How to Stop Procrastinating on Your Goals by Using the “Seinfeld Strategy”

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most successful comedians of all‐time.

He is regarded as one of the “Top 100 Comedians of All–Time” by Comedy Central. He was also the co–creator and co–writer of Seinfeld, the long–running sitcom which has received numerous awards and was claimed to have the “Top TV Episode of All–Time” as rated by TV Guide.

According to Forbes magazine, Seinfeld reached his peak in earnings when he made $267 million dollars in 1998. (Yes, that was in one year. No, that’s not a typo.) A full 10 years later, in 2008, Seinfeld was still pulling in a cool $85 million per year.

By almost any measure of wealth, popularity, and critical acclaim, Jerry Seinfeld is among the most successful comedians, writers, and actors of his generation.

However, what is most impressive about Seinfeld’s career isn’t the awards, the earnings, or the special moments — it’s the remarkable consistency of it all. Show after show, year after year, he performs, creates, and entertains at an incredibly high standard. Jerry Seinfeld produces with a level of consistency that most of us wish we could bring to our daily work.

Compare his results to where you and I often find ourselves. We want to create, but struggle to do so. We want to exercise, but fail to find motivation. Wanting to achieve our goals, but — for some reason or another — we still procrastinate on them.

What’s the difference? What strategies does Jerry Seinfeld use to beat procrastination and consistently produce quality work? What does he do each day that most people don’t?

I’m not sure about all of his strategies, but I recently discovered a story that revealed one of the secrets behind Seinfeld’s incredible productivity, performance, and consistency.

Let’s talk about that what he does and how you can use the “Seinfeld Strategy” to eliminate procrastination and actually achieve your goals.

The “Seinfeld Strategy”

Brad Isaac was a young comedian starting out on the comedy circuit. One fateful night, he found himself in a club where Jerry Seinfeld was performing. In an interview on Lifehacker, Isaac shared what happened when he caught Seinfeld backstage and asked if he had “any tips for a young comic.”

Here’s how Isaac described the interaction with Seinfeld…

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to 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. Your only job is to not break the chain.”

You’ll notice that Seinfeld didn’t say a single thing about results.

It didn’t matter if he was motivated or not. It didn’t matter if he was writing great jokes or not. It didn’t matter if what he was working on would ever make it into a show. All that mattered was “not breaking the chain.”

And that’s one of the simple secrets behind Seinfeld’s remarkable productivity and consistency. For years, the comedian simply focused on “not breaking the chain.”

Let’s talk about how you can use the Seinfeld Strategy in your life…

How to Stop Procrastinating

Top performers in every field — athletes, musicians, CEOs, artists — they are all more consistent than their peers. They show up and deliver day after day while everyone else gets bogged down with the urgencies of daily life and fights a constant battle between procrastination and motivation.

While most people get demotivated and off–track after a bad performance, a bad workout, or simply a bad day at work, top performers settle right back into their pattern the next day.

The Seinfeld Strategy works because it helps to take the focus off of each individual performance and puts the emphasis on the process instead. It’s not about how you feel, how inspired you are, or how brilliant your work is that day. Instead, it’s just about “not breaking the chain.”

All you have to do to apply this strategy to your own life is pick up a calendar (here’s an inexpensive one) and start your chain.

A Word of Warning

There is one caveat with the Seinfeld Strategy. You need to pick a task that is meaningful enough to make a difference, but simple enough that you can get it done.

It would be wonderful if you could write 10 pages a day for your book, but that’s not a sustainable chain to build. Similarly, it sounds great in theory to be able to deadlift like a maniac every day, but in practice you’ll probably be overtrained and burnt out.

So step one is to choose a task that is simple enough to be sustainable. At the same time, you have to make sure that your actions are meaningful enough to matter.

For example, researching good jokes each day is simple, but you’re never going to write a joke by merely researching. That’s why the process of writing is a better choice. Writing can actually produce a meaningful result, even when it’s done in small doses.

Similarly, doing 10 pushups per day could be simple and meaningful depending on your level of fitness. It will actually make you stronger. Meanwhile, reading a fitness book each day is simple, but it won’t actually get you in better shape.

Choose tasks that are simple to maintain and capable of producing the outcome you want.

Another way of saying this is to focus on actions and not motions, which is a concept that I explained in this article: The Mistake That Smart People Make

Mastery Follows Consistency

The central question that ties our community together — and what I try to write about every Monday and Thursday — is “how do you live a healthy life?” This includes not merely nutrition and exercise, but also exploration and adventure, art and creativity, and connection and community.

