You’re only reading this because this habit has helped me and I think its worth you trying it.
It’s a simple visual hack, and it has exponentially increased my ability to stick with a habit. This is hack is popularly attributed to Jerry Seinfeld and I first found it through some blog or another. But Jerry literally wrote on reddit in an AMA that
This is hilarious to me, that somehow I am getting credit for making an X on a calendar with the Seinfeld productivity program. It’s the dumbest non-idea that was not mine, but somehow I’m getting credit for it.
So Jerry is a hater, but the idea worked for me wherever it came from.
It basically says put a calendar or piece of paper up somewhere very visible to you. That could be a bathroom mirror, kitchen sink, whatever. In my case it’s on a pin board near the kitchen.
This simple piece of paper is your goal tracker. Put it up.
Currently I have three daily actions I want to take in three columns. Every day I do that thing gets a green mark. Every day I fail to take this action I put a red X.
That’s it. No excessive incrimination. No extra “work” involved really. Pick important goals and track if you’re actually spending your time and energy in achieving them. If you’re not, the red and green visuals will gently let you know about it. At least, they do for me.
Last comment about this, I actually thought that if I didn’t keep the markers right at the board I might miss recording a day and that would derail everything. So I literally leave the two markers right under the board in a little holder to combat that excuse. Whatever it takes right?
I kind of intuitively thought this would work. But I didn’t realize how powerful it was in actually getting me to do the things I wanted/needed to do more often. It is weirdly effective which is why I’m even sharing that it worked for me.
I literally have nights where I’m tired, and it’s so easy to make an excuse to not: write, work on GoStudy, rehab my ankle or whatever the goals are at that time. But then I think, the board won’t lie. It’s going to show me this moment of weakness over and over for a few weeks. In contrast to seeing that red X break up I can probably do a few minutes. I can push through. The board isn’t measuring a lot of time, it’s not measuring how great the session is. It’s just if you did it or not.
Or sometimes, it’s not about the red X at all. It’s about the string of green marks you’ve earned in the past few days. If you’re like me and you’re NOT like Jerry, you’re going to like putting together these streaks of compliance. You’ll say, this pain isn’t worth breaking the contract I made with my past self AND future self. The fake Seinfeld story writer quotes Jerry as saying:
“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.”
Wise words “Jerry”, wise words.
The chain is where the magic happens. Consistency compounds over time. The 15 minutes I “force” myself to sit down and do work often changes into 30 minutes, or two hours. Sometimes it is a slog, other times you get into the flow. The habit, the muscle, and the time will compound.
Now I’m not saying I hit 100% compliance. I’m far from that. But as Jerry says just “don’t break the chain. That’s your only job.”
Still here? Here’s a list of articles that talk about this lesson while assuming it is actually from the comedian. All in all, someone’s pulled off a good joke on every level.
- Writers guild post on habits
- Lifehacker has a great, full summary of the story
- Master follows consistency
Last modified: September 27, 2018