Legendary stand-up comedian, writer, and producer Jerry Seinfeld is most recognized for the TV show ‘Seinfeld’ which aired between 1988 and 1998. The sitcom ran for 9 seasons and was the highest-rated television show in the United States when the finale aired which drew in over 76 million viewers. The show helped Mr. Seinfeld amass a net worth of $900m.
Jerry’s been involved in the writing, production, and starring-in of several other on-screen projects since the sitcom ended, including the 2007 film ‘Bee Movie,’ the reality series ‘The Marriage Ref,’ and the web series ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’, and, as an author, has also written ‘SeinLanguage’, a book released in 1993.
Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity habit
While Jerry was writing scripts he would track his progress. How? He used a calendar to track his progress visually by marking the days that he had written scripts for the desired amount of time. This not only allowed him to see how much he’d done, but it also motivated him to not break his record for days in a row that he’d worked. This type of motivation driving process is known as the “don’t break the chain” habit building technique, as Jerry explains:
“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,” said Seinfeld.
Despite having a packed schedule, Jerry he needed to continually produce great scripts and this process was a way to monitor and ensure progress. It’s a technique that can applied to all aspects of life including, exercise, dieting, reading, and skill building.
How to be productive like Jerry
1. Track your progress
If you’re going to start doing something new, it’s best to keep track of it. Like Seinfeld, you can use a visual calendar approach to track how many days in a row you’ve spent working on your desired task. To do this, simply:
Mark each day in your calendar that you achieve your task/habit
This can be applied to pretty much anything. For example, if you want to read more, try to set yourself the target of reading for 30 minutes everyday for a week. Each day you complete the task, mark or cross off the day in a calendar. You can track the progress multiple tasks, ideally with separate calendars so you have one visual progress report for each habit that you’re trying to build.
2. Review your performance
You should assess the days on which you did or did not achieve your target. By doing so you may discover a trend. For example, maybe you always skip running on a Sunday. Does that have something to do with being out late on Saturday night? You should:
On the days you don’t complete a task, reflect on why
You should do this at the end of each day that you didn’t achieve your task. It’s also a good way of practicing reflection, a habit which Ray Dalio outlines as a critical step when attempting to make improvements.
3. Set yourself micro-tasks to prevent procrastination
If you’re repeatedly ‘breaking the chain’ you might have to reconsider the task or goals you’ve set yourself. Are they unrealistic? Maybe they don’t mean enough to you? If so, it might be because you’re asking too much too soon.
For example, Seinfeld didn’t tell himself that he needed to write 500 jokes every day. He set the bar much lower, challenging himself to only write 5 pages of script each day – a micro-task that he knew he would have no problem achieving. You can start doing the same and:
For a new habit you’re trying to develop, set yourself one ‘micro-task’ each day
What you define as a micro-task is ultimately up to you, but to start with it might simply be something that takes 5-10 minutes, for example, making a LinkedIn post about your business or what you did today. Or maybe record a short 2 minute vlog about what went well today. Remember to always start smaller than you think you’re capable of – that way you can steadily increase the effort and difficulty of the task at hand.