But no matter what topic we’re talking about, they all require consistency. No matter what your definition is of a “healthy life,” you’ll have to battle procrastination to make it a reality. Hopefully, the Seinfeld Strategy helps to put that battle in perspective.

Don’t break the chain on your workouts and you’ll find that you get fit rather quickly.

Don’t break the chain in your business and you’ll find that results come much faster.

Don’t break the chain in your artistic pursuits and you’ll find that you will produce creative work on a regular basis.

So often, we assume that excellence requires a monumental effort and that our lofty goals demand incredible doses of willpower and motivation. But really, all we need is dedication to small, manageable tasks. Mastery follows consistency.

P.S.

For the last eight months I’ve written a new article every Monday and Thursday without missing a beat. Simply setting a schedule has helped me keep that pace and I plan to keep it as we move forward.

But I also want to graduate my writing habits to the next level and start writing 1,000 words each day. Some of those words will turn into books and courses, and some of will continue to be my Monday and Thursday posts.

My “1,000–words–per–day” chain is currently at 4. (I made it to 5 last week before breaking it for a day.)

You may have a couple false starts yourself, but eventually I’m hoping that both you and I can simply tell ourselves, “Don’t break the chain.”

87 Comments

  1. Love this technique. I use a pocket size Moleskin and am currently making an X for everyday I do pushups. I started on June 24th with three sets of 10 spread out through the day. I haven’t missed a day (July 6th was only one set of 20) and am now doing sets of 30 (9 sets today) and have done over 2300 pushups since I started. Besides adding over an inch to my biceps and chest I’m down a belt loop also.

    Start making your X’s everyone.

    BigHappy

    • I can say that developing habits works. I’ve been reading your excellent blog for a while, and I read about Seinfeld’s method a few years ago, but have only this week started actually doing anything.

      I made a couple of “Seinfeld sheets” (grids of 365 near-squares on sheets of A4) and told myself to get with it. So on Monday I spent my lunch hour writing, and exercised when I got home. I did the same on Tuesday. On Wednesday I came home without having written anything. The voice in my head said that one day didn’t matter, that of course developing habits is hard work, etc, etc, and that writing could be dropped. Then I pictured the ‘writing’ sheet (on a wall upstairs) and told myself not to break the chain. (Note that at this point I didn’t even have the sheet in front of me and hadn’t even put the crosses through Monday and Tuesday.) So I sat down, got out my notebook and in thirty-five minutes typed up three pages of script. And then exercised. Now it’s five days and ten crosses, and when I’ve finished with this comment I will make it six and twelve. You might say that it’s early days, and you’d be right, but I’ve never written for five days in a row before, and I know that I’m going to stick with it.

      Love your blog, James, and would like to recommend Jerry Corley’s. It’s for writers of comedy, but the most recent post is especially relevant to anyone who’s read any of your ‘stop procrastinating’ and ‘make habits your friend’ posts.

    • I love this article! It helps put your goals in perspective! Keeps you moving forward to grow and take action! I will definitely use this in planning my goals in 2014 and in the future.

    • I strongly recommend this app: https://chains.cc/. It’s basically built on Seinfied’s Strategy. You create your chains, comment on them, they will send you a mail once in a while to prevent you from breaking your chains. You can use it on a browser or your iPhone as well. I find it really useful.

  2. This is very similar to the disciplined practice of writing that has made Stephen King a multi-millionaire and one of the best known, most respected authors alive. He writes 500 words a day at least Monday-Friday. That’s 2,500 a week or 10,000 a month. With that he can crank out a best seller every 5-6 months year after year.

    When you look at professional athletes OR great musicians OR great people in any field it is always because they are extremely well disciplined in their daily lives. Nothing magical, just hard, disciplined, consistent work for years and then decades.

  3. This reminder to keep at the thing you love and the thing you want to improve is so encouraging to me. My music teacher used to tell me to put myself in front of the piano for at least 30 minutes every day. The idea of a manageable time table was helpful to me. If I had the time, I usually spent more than 30 minutes at the piano out of pleasure or getting lost in it. Now I use that same idea for other creative pursuits. The stern time manager in my brain is silenced when I tell myself that it won’t take up all my time, just the same minimum amount of time every day. I decide ahead of time how much that will be and there is no way to get guilted out of doing those things by the pull of other responsibilities—it has already been worked out. I am really encouraged by these writings, Thanks!

  4. This is great. My problem is that my mind instantly spiraled into complexity. “I could get a calendar for my work writing, one for my creative writing, one for my drawing, one for my sewing, one for my singing/music, one for my walking goals…….(or maybe I’ll use just one calendar but put a different colored X for each thing, then I’ll make a color key at the bottom…..)” on and on and on.

    help! How do I pick which goal to focus on? What if we have multiple goals of creativity/productivity that are all vying for top spot?

