A while back I came across a post that talked about how Jerry Seinfeld (yes, the comedian) used a “chain” method to keep productive and eliminate procrastination.
The method is actually quite simple:
- commit to a task
- do it every day
- try not to break the cycle
I thought, at first, that it sounded too simple.
But then I started using it …
Why It Works
There is a psychological element that goes into the chain method.
After you’re going you feel bad when you break the cycle.
It’s much like trying to quit a bad habit. You’re doing great for the first week, second, third, but then you slip up, break down, and now you’re doing the bad habit all over again.
Except for this method you’re building good habits.
The visual representation is what makes the method so concreted. When you see that you’re checking off a box each and every day you don’t want to write an X.
This is vastly different than something like a simple to-do list. Even those can become cumbersome because you generally don’t put a whole lot of accountability into them. You miss a day – no biggie – you dump it onto the next.
But with the chain method you can’t call it quits. You can’t break the chain.
How You Do It
I love simplicity when it comes to using tools and methods.
I feel that if it’s too complicated or if it becomes just another task than it’s defeating its purpose.
Luckily the developers behind tools around this method understand the need for minimalism and low intrusion. Not all of them look so attractive but they do the job that’s needed.
Here are a few of the “chain” tools:
- Chains.cc – The prettiest of the bunch. This one is multi-platform, easily customizable, and gives you attractive visual cues. There is also an ability to create and join groups which pits you against others to keep productive and on task.
- DontBreakTheChain.com – Bare bones resource if you ask me. You can register for an account and get started in just a few moments. Set it as your home page or an extension and keep updating it as you’re getting things done.
- Don’t Break The Chain! – An iOS app that’s very flexible and packed with features. Create chains, change the colors, keep up-to-date with the calendar, and keep pushing. It’s great if you’re constantly on the go and don’t always have access to a desktop.
- Chain Worksheets – I did a Google search for you and found a nice array of templates people have created around this method. Choose one that you’d like, print it out, mount it to your wall, and get started.
I actually use a very simple template I made in Photoshop (you can do the same in Word or even paint).
It looks kind of like this:
I have a set goal of doing a certain amount of freelance hours and bits of writing each work day.
Note: I try to avoid work on weekends because personal time is vital to avoid burn out in anything you do – plus it’s time to spend with family and friends.
This doesn’t include work I do for personal projects because these are the imperative items to complete. Once I’m done with these items only then do I give myself the time to pursue others on my (less important) list.
Find the resource works for you.
Since switching to this method, for about the last three months, I’ve seen a nice spike in my productivity. I found that I often jump forward and begin working on the next day because I’m knocking down the tasks.
Compared to a to-do list, which almost always felt like it was overwhelming, doing the chain method feels about as simple and effective as it can be to get things done.
I encourage you to give this method a shot. Even for a week. Find one or two tasks you want to do each and every day. Don’t break the chain.