Don’t Break The Chain: Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret

Jerry Seinfeld

If you google “How to increase your productivity”, you’ll get over 34 million related searches - such is the appetite to get more done with less. How do you sift through so many searches? The simple answer is that you don’t and you shouldn’t. With such an avalanche of choices, the most effective way forward is to ask those who are productive to share their secrets. This is exactly what software developer Brad Isaac did when he asked the comedian Jerry Seinfeld for his productivity secret. Read on to discover it.

"Don’t Break The Chain"

Seinfeld has a calendar system that he uses to motivate himself to write. It’s simple enough – but highly effective. To copy his system, simply obtain a large wall calendar – one with a year to a page, and fix it to a wall in your office (or wherever you work). Next, for the daily activity you need to perform, use a red highlighter pen to mark an X to denote when that activity has been completed. After a few days, you will have a chain of red Xs. This chain will continue to grow (it will look more like a chain after a few weeks). The objective is to not “break the chain”.

Why The Technique Works

This technique can be applied to most areas of endeavour, from healthy eating to exercising. It works because, as the productivity gurus tell us, it isn’t the one shot that will give us the wonder, rather, it’s the daily actions that we perform which lead to success. For example, if you perform your mindfulness exercises every day, the chances are that you’ll become a pretty relaxed person after a period of time.

Daily actions help us to cultivate the right habits for success. By emphasising the “don’t break the chain” message to yourself, you’ll be less likely to skip a day; this is important because skipping one day makes it easy to skip another day.

There’s An App For It

If you’d rather not use a calendar, there are also apps that use the “Don’t Break the Chain” method. Streaks is one such app. Available on iOS, it is a simple iPhone application that works in a similar way to Seinfeld’s method. With Streaks, you can track up to six habits daily; some you can track manually by tapping on a button each time you walk the dog (or whatever habit you wish to cultivate), others that you can track automatically. And since not all habits are supposed to be daily, the app allows you to factor in “skip days” without disrupting your chain.

Streaks is clever enough to realise that tracking too many habits is counter-productive to productivity (you’ll spend your time tracking activities rather than forming habits), hence it limits the number of habits you can track. Not all habits are created equally: prioritising the habits you wish to track is a good way to focus the mind on the activities that will have the greatest impact on your productivity.

Streaks costs just £3.99 (at the time of writing) and can be downloaded from iTunes.

Have you come across any similarly unique approaches to productivity? If so, please add them to the comments section below.