    Anyone else have a problem with picking and choosing? I guess the answer is to just pick one and stick with it but that’s my problem, I CANT! I want to do it all!

    Anyway, great post. I will use it once I decide what to use it on. =)

    • I heard about this “chain thing” somewhere else, and I had the same problem as you.

      So I made a google spreadsheet with the date and the different habits I wanted to adopt — and it worked. I didn’t get much chains at the beginning, but over time the chains became longer and longer.

      Until in one week I had a chain with every habit I wanted to form. Looked great with all those crosses. After that I made the big fault and added more habits I wanted to form. It probably was too much for me at that time and the chains got much smaller again.

      So now I think doing just one thing that brings you towards your goal on a daily basis is better than doing 5 on a inconsistent basis.

      And here are some other tricks that worked well for me:

      1. The calendar/spreadsheet has to be in a highly visible spot. With that you get reminded to do it and if you have done it already you are always happy that you did it already. for the spreadsheet that meant for me to be always open in the browser.

      2. To make crossing on day off a ritual. The more time I spend on crossing off, the higher was the chance for a longer chain. Crossing off should be a reward. I now make 3 crosses instead of just one. I might experiment with writing something like “Yeah, I did it” instead in the future.

      3. There is no excuse for not doing it on ANY day. I got too much to do sometimes and said to myself: “No way I could do it today. It’s okay to skip, since today was a really really busy day.” With the time my excuses got more and more (no way I would do it on vacation… today is birthday so it’s ok…). but a missed day is a missed day. No excuses.

      • Steffen, I REALLY think what you wrote about giving yourself credit for taking time off, is vitally important! I’m glad you brought it up!

    • Elizabethe, I am the exact same way — not just in the ‘spiraling into complexity’ — but with the same goals as well (writing, artwork, walking, sewing … music not so much since I’ve been without a piano for the last 5 years).

      I thought of using the different colors for X’s also! lol! I often say I can’t just do one thing. It’s like eating pizza (I love pizza!) but I don’t want to eat it every day of my life. I feel the same way about every creative outlet I love.

      My thoughts are, what if the goal is to not break the chain, but only using one color (goal) for 3 days … then make yourself switch to your next creative ‘thing’ for 3 days, and so on. Walking could be a background color rather than an X. I think the walking is just as important as any creative or career goal.

      Three days is just an example of a time frame. I think for myself 3 weeks would work much better, as I tend to obsess (eat, breath, and sleep ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is). Three weeks is also usually enough time to complete something (such as a painting).

      If you have any other thoughts on all of this I’d really love to hear them!

      • Maybe you have to see the work in a more abstract way.

        For example: instead of 3 weeks for an ebook and then 3 weeks for an email sequence and then 3 weeks for the first printed book you maybe should just say: write 500 (or whatever number) words each day. It doesn’t matter for which project you write. It’s just about getting these 500 words done. Day after day.

        And maybe you should just start with the most important one (for you). The one that has the biggest impact on your life quality.

        After you have finished the most important one, maybe you are more likely to do something else right after it (“habit chains”). I think the most energy to start something (something you procrastinate on) you have right after you finished something.

        And maybe the most important thing should be done as early as possible (I have big problems with that one — lol). When my day starts great, it doesn’t matter what happens later, it’s still a great day. But if my day has a bad start, it feels like the whole day is lost and I have less energy and mental strength.

        I’m not sure about all this since I’m trying to figuring it out for me as well, but I hope it might be useful for you. :)

        • Thank you for your input, Steffen, I appreciate it!

          Abstract does not work for me. If I have no reason for doing something, I’m simply not going to do it. I’ve recently accepted this about myself (at the tender age of 51).

          My ’3 week’ binges have a great deal to do with art/craft projects. I don’t need motivated to do them (I actually need to be told to ‘stop it’ once in awhile because I will work to total exhaustion – which is why I was so thrilled you mentioned taking credit for time off). My biggest problem is: I start on project M. In the midst of doing project M, I get an idea for project N (A-L have already been initiated, but none of them completed)…you see the problem (too much inspiration and not enough discipline to finish perfectly good ideas).

          Also, much of my art projects are done on/in the computer. It feels like I have accomplished nothing, when in reality, if I were to print out everything I have designed I could wallpaper my entire apartment with the work. Seeing X’s on a calendar would help bring all the work I do into reality, and I could pat my back for being so dedicated, instead of yelling at myself (as I do now) for being so dedicated.

