Yesterday, Jerry Seinfeld did what is called an AMA, which stands for “Ask Me Anything”. He hopped on Reddit, thousands of users peppered him with questions. My curiosity piqued not because I’m a fan, although Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is awesome, but because of his productivity secret: The Amazing Seinfeld Calendar.
Except it’s all a lie.
Jerry Seinfeld didn’t come up with this idea! He didn’t even reply when asked if he used it. For all we know now he has never tried it and someone at Lifehacker just made the whole thing up! Vicious lies! Although, there is another possibility. Seinfeld may have heard of someone doing it, passed along the information thoughtlessly and forgot about it. This happened to me many years back.
But it doesn’t matter.
As it stands, I come across the term “Seinfeld Calendar” at least once a week. Usually there is “Don’t Break the Chain” somewhere in there. These terms are near and dear to me, as they are the power behind my motivation and direction. I’ll be very clear about my sentiment: Without the chains methodology I would be miserable and disappointing myself.
I’m not miserable, though, far from it. I’m more optimistic about my future than I’ve ever been. I believe I’m on the verge of doing truly great work, to stumbling upon the missing pieces that allow me to fully unlock my potential.
This is why it kills me when I hear people say they’re using any don’t break the chain system, mine or not, to track drinking water or some other mundane task. These systems work because it isn’t tracking a task, it encourages small, daily steps towards a specific goal with immediate feedback.
The power of What Next
My most rewarding and impactful daily goals are very simple:
- List tasks for tomorrow
- Tasks for today complete
At the closing of every day, I decide what I should do the next day. I decide on a task betters me; specific, important items to invest in myself. I fervently believe that it is my responsibility to devote time to improve me. This may mean working on the Daily Practice as an extension of myself, my writing or some other task. This is the important but not urgent. While I may be listing a task, the goal is to improve myself. The goal is what matters.
Then I have to answer if I didn’t complete it. These are two streaks I don’t want to break, but for different reasons.
The importance of commitment
When I write down what needs to be done tomorrow I am promising myself something. I’m promising myself that I won’t have an excuse. I won’t get to blow this off. I am investing in myself, maybe only a few minutes. I am deciding what a small part of my future looks like, one day at a time. I’m creating a window to improve, an opportunity for growth. I just need to do it, which is often times easier than deciding what to do.
The importance of follow-up
When I am forced to check off what I did or, unfortunately, break a streak it informs me of my capabilities. Did I have a good reason to falter? Was I just tired? Was I just lazy? Was I afraid? Sometimes I am tired or lazy. Rarely am I afraid, but as I write a book and stretch my boundaries those moments are more frequent.
I hate these moments. At the end of the day when I have a black or white option to answer to myself I must be honest. Having to face the answer, and acknowledge that maybe I was afraid is hard. But that difficulty is often times incentive enough to pick myself up and finish what I promised.
This is the power of daily tracking. It’s about making today better than yesterday. My tomorrow-self will be able to do what is impossible today. While, I’m sorry to learn that Seinfeld didn’t popularize this method, I’m happy it worked out that way. It was an inspiring story and I’m glad it spread. His name and the story gave it credibility, and without credibility it wouldn’t have caught on or been so motivating.
It’s worth noting my original inspiration came from the Bowkett Calendar, a derivative of the now-misnamed Seinfeld Calendar. The name Daily Practice is a hat-tip to James Altucher, who advocates taking small steps as well.