How to Stop Procrastinating on Your Goals by Using the Seinfeld Strategy

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Stop procrastinating SeinfeldJerry Seinfeld is one of the most successful comedians of all‐time.

He is regarded as one of the “Top 100 Comedians of All–Time” by Comedy Central. He was also the co–creator and co–writer of Seinfeld, the long–running sitcom which has received numerous awards and was claimed to have the “Top TV Episode of All–Time” as rated by TV Guide.

According to Forbes magazine, Seinfeld reached his peak in earnings when he made $267 million dollars in 1998. (Yes, that was in one year. No, that’s not a typo.) A full 10 years later, in 2008, Seinfeld was still pulling in a cool $85 million per year.

By almost any measure of wealth, popularity, and critical acclaim, Jerry Seinfeld is among the most successful comedians, writers, and actors of his generation.

However, what is most impressive about Seinfeld’s career isn’t the awards, the earnings, or the special moments — it’s the remarkable consistency of it all. Show after show, year after year, he performs, creates, and entertains at an incredibly high standard. Jerry Seinfeld produces with a level of consistency that most of us wish we could bring to our daily work.

Compare his results to where you and I often find ourselves. We want to create, but struggle to do so. We want to exercise, but fail to find motivation. Wanting to achieve our goals, but — for some reason or another — we still procrastinate on them.

What’s the difference? What strategies does Jerry Seinfeld use to beat procrastination and consistently produce quality work? What does he do each day that most people don’t?

I’m not sure about all of his strategies, but I recently discovered a story that revealed one of the secrets behind Seinfeld’s incredible productivity, performance, and consistency.

Let’s talk about that what he does and how you can use the “Seinfeld Strategy” to eliminate procrastination and actually achieve your goals.

The “Seinfeld Strategy”

Brad Isaac was a young comedian starting out on the comedy circuit. One fateful night, he found himself in a club where Jerry Seinfeld was performing. In an interview on Lifehacker, Isaac shared what happened when he caught Seinfeld backstage and asked if he had “any tips for a young comic.”

Here’s how Isaac described the interaction with Seinfeld…

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.

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 is to not break the chain.”

You’ll notice that Seinfeld didn’t say a single thing about results.

It didn’t matter if he was motivated or not. It didn’t matter if he was writing great jokes or not. It didn’t matter if what he was working on would ever make it into a show. All that mattered was “not breaking the chain.”

And that’s one of the simple secrets behind Seinfeld’s remarkable productivity and consistency. For years, the comedian simply focused on “not breaking the chain.”

Let’s talk about how you can use the Seinfeld Strategy in your life…

How to Stop Procrastinating

Top performers in every field — athletes, musicians, CEOs, artists — they are all more consistent than their peers. They show up and deliver day after day while everyone else gets bogged down with the urgencies of daily life and fights a constant battle between procrastination and motivation.

While most people get demotivated and off–track after a bad performance, a bad workout, or simply a bad day at work, top performers settle right back into their pattern the next day.

The Seinfeld Strategy works because it helps to take the focus off of each individual performance and puts the emphasis on the process instead. It’s not about how you feel, how inspired you are, or how brilliant your work is that day. Instead, it’s just about “not breaking the chain.”

All you have to do to apply this strategy to your own life is pick up a calendar (here’s an inexpensive one) and start your chain.

A Word of Warning

There is one caveat with the Seinfeld Strategy. You need to pick a task that is meaningful enough to make a difference, but simple enough that you can get it done.

It would be wonderful if you could write 10 pages a day for your book, but that’s not a sustainable chain to build. Similarly, it sounds great in theory to be able to deadlift like a maniac every day, but in practice you’ll probably be overtrained and burnt out.

So step one is to choose a task that is simple enough to be sustainable. At the same time, you have to make sure that your actions are meaningful enough to matter.

For example, researching good jokes each day is simple, but you’re never going to write a joke by merely researching. That’s why the process of writing is a better choice. Writing can actually produce a meaningful result, even when it’s done in small doses.

Similarly, doing 10 pushups per day could be simple and meaningful depending on your level of fitness. It will actually make you stronger. Meanwhile, reading a fitness book each day is simple, but it won’t actually get you in better shape.

Choose tasks that are simple to maintain and capable of producing the outcome you want.

