Seinfeld’s Strategy for Overcoming Procrastination
Comedians don’t come more successful than Jerry Seinfeld. When asked by an aspiring comic what the secret to success was, Seinfeld said that he made it his goal to write a new joke every day when first starting out.
Adorning his wall was a huge calendar that showed every day of the year. The heading at the top read “Write a Joke,” with an X added to the date only when that joke was written.
There were days when that X was elusive, but Seinfeld refused to allow sleep to take him until that day’s joke had been written.
The X’s soon started to add up until they formed a chain of sorts. The mantra then became, “Don’t Break the Chain.”
The X’s became a visual reinforcement of the progress being made, with the calendar serving as a constant reminder of the commitment made.
This is something that anyone can do. Your local office supply store will have a calendar much like the one Seinfeld used back in the day. Mark your goal at the top and get ready to start marking the X’s. Don’t break the chain.
If you struggle with procrastination, Seinfeld’s advice will help you too. The reason this technique works so well is because it forces you to focus on your goals on an ongoing basis. On most days, it probably took Seinfeld only ten or fifteen minutes to think up and write down a joke. It was not too huge of a task, so he didn’t put it off. There were probably some days when he felt inspired and ended up writing several jokes or even a whole comedy routine.
The daily act of working towards that end goal becomes a healthy, productive habit. You are developing the proactive habit and stopping procrastination in its tracks.
Small steps become giant leaps over time as your efforts start to pay dividends. In contrast, taking a day off breaks the chain and makes the next day easy to skip.
I find that it is more effective to commit to a daily action, no matter its size, rather than trying to accomplish a huge task a couple of times a week. Seinfeld understood early on that he would see greater benefits in writing one joke a day than trying to hit 100.
What is the one thing that could change your life dramatically if you committed time to it every day? Think about it, and then add that to the top of the calendar. Don’t do it tomorrow! Start today so that you can start your chain with that first X on your calendar.
The strategy employed by Seinfeld works because it asks you to look at the entire process, rather than focusing on each of the individual performances that make up the chain. You don’t need to think about how you feel on any given day or how inspired you are. It all comes down to the simple act of making sure that the chain does not get broken.
The one thing that you need to do before adopting the Seinfeld Strategy is to choose a task that will truly make a difference in your life, but which is simple enough to achieve with a little daily commitment.
For example, writing a book may be a dream that you’ve been putting off for a long time. As wonderful as it would be to write 10 pages per day, the chances of you burning out when trying to keep that pace are pretty good. A single page, or perhaps two, each day is a number that is much more manageable.
The first step of the process is to choose a task that is simple enough to be sustainable over the long haul. That said, the actions that you take need to still be meaningful.
Taking time to research the information for your book is simple enough, but it doesn’t get you any nearer to actually achieving the task. It is much better if you commit your time to the actual writing process, even if it only means that a few words end up on the page.
Another good example is exercise. Riding a bike for a mile each day will raise your fitness and energy levels. Reading about bike riding will do neither and will actually make no noticeable difference in your life.
Yes, the tasks should be simple, but they should also produce results that will lead to the outcome you desire.
The power of small daily habits is truly remarkable. As F.M. Alexander observed, “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” By following Seinfeld’s strategy, you will overcome procrastination by developing the daily habit of being productive.