Getting Things Done – What Seinfeld Can Teach You About Productivity

Those of you that frequently matriculate Academy Success know that I’m all about finding ways to increase productivity. It’s a bit of an obsession. Well, I ran across a pretty sweet article today that I have to share with you. It was shared earlier today on LifeHacker – one of my favorite websites of all time – Productivity hackers FTW!

Anyway – the article goes into detail about a productivity method called “Don’t Break the Chain.” At it’s basic level this method involves putting together a list of goals, tasks that will allow you to complete those goals, then crossing out a day on a calendar each time you complete your daily goals. This creates a nice string of X’s for you to feel good about.

The article itself does a pretty good job of explaining the method, is fairly skimmable, and gives actionable steps, so I’ll let it do the explaining. What it doesn’t go into is the psychology and human behavior element of is WHY this method works so well. I think this is a very important thing to understand, so I’ll explain. It may help to read or at least skim the article first, so feel free to do so if you’d like to. This link will open in a new tab.

How Seinfeld’s Secret Fixed My Procrastination Problem

The Psychology Behind ‘Don’t Break the Chain’

1.) Goal Setting and the Mindset That Comes With It – The very core of this method requires that you to do one of the basic steps of getting things done – goal setting. By sitting down and thinking about what you need to change, and how you can get there, you’re investing time into change, you’re admitting to yourself that this is important to you, and you’re committing yourself to taking action. This mindset is huge.

2.) Commitment By Documentation – By documenting goals and what it will take to get to achieve your goals, you’re further committing yourself to taking action. Now you’ve actually written down the goals, and the tasks you need to complete to reach those goals. Furthermore, research has shown time and time again that a written to-do list is far more powerful than any other type of list, not only due to the reminder it gives you, but also because those items you haven’t crossed off will stare at you, and will haunt your dreams (okay they won’t really haunt you, but you get the point).

You see – most people say things like this:

  • I really need to…
  • If I could only…
  • I’m going to start…
  • Tomorrow I will…

By actually documenting and writing down what you’d like to change, you’ve taken action, you’ve committed, and you’ll be well on your way.

3.) Visual Achievement of Red X’s – What really ties this whole method together is the use of the visual element of the red calendar. You’re not allowed to cross out a day on your calendar unless you’ve gotten something done. If you get something on your list done every day, you’ll see a nice long string of red X’s. These represent how productive you’re being, and it’s a really nice feeling to see progress like this. It’s actually an emotionally rewarding experience.

Conversely, if you miss a day here and there, those blank days will really bother you, and you’ll want to make up what you didn’t get accomplished on those days to fill them in (similar to needing to cross items from your to-do list).

This really is a great method to get things done. It’ll start to get old after a while, but it’s a great method to use to jumpstart a personal change, or get you back on the productivity wagon. Try it out. Here’s the link again at LifeHacker.

How Seinfeld’s Secret Fixed My Procrastination Problem

To Your Success!


PS – If you’re struggling to make a personal change in your life check out this post about personal change strategy. It’ll help you with the goal setting and mindset portion of the method in this post to get you started on the right foot.

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