Seinfeld’s ‘Chain’ – A Simple Idea for Serious Results

I’ll begin this post by stating that I fully recognize that I’m about 4 years behind on this story, and since then, I’m sure that hundreds (probably thousands) of others have written on this topic…but I found the idea to be so simple and impactful that I wanted to spend a bit of time writing about it and the way I’ve gone about implementing it in my own life. 

How it all Started

In 2007, productivity blogger Brad Issac wrote on Lifehacker about Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret.  His description of the approach is included below, it’s very simple…

Get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. [Then], get a big red magic marker.

Each day you [meet your goal], 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.

Jerry’s ‘Productivity Secret’ can be summarized in four words…’Don’t Break the Chain.’

Why it Works

While such daily action might at first seem like a chore, it is exactly this type of consistent work that helps makes goals achievable.  The daily practice soon becomes a habit and results in a chain which your competitive side won’t want to see end any time soon!

Or, to borrow from Sir Isaac Netwon, ‘a body in motion tends to stay in motion.’  Once you put in the tough, early work to develop the positive momentum that will come from developing a weeks or months-long chain of activity, keeping up with the daily effort will become much easier. 

How I’ve Implemented It

I thought about using Jerry’s manual approach, which requires only a simple wall calendar and a red marker to get started.  However, the fact that I’m often on the road and that I currently have several daily goals/tasks that I want to track, lead me to research several online alternatives.

The best tool I’ve found for the job is Joe’s Goals.  It has a terrifically simple and clean interface that just plain works…no unnecessary features or fancy bells and whistles. 

It’s very easy to get started at Joe’s Goals too, quickly register with your email address and you’re ready to start adding goals to attain/habits to build (as many as you want, to track whatever you want).

As you ‘check off’ your daily goals, you earn points and start building your chain and momentum! 

While the tool is rather simple in its presentation, it is rather robust in its functionality.

Do you have tasks/goals that are specific to certain days of the week, are some of them more important than others, or do you want to lose ‘points’ for giving into bad habits? 

Joe’s Goals handles such scenarios with ease.

You can track goals that only apply to certain days of the week (like my CMA Studying), assign higher ‘point’ values to more important goals (like finishing Blog Posts) and lose ‘points’ for repeating bad habits you’re trying to break (like eating takeout too often). 

Though I just started using Joe’s Goals a few days ago, I’m already starting to see benefits in very small and simple ways…finally managing to consistently take a daily multivitamin, as an example.  Surely a mundane improvement, but it is progress nonetheless! 

I’m really looking forward to realizing the benefits to come in more substantive areas where I have long-term goals, such as studying for Part II of the CMA Exam. 

Jerry’s right, once you start building the chain, you definitely don’t want to break it!

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I welcome and look forward to your comments!

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2 Responses to Seinfeld’s ‘Chain’ – A Simple Idea for Serious Results

  1. Pingback: How to Use Your Return from Vacation to Drive Continuous Personal Development | geoffreylennon

  2. Pingback: ‘The Quantified Self’ and Personal Development | geoffreylennon

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