“Don’t Break the Chain.” is one of the more popular productivity methods in use today. Developed by Jerry Seinfeld, the technique is quite simple to use.
The comic is a believer in the principle of daily actions building habits, and he developed this method after tasking himself with writing at least one joke per day.
After writing a joke, Seinfeld recorded an X on a giant wall calendar. He did this each day, thereby slowly building up a chain of Xs that he felt reluctant to break.
You can use this productivity method for building your daily writing habit.
Building A Daily Writing Habit
I’ve used this method for several years with varying degrees of success for building habits like writing and exercising.
I’ve found I’m less likely to avoid writing or exercising if I have built up a chain of Xs; it kills me to break a chain. It’s encouraging to set and surpass streak chain records and I’ve become weirdly obsessed by the growing number of Xs on my various calendars.
I also found that, once I break a chain, I am far more likely to avoid writing or exercising the following night too. In other words, the Don’t Break the Chain sometimes works in reverse. Another problem I have with Don’t Break the Chain is that it doesn’t take into account sick days, holidays or days off. It’s also relatively inflexible for more complex writing projects.
Streaks App for iOS
The motivational iOS app Streaks is the digital version of the Don’t Break the Chain wall calendar.
It allows you to manage multiple calendars of activities and I use it to track the days I write, exercise and meditate among other things. The Streaks app comes with seven themes all of which are based on a relatively minimalist design.
Unfortunately, Streaks doesn’t offer cloud backups, online syncs or an ability to export your data. There are a number of other alternatives such as Good Habits for iOS and Habit Streak for Android.
Streaks makes some allowances for weaknesses of the Don’t Break the Chain approach. It allows you to specify how often an activity should be completed each week and on what days it’s OK to skip said activity. In other words, it’s ok to go out on Saturday night and resume your chain on Sunday.
The app also allows you to place little comments on each day which is useful if you want to record the type of exercise or how long you meditated. When I see a gap in a chain I try to find the factors that stopped me from writing or exercising on that particular day. This kind of self-quantification provides me with some awareness into how I manage and mismanage my time.
Streaks, and by extension Seinfeld’s productivity method, appeal because they relate to the principle of the Quantified Self. This is a popular method of self-improvement, whereby advocates use technology to record the foods they eat, the miles they run and so on.
This kind of self-tracking typically involves wearing devices like Nike+ bands or GPS devices while exercising. Streaks is similar because it allows me to quantify my writing each day. If you’re into numbers, metrics, simplicity or tracking your productivity Don’t Break the Chain is worth a look.
Remember, it is far more productive to do a little of something everyday than a lot of something occasionally.
Do you use this method to write? Please let me know what you think in the comments section below.