Friday, June 06, 2008

'FESSED UP FRIDAY | Don't Break the Chain

Recently, I crawled out of the rock where I live and stumbled on Lifehacker.

Since I discover it, I have been going back for more tips on how to organise my computer and maybe even my life. But one of the most interesting and relevant tip I found this week is the little friendly advice Jerry Seinfeld offered on how to motivate yourself to write everyday. He used the technique on himself, and it seems to work for him, so I'm going to post it here:

He revealed 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. You may have heard "inch by inch anything's a cinch." Inch by inch does work if you can move an inch every day.

Daily action builds habits. It gives you practice and will make you an expert in a short time. If you don't break the chain, you'll start to spot opportunities you otherwise wouldn't. Small improvements accumulate into large improvements rapidly because daily action provides "compounding interest."

Skipping one day makes it easier to skip the next.

I've often said I'd rather have someone who will take action—even if small—every day as opposed to someone who swings hard once or twice a week. Seinfeld understands that daily action yields greater benefits than sitting down and trying to knock out 1000 jokes in one day. [ Source ]

This is a technique that actually works. I realise I have been using this method to track my yoga practice.

I have a moleskine diary that I use to keep track of my appointments. I also record the details of my yoga classes inside, so if I went for class today, I will note down, for example: 7pm, Power I, Michelle.

Since I open the diary everyday, at a glance I can see how frequently I practice every week. This has helped me maintain a 5~6 times a week practice for the past year.

It works.


Report on things done last week:

  1. Finished reading Comfort Me With Apples. I love how Ruth Reichl can relate food and life experiences so seamlessly. One of the best thing she wrote in the book was that writing about food alone is boring - it is everything else around that makes it interesting.
  2. Followed someone's advice and started reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.


The Literate Kitten's link to all 'Fess Up Friday-ers. Or FUFers.


Anonymous said...

Nice to "meet" you through Literate Kitten's 'Fess-up Friday. I'll be back to visit your blog again.

Meanwhile: Love the idea of the giant wall calendar. That actually makes some sense to me, even inspires me...Thanks for sharing.

"Bird by Bird" is one of my favorites. Crucial for my writing life was the concept of the "shitty first draft." I don't know how many times the notion that it's okay to be imperfect on the first round (because there's always revision) has saved me from sputtering to a complete stop.


Anonymous said...

Isn't Lifehacker a great site? You never know what you might find but it's always interesting and useful

darkorpheus said...

Lisa Hellos. Nice of you to drop by. The calendar thing is a good method. It really works.

Stefanie Lifehacker is so cool. One of the best thing I learnt off the site is how to remove the stone from an avocado without wasting any of the creamy fruit.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading Flannery O'Connor's letters and she was a strong believer in getting (and staying) in the habit of writing every day. She wrote religiously every morning for (I think) three hours.