          …And yes, I should print my work out as thumbnails or something, but that feels like a big waste of paper, ink, and time in half my brain…it says I could be using the time, etc. for more productive things. Oy! and lol! I am a *persnickety creature! (*note: I actually spelled that correctly!)

          I also have fine artwork I want/need to work on. By giving myself 3 week limits, I can change from fine art to computer art every 3rd week.

          I also know I tend to enjoy writing MUCH more in the fall and winter months – So I’m planning on only asking myself to do that for 6 months out of the year.

          In a nutshell, I am trying to work with myself…my natural inclinations, rather than trying to reconstruct myself. In the end, my most difficult goal is simply getting myself to go on that walk, and lift a dumbbell a couple of times. :D

          What’s very cool is that all of this, all that James inspires, is we end up putting our thoughts down and searching for new ways to get where we want to be. Awesome.

          I’m like you in the area of if the day starts good the whole day is good and if it starts bad…well…

          Perhaps the real goal here is about ensuring our day starts good. Maybe that should be what earns us an X.

          Please feel free to share more of your thoughts on all of this

        • 1) totally agree, starting the day in a good way should be more in our focus. i will give it more attention from now on.

          2) i aswell have problems with finishing projects. in my case the problem is perfectionism (at least i think that’s my problem). and this brings me to the fear of (my work/project) not being good enough and the fear of failure and embarassment. to get rid of these fears i leave the project unfinished and start a new one.

          before i knew jamesclear.com i tried to break through just with pure willpower. but now i try write down exactly in which quality i want parts of my work, so i know exactly when i reached my goal.

          for example: when i write an article the goal ist just to write it, correct grammatical errors and edit it one time on another day. but the goal is not to make the text perfect. (before i would edit and edit a text until i’m exhausted). and when i feel bad about the next not being perfect i have to tell myself: “this is the best text i could produce (with only one edit) with my current skills. it is the most perfect it can be at this moment.” well, this one is an ongoing battle.

          3) don’t know if i got you right there, but i think you want to see your (digital) accomplishments. so maybe creating an art book could help (like creating a photo book to remind you of your great vacation). it doesn’t have to be of high quality i think, maybe black and white is enough, since it’s only for you. the cost shouldn’t be that high and it’s something cool to show your friends (even when it’s not high quality).

          4) reconstruction of oneself: i think our flaws and weird habits are what makes us individual and likeable. and as long as they are not in the way of our goals, there is no need to change them.

    • Hi elizabethe, I know what you mean. I too have several daily goals: writing, piano singing practice, exercising, and meditating, taking my supplements….

      What works for me is to kind of do them in order. I exercise, meditate, practice piano and singing, eat and take my supplements, and then take the time write for however long the inspiration reigns!

      I am fortunate, as I am unemployed but looking for work, which is a job in itself. So far I haven’t gotten lost in the marking the calendar because its a pattern. When I was working the order was a little different but much the same in that the writing came after work not before.

      Joan

      • Hi Joan and Donna and Steffen,

        Thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts. So much stuff really hit a chord with me.

        Steffen, love the idea of doing one X with one color for each type of thing– one creative thing a day. Then you could look and see if you were neglecting something very easily.

        In fact! brain storm! this is what I am going to do. I’m going to pick four basic areas of creativity, and pledge to do one creative thing each day, and then do whatever I feel like as long as it’s one of the four. I have a feeling that, after about a month, I will be able to see that one or two are dominating and then I can commit to that one project with the knowledge that that is the one I really want to work on.

        Joan, your idea of doing one thing after another in a link is great and something I love. But it also made me realize that I am not really in control of my time right now. I have three little kids at home with me most of the day and creativity has to happen around them.

        Donna, glad I am not the only one who wants to do every single thing. Your mention of seasonality really struck a chord with me. I just realized that (duh) maybe I need to put certain kinds of creativity into the winter months when the kids go to bed earlier (they tend go with the sun) and not try to shove them all into the one hour I have between when they finally collapse from exhaustion at 9PM and when I fall asleep at 10. Although, I’ve discovered I can draw when they are up without any frustration at being interrupted (unlike writing or sewing which tend to require real focus from me). My oldest son likes to draw as well, so it’s something we do together.

        Totally OT, but if anyone can recommend any good basic drawing books with ideas for exercises, I’d appreciate it. I’ve been looking on line but it’s so hard to know what’s good. I have a couple I like, but I’ve worked through them already.

        • My goodness…. Three children and you hold the energy to create your heart’s desire. I congratulate you! We are quite the community of self-actualization and the whole-hearted determination to make a difference in our own lives and in those around us. Yay!

