A comedian named Brad Isaac had the pleasure of meeting the one and only Jerry Seinfeld, and got to ask him something any aspiring comedian wants to know: “any tips for a young comic?” Seinfeld responded with what is now coined as the Seinfeld strategy: buy a wall calendar that has the whole year on one page, hang it on a wall, and put a big red X over every day you complete a task. What you’re aiming for is a chain of Xs that grow longer and longer. “Your only job is to not break the chain.”
Sounds easy enough, right? So what do calendars and Xs have to do with anything outside of being a comedian? Really, everybody can adapt the Seinfeld method and be productive, no matter what their goal. Here are 5 tips that come from the Seinfeld Strategy:
1. Be consistent
The whole point of the Seinfeld strategy is to make a chain. You’re crossing off each day that you have completed the task at hand. The only way you can do that is to be consistent. So you’re literally taking things one day at a time. Don’t switch it up and try something new. It all comes down to what you want to do. If you want to be a writer, you have to keep writing. If you want to be a seller, you have to keep selling. Whatever it is, don’t plan on stopping.
2. Just do it
Many of us get caught up in “analysis paralysis”, where we agonize over the most minute details. This stage stops us from even getting started. It’s hard to get a streak going when you’re still stuck at the starting line. So just do it! Ignore your inner editor, telling you that everything has to be perfect. That’s not the goal here. The goal is simply to finish, not to be great.
3. When you break it, start over again
There’s going to come a time where you slip up, and your chain is broken. Instead of doing what many people do, stopping and vowing that you ruined everything, just start over again. Sure, you’re back to day one, but try to get at least a day farther than you did before. Every single day is an opportunity to complete your task. Even if you took a break for whatever reason, don’t be so hard on yourself. Starting over is fine.
4. Set milestones
When you see those red X marks on your calendar, you can start to question if you’re making any progress. One way to feel like you’re making a dent is to set milestones for yourself. When you reach 1 week, pat yourself on the back. As your chain grows longer, celebrate. Even if you didn’t do superb work, you did work, everyday. That in itself is worth feeling good about. Reward yourself for meeting milestones.
5. Keep it simple
The hardest thing about goal setting or achieving things is that we tend to make our tasks harder than they have to be. The harder your task, the harder it will be for you to continue to do it everyday. So if you’re a writer, don’t aim to write 10,000 words a day if you feel like that can only be achieved during a rare moment. Aim for something simple, like 500. Every day that you write 500 words, you’re getting closer with each chain you make.
So while the Seinfeld strategy was created in an improvised moment, it’s a genius plan for anybody to implement if they want to be productive. Productivity is about getting things done. The Seinfeld method is about getting things done daily. Buy your calendar and start crossing off your days.