Just about everybody struggles with making the most of the mere 24 hours available in each day. Staying motivated and on track can be difficult, especially for long-term goals that aren’t an immediate priority, yet require recurring action (e.g., sorting and filing documents, learning a language, or exercising) to be reached.
Blogger and software developer Brad Isaac once received a valuable productivity tip from none other than Jerry Seinfeld. Several years ago, when Seinfeld was just a fledgling show on NBC, its namesake still worked the comedy club circuit several weeks out of the year. An aspiring stand-up comic, Isaac was in a club where Seinfeld was headlining and spoke with him briefly before the performance. He asked Seinfeld’s advice for a young comic wanting to improve his craft.
Perhaps not surprisingly, his advice was to write new jokes every day. But it was the “how” rather than the “what” of Seinfeld’s advice that stuck with Isaac:
He (Seinfeld) 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 next is to not break the chain.”
“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.
Business owners don’t have the “luxury” of a boss cracking the whip to keep them on-task. They have to stay motivated to do the things that must be done for their business to succeed, even if they’re not seeing immediate benefits. Whether it’s making cold calls, staying organized, networking, or even starting the day with exercise to keep energy levels up, the best way to ensure success is to keep at it every day.
Over the years I’ve used his technique in many different areas. I’ve used it for exercise, to learn programming, to learn network administration, to build successful websites and build successful businesses.
It works because it isn’t the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go, it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary outcomes. You may have heard “inch by inch anything’s a cinch.” Inch by inch does work if you can move an inch every day.
Daily action builds habits. It gives you practice and will make you an expert in a short time. If you don’t break the chain, you’ll start to spot opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t. Small improvements accumulate into large improvements rapidly because daily action provides “compounding interest.”
Skipping one day makes it easier to skip the next.
I’ve often said I’d rather have someone who will take action—even if small—every day as opposed to someone who swings hard once or twice a week. Seinfeld understands that daily action yields greater benefits than sitting down and trying to knock out 1000 jokes in one day.
Think for a moment about what action would make the most profound impact on your life if you worked it every day. That is the action I recommend you put on your Seinfeld calendar. Start today and earn your big red X. And from here on out…
Don’t break the chain!