          I have all my books packed away in readiness to move or might have been able to suggest an art book… When I am settled and have access to it again I will pass the name on to you.

        • I totally agree with Joan, Elizabethe, you are to be congratulated on your ability to keep doing despite kiddy chaos! You’re awesome!

          Joan, I am going to use your ‘doing them order’ to get me back on track with my simpler goals (walking, eating, supplements, etc). It appears as if you use writing as your reward for the other things you ask of yourself. I am assuming it’s because it doesn’t feel like work to you. I’m that way about artwork, so I will attempt to not let myself do the art until the other yucky stuff is done. Thank you!

          Elizabethe, I have a little trick I use when talking to myself that may help you with all the creative directions you are pulled in…

          Give each of your ‘selves’ that have a different interest a name (ie: the artist, the musician, the seamstress, etc.). Then pretend these selves are your children (none is more important than the other – they are all equal in their importance to you, and equal in their need to express themselves) How would you structure their/your life so that each one had an opportunity to do what they wanted? How would speak to the ones who had to wait their turn?

          I tell you this because I always tend to tell the side of me that is waiting, that it’s not important. I also tend to tell the side of my self that is being dominant in the moment, to hurry up because others want a turn. Yeah, it becomes a lose lose situation. All I’m saying is, respect every aspect, every goal, every intention, and allow them all a ‘voice’.

          If you find some aspects aren’t as important as others, just change their position to a ‘friend’ or an ‘acquaintance’…which means they don’t need a daily voice, just an occasional one.

          Steffen I hope you’re reading down this far! I was unable to reply to your last post. Apparently we have run out of room for that particular posting (rather chatty, aren’t we :D )

          Anyway, I wanted to tell you what a truly GREAT idea I think you’re using for your writing (the write it one day, edit it the next, move on). It’s very insightful as well as practical! You rock!

          I also love the idea of an ‘art book’. I think I will add that to my morning ‘do it in order’ routine. I’ll just make printing out 1 sheet of pics a day a goal until it’s done (it will probably take months)…or I run out of ink! lol! Even if I run out of ink, I can still take the time to set the sheet up so it’s ready to print.

          Elizabethe, I’m so glad you started this post! It’s really lifted my spirits to participate in this discussion of idea’s and methods!

          Joan, best wishes in finding whatever job it is you’re looking for!

          Thank you all!

      • Thank you to all of you who participated in this discussion. It has been inspirational. In addition, by reading your thought processes on the matter, it has helped me focus on what I need to do to move forward. I am like some of you with too many interests, scattered attention and energy, and unable to commit to making one thing happen, but I have this strong feeling that I need to change NOW — could be my age creating the sense of urgency! :) I am going to do a test run of a handful of things to see which one or two get priority over a couple of weeks as one contributor suggested and then focus on the one thing. When that becomes routine like brushing my teeth (i.e., do it automatically without thinking about it), I will add a new goal. Eventually, my energy will be spent on the things that are important to me. Thank you for all of your insights!

    • Hey Elizabethe –

      I am right with you on this one – there are just too many things I want to do! AH!

      I totally agree with Steffen and wanted to add one more thing that may be helpful: finding your keystone habits.

      James has written about this, but essentially keystone habits are the things that make you feel good so that the rest of your life falls into place. For many people, it seems James is included, exercise is a keystone habit that influences other aspects of their life. When they exercise, they may also get to sleep earlier or sleep better, resist poor food choices more easily, be more productive, and reduce stress more quickly. Did you know that people who exercise more use their credit card less?

      Finding your own keystone habits may help you to determine which of these you should use the Seinfeld approach with. Look for:
      1. things that speak to your culture and values (your identity), and 2. things that provide a platform for other changes. It may be that some of those tasks speak to #2 but not #1, whereas others are the opposite?

      Ultimately, you could make some form of a weighted decision matrix to help you determine what you want!

      Be well all!

      • Wow Donna and Joan, I didn’t even see all of your excellent posts before commenting – what an excellent conversation. This is certainly a big issue, so thanks for helping me out thinking about it in different ways, abstract or not!

        Be well all!

    • Just throw a dart and force yourself to pick ONLY ONE! Tell yourself that the REWARD for a chain xxx long is you get to pick another, etc.

  5. Very sound and good advice. I see how this will benefit both in my workout and writing. I did both today do I have my first X. Now I have to be consistent. Thanks.

  6. Wow James, this was especially awesome. Your ending was totally inspirational.

    I am in the same boat as you, I want to write more. Except I am at 3 days… Let’s keep each other motivated — I’ll send you a picture next weekend of the red X’s I can achieve next week on 1000 words a week. Think we can both make it to 6 days!? (I’ll be heading to Scotland for a backpacking adventure so I’ll have to work extra hard for it though…) Let’s go for it and learn from it if we don’t make it!

