Draw Actual Chains To Improve The Seinfeld Productivity Secret

Draw Actual Chains To Improve The Seinfeld Productivity Secret

Jerry Seinfeld might disclaim any responsibility for the productivity “secret” that bears his name, but the approach — marking a calendar every time you achieve a task and aiming not to break the sequence — has proved popular. Lifehacker reader Ched has a suggestion to make it even more effective.

Here’s how Ched beefed up the approach:

I was not happy with the way you track habits (crossing off days in a calendar or filling in a square on a sheet) so I decided to add an additional visual element which motivated me even more to stick to my activities.
It comes down to chains. It sounds heavy, but it’s not. For every day you live, you get a dot. And you connect two dots if you’ve done the activity on both days. The goal of the game is not to break the chain, thus acquiring a habit.
I introduced a morning routine (make my bed (army style), drink a glass of cold water and do some back exercises). I introduced an evening task where I need to get out of the house after I come back, exhausted, from work. Any outing counts: going out for dinner with a loved one or just going for a walk. And the task I am most proud of is breaking my addiction to sweets. I’ve been trying different motivational techniques for a long time. This method is the only one that worked for me.

Here’s an example of how it looks in action:

Thanks Ched!


  • I use the MyFitnessPal app to track my calorie intake and exercise each day, and the social “wall” in the app allows your friends (if you have any using MFP) will tell people about your progress and how many days you’ve been tracking. I usually don’t start adding my calories from breakfast until I’m in the process of preparing dinner (though most dinners are pre-planned so I have a rough idea of how many calories I’m permitted anyway). The app will typically prompt me not to break my “logging streak” if it’s getting close to midnight and I’ve not made an entry yet. It’s a great motivator.

    The problem is when it gets broken you start to wonder “well, what’s the point?”.

    About a week ago I logged my breakfast and lunch and then got a prompt from the app just before dinner: “You still have 5 hours left to save your 280 day logging streak!”

    The hell, app, I have been logging. What’s your problem?

    I open the app, my meals are there. I disconnect and reconnet from wi-fi to make sure it’s online and syncing my data with the server. I assume all is well. Then a week later I get a notification:

    “You still have 6 hours to save your 6 day logging streak!”

    SIX DAYS? I’ve been logging for nearly a year at this point! I know this is like the ultimate first world problem but I really felt annoyed. I had this companion app that I had made into a part of my daily routine and it had failed me, and now it was basically chastising me for a failure that I could in no way accept ownership of. I simply had to accept the consequences. I felt no desire to keep using the app. I do, because i’m also a tubby bitch and need to do something about that, but if maintaining a chain was the only tool in my motivation arsenal, I’d have been in big trouble.

  • Great that it worked for Ched, but is there any logical reason to believe this would actually be better in general (n.b. for other people) than the usual method of simply marking off each day?

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