How Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret Fixed My Procrastination Problem

I’ve long been overwhelmed by an unwieldy list of goals that would sit, unaccomplished, in a long-term to-do list year after year. Then I came across a simple trick that solved my chronic problem. As gimmicky as it may sound, I’m now accomplishing everything I’d been putting off in just an hour a day. Here’s how you can, too.

I exercise every day. My apartment is always neat and tidy. I’ve finished more projects in the last 60 days than I have in the entirety of 2011. I did all of this with very little effort. How? I finally decided to give  Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret a try. It’s more commonly known as “Don’t Break the Chain,” and the concept is simple: spend some amount of time doing a desired activity every day and, when you do, cross off that day on a calendar. This creates a chain of Xs showing your progress. If you don’t do your specified task on one day, you don’t get an X and that chain is broken. It seems almost too simple to work, but it’s allowed me to accomplish so much more than I ever thought possible.

That said, the concept wasn’t perfect for me and it didn’t account for things like sick days and vacations. The trick assumes you have one goal and never take a break. I wanted to exercise, keep my apartment clean, handle chores more responsibly, work on various development projects, and write screenplays, but not every single day for the rest of my life. Originally, I looked at my schedule and realized there was only about an hour per day I could devote to any of these tasks while still enjoying a social life and maintaining my sanity. That did not seem like enough time to do anything, so I gave up. But then, for some reason, “Don’t Break the Chain” started inadvertently appearing in web searches and email messages. I’d heard about it but never really bothered to find out what it was or how it worked. When I finally looked, I realized that if I devoted 15 minutes per day to each one of my desired tasks I’d make some progress, and that would be better than no progress at all. Besides, practicing multiple skills at once is supposed to be good for you. I figured, what’s the harm?

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