Productivity Secret: Don’t Break the Chains!

Posted on August 26, 2013, under Time and Technology.

ChainsChains … really?  What do they have to do with productivity?

Everything, actually. Chains are as fundamental to us as our DNA. And as tools for maintaining productivity and establishing helpful new habits, they can’t be beat. 

You may remember a bit of advice from Jerry Seinfeld (this was many years ago) about how he found time to enhance his productivity.  He knew that the secret to creating good jokes was founded in the practice of writing every day, and he came up with a very simple, practical way to get himself to do that … using chains!

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.

Chains Keep You Going

What is particularly elegant about this solution is that the focus shifts from the specific tasks you are working on to not breaking their chains.  This is a big help when you hit spots where you feel stuck, low on energy, or resistant.

That simple advice about not breaking your chains will carry you through.

Chains Build Habits

You’ve probably heard that it takes about a month of sustained activity to create a new habit.  And, as you can probably imagine, using chains, you give yourself strong visual reinforcement for following through on habit-building.

Of course, habits don’t happen magically; they have to be sustained.  So chains not only help you create habits – they also help you track how you’re keeping up with them.

Chains App Makes it Fun

Several years ago, in a group I was running, one of the members created a spreadsheet for tracking some activities that she wanted to transform and solidify into habits.  These were things like exercise and meditation, and she filled in squares on her grid with different colors to mark days she completed these different activities.
That’s pretty much what Seinfeld was doing with his calendar.  And it’s what the Application Chains.cc does for you on a web-based platform.  It offers a place where you can track activities that you want to pursue and create chains that reinforce your efforts.

The daily reinforcement really helps; and if you’d like even more support (or accountability) Chains offers the option of doing your tracking in a group setting.

Chains.ccHere’s a screen print of what a series of chains looks like on the app.  (This was set up by my VA in a matter of minutes.  It’s very flexible and fun to use. You can click on the image to see a larger version.)

You can check out the brief article on lifehacker if you like – or simply go to the app and see what you think.

Don’t Break the Chains:  Share This and Leave a Comment!

I invite you to share this post with your friends and colleagues … and I’m really curious to hear how you create and maintain habits for yourself (or break them, for that matter).

Does a tool like this appeal to you?  Drop me a line or post a comment – we’d all love to share ideas and hear about what works for you!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have no material connection with Chains.cc and have received no compensation for writing about this application.

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There are 3 Responses to “Productivity Secret: Don’t Break the Chains!”

#1 JordanCornblog - 26 August, 9:58 AM

Wonderful tips – and I love the idea of this app. I am going to give it a try and see if I can get back on my exercise track, for starters. That, and I’d like to get back to my blog, too. (Just don’t break the chain … just don’t break the chain … just don’t break the chain …)

#2 Dale - 27 August, 8:19 AM

Thanks so much, Paula. I really like this idea, too. It really underscores that consistency counts, and cuts through the excuses. I think I’ll use “variable links” – I get to use an “X” for one of any three tasks I generally avoid – and that way I can keep a couple of projects active in rotation.

#3 Paula Eder - 28 August, 8:16 PM

Thank you for stopping by, Dale. I appreciate your mentioning the ‘variable links’ – a creative way to make use of this tool. I’d love to hear how you are doing with this after a few days. Hope it’s helping you maintain the chain!

I'd love to hear what you think!

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