posts) so I get some breathing room.

  1. Thanks, John, for inspiration that reminds me to make that commitment, the first step. I’ve been able to write every day . . . but the blogging every day seems to escape me. So when I get home on Saturday, I will set up my office with a few visual reminders. Each scene-let leads to a scene leads to a chapter and leads to the whole story just out there on the page. Yes, to April A to Z. And yes to writing AND blogging.

  2. Reblogged this on The Sound of One Hand Typing and commented:
    I’m reblogging this guest post from the ROW80 blog. The year is almost two months old (it was written at the beginning of the year), but it’s never too late to start a chain. This is a great productivity suggestion, From Jerry Seinfeld, of all people.

  3. I don’t write EVERY day, but I have a monthly and yearly words goal that I have to meet. This is the first time I’ve committed to something that rigid, but it’s helping. We need routines and goals. I have a spreadsheet that keeps up with that. The reason I don’t write every day is that I need days off from it just like I need it for my day job. Everyone is different.

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