Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret

July 24, 2023

leadership training
by Brad Isaac

Years ago when Seinfeld was a new television show, Jerry Seinfeld was still a touring comic. At the time, I was hanging around clubs doing open mic nights and trying to learn the ropes. One night I was in the club where Seinfeld was working, and before he went on stage, I saw my chance. I had to ask Seinfeld if he had any tips for a young comic. What he told me was something that would benefit me a lifetime…

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself - even when you don’t feel like it.

He then revealed a unique calendar system he was using pressure himself to write.

Here’s how it worked.

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.

Over the years I’ve used his technique in many different areas. I’ve used it for exercise, to learn programming, to learn network administration, to build successful websites and build successful businesses.

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.

Think for a moment about what action would make the most profound impact on your life if you worked it every day. That is the action I recommend you put on your Seinfeld calendar. Start today and earn your big red X. And from here on out…

Don’t break the chain!

Brad Isaac is a lead software programmer and blogger. You can read his motivational strategies every day on his goal setting blog, Achieve-IT!

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15 Responses to “Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret”

  1. Samir on July 25th, 2007 8:00 am

    Excellent article Brad.

    Anyone who reads enough material on personal development is bound to have come across the call for consistent action at some point, and anyone who thinks beyond the surface level of productivity knows that consistent action is the only true panacea of all these issues. But I have never seen it put into such simple and straightforward practicality before.

    Now at last, I have some use for all those gigantic single-sheet calendars. Thanks for the tip. And thanks to Jerry Seinfeld, of course.


  2. Steve on July 25th, 2007 8:51 pm

    Wow, what an amazing insight. I would have never thought about setting a goal like that. I believe my life will start to change one step at a time, and change one day at a time.
    I have started to make everyday start new and fresh, when I wake up and start with making mention for everything I am grateful for, and at the end of day the same.
    I will start to work making me learn more and more everyday.

  3. Matt on July 26th, 2007 8:07 am

    Really interesting idea - I’ve never heard of anything like that before, so I’m going to try it out with a couple of my major goals and see how works! :P Thanks for the nice post!

  4. Frankie Val on July 26th, 2007 3:07 pm

    Great article that simplifies a lot of strong points we can make about the basic mechanics of the universe! I have used similar techniques in creating and building the concepts behind my radio station - check us out!

  5. Barb on July 27th, 2007 1:19 am

    That’s a great idea. Once we’ve established something like the chain which gives us a visual representation of our performance, it makes us aware of our great job.

  6. Dave on July 27th, 2007 8:14 pm

    Great post. It’s a good way to keep our motivation running. It’s true that breaking the chain once make it easier to break it again. It’s like giving ourselves a reason to break it.

  7. Alan on July 29th, 2007 8:21 pm

    His secret is really worth revealing.
    Motivation is like a cycle. We need new ones over time to keep us going. Some may be using a certain motivation for a long time, but new motivation has a different effect.

  8. Brad Isaac on August 1st, 2007 12:13 pm

    @Matt, I’d advise you to only do one goal at a time using this method. It is built to hammer away at one. If you pop in more than one I’d think you’ll have a harder time with it.

    It is a powerful strategy, but the consistency factor must be weighed carefully. It’s easy for humans to be consistent on one new action per day. But as we add on more, then the consistency can give way to excuse making. (i.e. “At least I did ___________ I am going to give myself an X even though I didn’t do _____________________” )

    You’d have to be the judge though. Experience has taught me, this method is both powerful and challenging. There will be sick days, tired days, days you just don’t feel like doing it. Those will be the days you’ll be thankful you only chose one goal for the Seinfeld method. :)

    Good luck!

  9. Chris on August 1st, 2007 8:32 pm

    Another use of this idea might be to work on one positive habit each month. It takes from 21-30 days to develop a new habit. So for example in January you might work on saying your affirmations every day. By the end of the month it becomes a permanent habit. Then in February you go to work on another habit. If you are in network marketing, you might commit to making x number of calls per day. By using this method you could install 12 positive new habits each year!

  10. Monika Birkner on August 2nd, 2007 4:55 am

    Hi, great article. I know the benefits of daily action from own experience. That’s the way I have published two books. But the visual reminder is certainly very helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Al Diaz on August 2nd, 2007 2:55 pm

    This rocks!

    Al Diaz

  12. MusEditions on August 2nd, 2007 8:20 pm

    I recently started a blog at WordPress that includes a calendar highlighting each day I’ve posted something. I don’t like seeing the non-highlighted days, so perhaps I’ll use the blog calendar as a “chain” to implement this concept and post every day. Thanks for sharing this! BTW I linked over to you from the Silva Newsletter.

  13. Harveen on August 4th, 2007 2:25 pm

    Great idea! Esp. the motivational chain. I’ll try this with the one goal at a time. Also, thanks for the insight/ideas in the other posts.

  14. Hector on August 6th, 2007 3:38 am

    This is a new concept for me on Goal setting and Im excited to try it myself… I am on Personal Development Industry and Im thinking of including the same to my training modules. Thanks for this concept…

    To the advancement of wealth consciouness of the world, I remain!

    Hector, Philippines

  15. Seinfeld And The Habit Tracker - Advice on organized and productive living through lifehacks and GTD on January 28th, 2008 5:05 pm

    [...] I would rectify that situation today. My latest template basically allows you to easily implement Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret. The basic idea is that each day you work on a big project or habit you put a big cross over the [...]

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