    Be well friend!

    • Thanks Katie! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I hope you’ll put it to good use and start building that chain!

  7. Those of you who prefer a more digital approach to the wall calendar can check out chains.cc

    It’s a fantastic service. Sadly, no android application yet.

  8. I use an iPhone app called the Habit List for this purpose. It is the best $1.99 that I have spent on an app. I love its interface, which encourages me to use it every single day. Seriously, it has made a huge impact on my life.

    Check it out at: http://habitlist.com/

    I hope that helps someone!

    Jim

  9. I have been doing this with stickers in my wall calendar. My chains are 5 stickers a week and I only broke it about 5 times from May 2012 to now (workouts!) — I am 35 lbs lighter and I see muscle! So it is definitely working! — I had to workout at least 20 min to get a sticker (I know … really pre-schoolish –hahaha) but getting started was the key, it usually leads to more effort just for saying “I just need 20 minutes.”

    • Great points, Josie! Thanks for sharing. Also, your experiences are a good reminder that we need to experiment with ideas and figure out a version that works for us. You took the same idea and tweaked it just a little bit to fit your personality.

      Keep getting those stickers!

  10. Great advice, James! I’m living proof that this absolutely works for fitness. I’m well into in my 3rd year of logging workouts at http://atifsworkoutlog.blogspot.com. I post everything from rest days to trail runs to Litvinov-style workouts to killer WODs like Murph (http://www.crossfit.com/mt-archive2/000881.html). It often crosses my mind, even while I’m in the midst of a workout, how great it’s going to feel to post that new PR, extra mile or completion of a hero WOD. Seeing too many rest days in a row always motivates me to get back in the saddle.

    I’m a 43-year-old suburban husband, father and computer programmer with a terrible family health history. I also have a resting heart rate of 56 and around 8% body fat. Americans waste billions on empty fitness promises and useless equipment when all they really need are a few dumbbells, steep hills and a free blog account.

    • Congrats on your progress, Atif!

      Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing. It’s great to have another action-taker in our little community!

  11. Hi James,

    I don’t usually comment, but this is a fantastic post on the importance of establishing good habits. Being a being Seinfeld fan, I love that connection as well.

    I hate when I break the chain, but to be honest, is still does happen. There are some mornings where I skip my protein shake breakfast, or won’t do some form of exercise, but I’m always working to get better.

    Same with writing. Writing every day is very important to your productivity, and that’s a habit I’ve yet to establish. A sense of urgency is required for this.

    Again, excellent post!

    • Joe — thanks for commenting and sharing. I really appreciate you taking the time and it’s great to have you in our little community!

      As far as breaking the chain goes — I think this is something we all deal with from time to time. Nobody is perfect.

      The important thing to realize is that top performers get back on the saddle as soon as possible. The might miss one workout, but they don’t let one become two.

      The biggest thing is to do it as consistently as possible. If you break your chain three or four times per year, but still workout 48 out of 52 weeks, then you’re doing pretty well.

      Keep rocking!

  12. JS’s pursuits, at least from this time out, could be answered with “if money was in no way an object, what would you pursue?” That is not a reality for most folks.

    But I will try the process. As it turns out, I do long form improv, but for some weird reason I do collect my jokes. Stand-up sounds menacing, but hey, there they are in my back pocket. What I will try is putting up the wall calendar, and maybe scribbling in the joke cue right there on the date.

    This also makes me reevaluate those Covey refillable daily journals that you used to be able to get. They even had a show room on 49th st! I used them, but I was so non-commital to the actual routinizing that I stopped using the pre-printed dates for fear of wasting paper. Now rethinking this logic, predated journals might have more to them!

  13. Jerry Seinfeld has always been my favorite comedian and Seinfeld my favorite TV show. Very cool article. I have been trying to implement this strategy of creating habits by writing something everyday and also practicing the guitar. Writing everyday is going very well so far, practicing the guitar, eh…. not so much. It’s a struggle sometimes.

  14. Thanks so much! A life filled with reminders keeps us on track.

    I see the results of consistency in the mirror and on the calendar everyday, and it brings a smile to my face! It’s kind of like a gold star from me to me.

    We can take our triumphs where and when we can. They might be a smile, an inch, a pound or two pages of the written word! It doesn’t get done if you don’t do. Here’s to unbroken chains!

