Jerry, Don’t Sweat The Chain Breaking

Get good and repairing it and you will be set for the long term

I really believe in the power of a daily habit. Whenever I have started with lofty goals versus a daily habit, I have been overwhelmed.

Conversely when I have started with “lets just do it every day” I have seen success. This has been true in my real blogging days. On TheServerSide and then Ajaxian, it started with “write something every day”. That became four-ish a day, and once mature there were goals around quality, but that was after the habit was born (and months or years passing!).

Jony Ive talks about how delicate ideas are and how they can easily die early. The daily habit allows for the ideas to grow without pressure sucking the life out of them. Kinda like how you shouldn’t put too much pressure on your kids as they grow right? ☺

Jerry Seinfeld Productivity

Much has been made of Jerry Seinfeld and how he doggedly would write material every day. What if you have a creativity / writers block? Just write.

Jerry emphasized this by saying:

“Don’t break the chain!”

I found this amusing when I first heard of it as I often recall the Seinfeld episode where he and George procrastinate rather than ever work on writing for the show. I imagined Jerry and Larry David doing just that as they wrote the show. Huh, what really happened with Jerry over the years?

I would love to ask him what be did when he broke the chain, as I am sure he did.

Aside: maybe not. A neighbor has gone for at least a 30 minute run every day for over 30 years. Never even let any sickness stop him. Wow. What will happen when he does break it though?

For me, the chain has been powerful, but has also had interesting side effects that are not always positive.

For example, I beat my Nike Fuel goal for a couple hundred days and then the thing lost its juice one day and boom, the chain was broken. I was so demotivated to start from zero that I tossed the darn thing in disgust.

Aside: To be fair it wasn’t just the streak that caused this change. I also seeing that he streak and the tool was owning me vs. the other way around. Rather than hitting the weight room for some much needed high intensity training, I would run to get in more steps and hit the goal. I have to admit to also being a bit of a [bracelet wanker] and moving my arm to get some final points. Who am I cheating here but myself?

Repairing the Chain

With this history, I started to focus on having systems to get me back on track again when I inevitably fall off the wagon. They can be quite simple and obvious:

  • I have a personal trainer twice a week, so if I am out of town and miss a work out, he is waiting for me as soon as the next session comes around. People are great motivators. If I can’t make a badminton foursome with mates, they are ribbing me for letting them down and I better show up next week.
  • If I miss a day of DuoLingo, I still have time schedule the next day to get back in the game. The same is true for my other “quick” daily habits. For example, my gratitude journal app (5 Min Journal) will send me an alert the next day.

To make sure that I would be setup for the long term, I often start and break a chain early in the process to teach myself that it is OK, and that it can be repaired. By growing strength in repairing the chain I feel like I am better set for long term success. After all, if you get good at repairing something rather than just building it from scratch, you will have so many more options.

The Meta Process

I have ended up having a process for every habit. We have learned how we get decision fatigue, so I try to minimize spending mental energy on anything minor. For example, I have processes for:

Supplements (Vitamins++):

Not only do I note what I take every day, I also define how to buy them, how I can fit two bottles in one for some of them, how I fill up my weekly pill tracker box, and also track data on why I take what I take, why those particular ones, and any data that is important to me on supplementation (eg, mapping to my own health scores on WellnessFX).

Check lists:

I have daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly check lists that I schedule in my calendar. These make sure to kick me back in gear. There is only so many times “meditate already!” can ping me daily and I ignore it 😉

These check lists also get me to the quantitative path. Once I have gotten started with “do one more push-up every day” I can then get to more measurements around strength so I can make sure I am spending time making a difference..

This only happens once you have given yourself a chance to see that you can do what you thought you couldn’t.

I knew I wasn’t a runner…. that it wasn’t my thing. Then I decided to try running every day. No goal around how far or for now long at first. Just: “get out of the front door with your running shoes on”. Once there you end up running. Once running every day you see yourself improve. Fast forward a bit and you realize that you are a runner.

You can do anything, and you put some simple rules in place that got you to showing yourself once again that you have a growth mindset, and destiny awaits.

With a growth mindset all of the attributes that you applied to yourself become malleable. I used to have a fear of heights and even that has largely gone away with the mental strength to grow. Food that I didn’t like have become ones that I love, because I had the will to try them again, and appreciate what they do for me.

What’s your next habit?


Huh, I just realised that this is my second posting that relates to Jerry Seinfeld! In the first one I related his views of one man show comedian to comedy show producer to software teams:

Do you want to work on a large production or a small team? If you are in software, like Jerry Seinfeld you can own your choice

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