Chris Peters's Blog

Working consistently with some advice from Jerry Seinfeld

February 20, 2012

Research is showing over and over again that you become an expert only after years of hard, consistent work. Some have even put a number on what it takes: 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. (Not just showing up for 10,000 hours, but working hard for 10,000 hours.)

It’s difficult for me to admit this publicly, but sometimes I’m just not feeling it when it comes to work. And it’s hard for me to “trick myself” into following a certain behavior. I’m sure I’m not alone, so I’m going to share a little piece of advice that has been helping me out for a few years.

The solution: the Seinfeldian Chain

I read a great article on Lifehacker a number of years ago called Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret. What is Jerry’s secret? Seinfeld’s goal is to be consistent with his craft and write jokes every single day. He puts a calendar on the wall and puts an X over the current day after he’s completed his task of writing.

This builds up a chain of days that you’ve spent completing a task, and the more days that you build up, the more guilty you’ll feel about breaking the chain. If you miss a day, then it’s easier to miss the next. And so the cycle continues.

The article describes the positive effect that this method can have:

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.

For me, this has helped me exercise consistently. It’s helped me train for a full marathon. It’s now helping me read books little by little. And now it’s helping me build my own business one day at a time.

FreshBooks is a great tool for seeing the chain

Granted, I’m starting a business, so this may only work for this particular scenario. But when I first log in to FreshBooks’s time tracking section, here’s what I see:

FreshBooks time tracker

I can log in and see how many days this month I’ve set aside some of my free time to invest into my business. Hmm, look at the previous week: 100%. Not bad. And it keeps me jazzed to keep it going (which in fact I’m doing right now).

While tracking all of the time that I spend isn’t the most fun thing to do, it has also helped me in some other ways. If you look at February 6, that happens to be no outlier. As it turns out, I’ve been having problems “showing up” on Mondays. Because I have the calendar in front of me, I can identify the problem (no Mondays) and figure out how to fix it (be more intentional about showing up on Mondays). That’s what I did last week, and it’s something that I’m going to pay close attention to over the following weeks.

Discipline is where it’s at

I’m really excited about where life has been leading me, and I’ll have more to announce soon. I just thought I’d dig up a tip that’s worked well for me, and I hope it will help others out there who are joined with me in the trenches.

Written by Chris Peters, your friendly neighborhood digital marketing professional with over 20 years of experience of web design, programming, SEO, and marketing.