    Joan

  15. This article is great info. I was just listening to an Entrepreneur on Fire interview with Stephan Aarstol of Tower Power Boards. He mentioned advice along the same lines. His father told him: Basketball is all about luck. The harder you work and the more you practice, the more luck you’ll have. John Lee Dumas put it more succinctly: Luck is where effort meets opportunity.

    I love the vivid storytelling in this post and the reminder to just keep going.
    Now I need to find a wall calendar to mark off. :-)

  16. Great post James! I have the article about Seinfeld on my desk…great reminder. This was the core concept behind irunurun when we developed it.

    Also, I’d suggest for everyone’s reading list Steven Pressfield’s book, “The War of Art”. As well, Gary Keller of Keller Williams real estate released his book “The ONE Thing” this past April, which is another great fit. Both books have excellent tips on creating consistent daily behavior change. We plan to write one next year based on our study of elite soldiers and athletes, and how those lessons learned impact people at work and at home. I’ll be sure to send you a copy!

    Run hard,
    Travis

    • Awesome — thanks for sharing the book ideas, Travis. And thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  17. James,

    You have written about being a professional, being consistent and breaking habits, all with very good suggestions for practical implementation. While I appreciate all of them, this one really resonated with me, and proves once again why you must use many different examples to reach a diverse population.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Jim! And you’re right — I try to share different ideas and stories as I come across them. Sometimes you just need to hear things in a slightly different way for them to make sense.

      I’ll do my best to keep good ideas coming your way! Thanks for reading.

  18. Absolutely loved this article and every single comment. Thanks for being such a great, helpful community of people!

    I have always logged habits and used stickers and charts etc. but haven’t done the chain idea – love it!

    Will be adding that to my current ‘success chart’ spreadsheet and downloading the chain.cc app now. Thanks James and everyone else!

    • Wonderful! Thanks for reading, Kat! The community makes this site what it is — I’m just a small part of it.

      It’s great to have you reading!

  19. It’s simple. It’s genius. Genius is usually simple. Thanks for helping clear the way. Don’t break the chain. I’m on it!

  20. Hi James, great article! I love the idea about the chains. But I have a question regarding this technique. Is there a limit to the number of chains that you can run do at the same time? If the answer is no, how much time needs to pass before I can start working on a new chain?

  21. I read a lot about discipline, consistency, hard work, single-minded dedication etc., but never from a lady, especially one with 2 young kids who are dependent on her for just about everything, second of their lives because of their age. What is a mom of such young kids to do to achieve her goals (of doing more than just child care jobs)!?

    • Hi Arti

      There is an old saying, if you want to get something done, give it to someone who is busy… It is the ones who are busy already who make the time to continue to accomplish, their dreams and sometimes the dreams of others….

      We hold on to our dreams and act upon them, or live in quiet desperation, and who does that serve? Our tenacity in reaching out to have meaningful and purposeful lives can be our greatest source of motivation; it’s like that creative force that resides within us is a “prime directive” that we can ignore or respond to.

      Each of us is a unique gift in all the world, so who can do what we do, the way we do it? No one. Even if we accomplish just one thing, one perfect, beautiful creation, it is enough. Lol…. Thing is, many times we find it’s like trying to eat one chip, one is not enough!

      Joan

  22. The writer Steven Pressfield expands on this technique in his books ‘The War of Art’, ‘Do The Work’ and ‘Turning Pro’.

    Basically the key to winning the war against resistance to creativity is to do your work everyday like the real pros do.

  23. Hey James,
    Great post! I had no idea about the Seinfeld strategy and so I actually simplified in my own blog after reading this. I even posted your link on my blog so viewers can read the source as well. It blew my mind away so much that I couldn’t resist. Thanks for sharing :) Now I know the path to find success in my own life and endeavors!

  24. In Teddy Atlas’s autobiography he said this to Michael Moorer when trying to get him off his ass to train hard:

    “Don’t you understand anything about commitment, about being a pro, about sticking with what you say you wanna be? You don’t do it just when you feel good. You don’t just do it when you’re not tired. You don’t do it just when it’s sunny. You do it every day of your life. You do it when it hurts to do it, when it’s the last thing in the world you wanna do, when there are a million reasons not to do it. You do it because you’re a professional.”

    Teddy is often melodramatic and full of it, but I do like to keep this little soliloquy in mind when I realize I’m being weak and whiny. Moorer did win after all.

  25. Thanks, great article. My normal everyday task is to write some content and to learn at least one new thing related with my business.

    I notice that when you’re consistently working every single day, you feel a lot less procrastination.

  26. First of all I would like to say fantastic blog!

    I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.

    I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing. I’ve had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out.

    I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips?
    Many thanks!

