We’re all guilty of having set goals that we later decide to scrap because we “don’t have time” OR we conveniently forget that those aspirations ever existed. In order words, we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of Netflix, social media, and dumb YouTube videos. Sound familiar? Without anyone to keep us on track other than ourselves, it’s easy to slip backward and lose sight of our initial goal.
Whatever the end goal, there will always be an absurd number of impediments waiting to delay or derail us from our path to success. The question is, how bad do you really want it? And how far are you willing to go?
I’ll admit – I’ve always struggled to cultivate long-term discipline. I’ll ambitiously pursue a series of goals with the best intentions – my motivation initially strong and my determination, unrivaled – but then what starts off as a harmless break turns into a mega sloth session and resuming any form of discipline in the aftermath becomes all the more punishing.
Self-discipline and consistency – together, they provide the golden key to success, or so we’re told time and time again. Without this grand combo, any “healthy” life habits we seek to adopt will only ever reach a temporary status. I’m certain we can all agree on one thing – mastering the art of self-discipline and consistency is fucking hard – there is no getting past that and no polite way to describe the journey ahead. There isn’t a definitive formula – it’s all about personal trial and error and figuring out what works best for you.
In a desperate attempt to resume a disciplined work ethic and rescue my productivity (for the primary purpose of growing The Banter Press), I decided to give Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity hack a whirl. The concept is simple – it’s called “Don’t Break the Chain.” This technique promotes consistency and persistence by encouraging you to work on your goals every day. When you satisfy the daily pre-determined criteria, you reward yourself with a big fat X on a calendar. The aim of the game is to achieve an infinite series of X’s. Let me break it down for you:
- Set a goal
- Set a daily minimum – determine the minimum amount of work you’re required to complete in order to earn your X on the calendar.
- Establish rules and boundaries – what will you do when you’re sick or on holidays? One way to go about this is to apply the standard leave entitlements granted to full-time employees. Mark an S to represent sick leave and H to indicate a planned holiday. Since these are valid entitlements, it doesn’t count as breaking the chain.
- Purchase or print out a monthly calendar – hang it in a spot that is highly visible to you.
- Choose a marker of your choice to cross off each day – An X is earned only when the daily minimum is met.
I’ve strategically positioned my calendar on the wall adjacent to the light switch in the bedroom – it’s the last thing I see before bed and the first thing I see every morning. What this methodology provides is a visual display of progress which is empowering beyond belief. Crossing off each day is immensely satisfying because every X brings you a day closer to the end goal. As cheesy as it sounds, the chain of productivity actually serves as a daily source of motivation. You’re far less likely to skip a day of goal-related work because breaking the chain will be a visually-punishing reminder of your unjustified laziness. I can’t guarantee that it’ll work for you, but it’s certainly worth trying if you’re serious about this goal-digger lifestyle.