Monday, September 7, 2009

Getting things done the Seinfeld way...

A couple years ago I read an interview with Jerry Seinfeld where, among other things, he talked about a successful work ethic. One of the points he made was to succeed at anything you need to do it everyday, even if it is only for 15 minutes. He visually demonstrated this using a wall calendar where every day that he completed the task he would mark the calendar. The goal was to have a mark every day and not "break the chain" by missing a day.

I began this a couple of months ago and it has really been helpful. Last month, I did not complete everything listed on every day and one month later I can see a direct correlation in my skills for the tasks I did do everyday compared to the ones I did every few days.

If you choose to do this, here are a few pointers:

1. Draw a connecting line between the days you complete a task to create a visual "chain". I did not do that here and visually it is not as powerful (or, personally, as motivating). Without this element you can't quickly see the days you "slacked off" and broke the chain.

2. If you do break a chain, put a large cap (or broken symbol) on the last day to emphasize the break. At your end of the month audit you can then easily count the number of chains you created. If a couple broke on the same day you can ask yourself "why?" and find ways to prevent it in the future!

3. Do not make your goals vague or too easy to cheat. Last month I included the goal to "Learn Something New/Read". My original intent was reading books on my "must read" list or technical books for my different arts. This goal became meaningless by the middle of the month because I would mark it off for reading Facebook or a movie blog and learn some random fact that didn't help me in any productive way (other than in random fact trivia games or Facebook questionnaires which successfully made me feel like an amateur internet stalker).

4. Label major accomplishments on the days you made them. While it is great to see an unbroken chain throughout the month, listing the actual results will only strengthen the image. For music, I will list the day I begin learning a new piece and then note the day I feel it is "performance ready". For animation I will note the various steps (block, spline, polish, etc) as I reach them. For exercise I will list my numeric accomplishment, such as running a 10k or 150 reps focusing on my arms, etc.

5. At the end of the month audit your chains and determine where and what you can improve. Some of the tips here I did not do in my earlier months and decided they were necessary after reviewing my August results. Adapt the plan so that it motivates you!

6. Finally, if you have more than 4 goals each day then buy more than 4 colors of markers to represent them all. I am at the point where I have to mix multiple colors just to have a visual distinction between them!

Thus ends my Seinfeld productivity post. You can read the original article that motivated me year ago here. I have two more "get things done" trends that complete my I currently use to complete my productivity trifecta (to-do list, goal poster) but since this post ended up longer than anticipated they will have to have their own posts at a future date.

If you found this helpful, check out the "productivity" label for more posts like this!

Yay, time to mark off the "blog" portion on my daily calendar!

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