  27. I’m a software developer and I’m using GitHub for keeping my opensource projects’ repositories. Some time ago there was introduced a kind of contiributions timeline on the user’s profile page. It shows days for the past year since current day and marks them green if the user have done some contributions to some projects. And it shows ‘Current Streak’ and ‘Longest Streak’ – current number of days in chain and the number of days in the longest chain for the past year. I haven’t know what these things are standing for.

    I always thought that it’s just a kind of yet another cool thing, just like putting ponies and unicorns everywhere. Then I noticed that it’s just interesting to keep chain growing. Moreover, doing so really increased my productivity. I thought this thing is just to show others how cool you are. As for me, I do not really care for that last thing. So, when it came up to tasks that are to big or hard to be splitted into the pieces that could be done in a one day or when some task is blocked by external circumstances (someone’s library was broken or so), I gave up. It was to hard and exhausting to make contributions or to silly just to do anything not to brake the chain. I thought ‘OK, I’ve got 35 days, maybe this is enough for this year’.

    Now I realized that those timeline is not to show others how cool I am. But to make me to continue to do my work. It still can be disappointing to lose a 30-40 days long chain, but “I’m not good enough to be dissapointed” and the only thing I have to do is to keep things going, no matter what happens. Some gaps are possible, but they should be drowning in the common chain. This is really cool thing. Thanks a lot!

  28. Dear James,

    Thanks a lot for giving us wonderful information. I find it very useful. To be realistic, I am still struggling to have a vision, set a goal, self-motivate & achieve. But today I promise myself that I will start off with a simple step not breaking the chain.

    Regards
    Dhinesh Kumar J

  29. I’ve been posting on my blog every weekday for over a year now. It doesn’t always make the ideas come any easier, but the consistency has really made me more motivated not to break the chain. Great article!

  30. Wow, thanks for this article. It’s really a very simple approach but the irony is, we don’t always do it. It’s been an old knowledge that small constant steps can lead to mastery, but we often forget how powerful it really is. This article has reminded me of it’s power and I’m really motivated to develop the skills I want to have everyday. In my case, I want to master UI Design and copywriting.

    I’m a programmer and doing very well with it but will be expanding my skills to UI Design and sales. Starting today, I’ll be doing the habit taught in this article. Thanks for sharing, James!

  31. I thank you from my heart for such a great article. Its true that consistency is essential but i also think that keeping an eye on past experiences and learning from them is also very important. Don’t look at your past sympathetically, do it critically. Thanks a lot James for great post!

  32. I seem to remember advice from somewhere that ties in to this: If you miss doing something for a day, don’t look at it as a permanent failure (or permanent break, to use the chain metaphor). Think of your plan as a rubber band or magnet that pulls you back when you’ve pulled away for a day or however long. Sorry I can’t remember where I read this!

  33. Great stuff. Although this has been around for some time I actually only heard of it a few weeks ago, and love this article about it. I’ve incorporated it into my goals and I have to say, it really does help! I have 3 huge charts on my bedroom wall and every time I think of cheating on my goals for a day I think, “But . . . what about my chain?!”. I have about 14 days of chain so far and I love seeing the chain getting longer everyday. I’d recommend it to anyone.

    Thanks for the good read James.

  34. Thanks for the inspiration. The calendar is a great idea! I’m going to try this for fitness and my music. We’ll see what happens! :)

  35. Thank you for allowing me to be a member of your community, which I’ve joined today. I have already read your article on procrastination (“using the Seinfield Strategy”) which thought me a lot, as I have one or two false starts. I am pretty sure I can gain the route to start again and, as you say, “don’t break the chain”.

    Luis E. Linares. Caracas, Venezuela.

  36. There are so many things I would like to do well. The frustration-cost of attempting to do all of them — even in small bites like you suggest — seems so completely out of my nature that I inevitably self-sabotage in a matter of days. What are they? Play an instrument, prepare for a show, write jokes, write a book, work out, ride a bicycle, spend time with spouse quietly on the couch, read books and articles, listen to audiobooks, write a newsletter.

  37. I’m not a heavy person I’m 5’7″ and I weigh 128 lbs. On the down side I eat sweets. I want to get sugar out of my life and its been a real struggle for me. Could anyone tell me how to get sugar out of my life using the Seinfeld Strategy?

  38. As with all people we have complicated lives with many strings pulling you in many directions. One barrier to accomplishements for me is my inability to say no and be stingy with my time to others. I find myself bouncing around like a wild man doing everything for others but missing things I should be doing. I was told that saying “NO” can be refreshing and that I should practice it more often, maybe that is where I will start. James Clear you have good influence.

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