[Seinfeld] had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself… a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here’s how it works.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.
It works because it isn’t the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go, it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary outcomes.
I’ll credit the author of the Lifehacker piece, Gina Trapani – she cites as her source the developer Brad Isaac – who sources Jerry Seinfeld. This is as well-sourced as a Michael Wolff story, but the truism at the heart is probably just as valid.
I just bought a 2018 wall calendar myself and am tracking my number one daily goal on it.
Seinfeld has a great quote in a 2012 New York Times article explaining an ex post facto justification for this method:
If I don’t do a set in two weeks, I feel it…I read an article a few years ago that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life. I used to wonder, ‘Why am I doing these sets, getting on a stage? Don’t I know how to do this already?’ The answer is no. You must keep doing it. The broadband starts to narrow the moment you stop.
The things that matter, that will change your life, you need to do every day. EVERY day. And that is how you will become the best. Because…it’s the only way.