Another way of saying this is to focus on actions and not motions, which is a concept that I explained in this article: The Mistake That Smart People Make

Mastery Follows Consistency

The central question that ties our community together — and what I try to write about every Monday and Thursday — is “how do you live a healthy life?” This includes not merely nutrition and exercise, but also exploration and adventure, art and creativity, and connection and community.

But no matter what topic we’re talking about, they all require consistency. No matter what your definition is of a “healthy life,” you’ll have to battle procrastination to make it a reality. Hopefully, the Seinfeld Strategy helps to put that battle in perspective.

Don’t break the chain on your workouts and you’ll find that you get fit rather quickly.

Don’t break the chain in your business and you’ll find that results come much faster.

Don’t break the chain in your artistic pursuits and you’ll find that you will produce creative work on a regular basis.

So often, we assume that excellence requires a monumental effort and that our lofty goals demand incredible doses of willpower and motivation. But really, all we need is dedication to small, manageable tasks. Mastery follows consistency.

P.S.

For the last eight months I’ve written a new article every Monday and Thursday without missing a beat. Simply setting a schedule has helped me keep that pace and I plan to keep it as we move forward.

But I also want to graduate my writing habits to the next level and start writing 1,000 words each day. Some of those words will turn into books and courses, and some of will continue to be my Monday and Thursday posts.

My “1,000–words–per–day” chain is currently at 4. (I made it to 5 last week before breaking it for a day.)

You may have a couple false starts yourself, but eventually I’m hoping that both you and I can simply tell ourselves, “Don’t break the chain.”
motion vs action james clear

About the author:

James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he uses behavior science to help you master your habits and improve your health. For useful ideas on improving your mental and physical performance, join his free newsletter. Or, download his free guide: Transform Your Habits.

This post originally appeared on JamesClear.com

 

  • http://www.bookleverageblog.com/ George Rodriguez

    Jame,

    Great post. I started writing 1,000 words a day for my first book and I’m 18 days in. As I was reading your post I thought that is what I’m doing and right at the end you wrote about the 1,000 words a day. I borrowed the idea from nanowrimo.org/‎.

  • http://nateriggs.com/ nateriggs

    Dude – first, this is an absolutely fantastic post!

    I unknowingly have been using the Seinfeld strategy to stay on my workouts in the gym. I use a calendar planner, and each day I draw out my grid of about 7-9 sets. Then during the workout I fill the grid. When the grid is done, I feel a sense of accomplishment for the day. Then the next two days, and then the week… it’s gratifying.

    The book has become a bible for me, and I’m no almost superstitious about filling it out. You’ve commented on my results on Facebook : )

    But I never thought of hanging a calendar on the wall. This is a system I am going to try for book writing, pod castinhg etc. Nice ideas, James!

  • Katryna Johnson

    this is one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time — it just proves that consistency, consistency, consistency is the key to success. Love it!

  • Terra Hoskins

    Yes–no substitute for activity, and I think the bigger piece is picking the right thing to do. I, uh, think I’ll go write that blog post on my schedule now.

  • Deidra C.

    This is a fantastic post! Sometimes we (including myself) get so caught up in the big picture, we don’t see how much taking the small steps really matter. As long as we are consistent with those smaller steps, the larger goal will be accomplished in no time. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Lea-Ann

    This relates to my weight watchers meeting yesterday, of all things! What do you do when you have a “successful setback”? In other words, what do you do when you break the chain?

  • Matt Challberg

    Awesome article! It is truly amazing how powerful the concept of consistency is. We always see these “overnight sensations” but in reality it took years of consistent effort from these people to get noticed. Excellent!

  • Juraj Spisak

    Great article, James. How do you find the 1000 words a day task so far? I
    see you are a good writer, so presumably the words roll out easier for you. With myself, though, I have noticed that the bigger task I set myself, the less I am
    inclined to actually do it. And 1000 words a day sounds quite challenging to me, considering research, editing, etc. How much time, including research, would you spend on article like the one above?

  • http://www.ghostbloggermarie.com/ GhostbloggerMarie

    Since starting my new business about 18 months ago as GhostbloggerMarie, providing blog content for real estate professionals, I embarked on a self-educational journey. I set a goal to post a real estate “helps” article once a week and even if I don’t feel like writing, that’s non-negotiable. But the best goal I set? Spend 2-3 hours every day without fail reading & researching every single thing I could find about Social Media marketing ideas and innovations and then experiment with them in my business in some way. Daily, tweaking, reconfiguring, reworking, redesigning and learning, learning, learning. Consistency, perseverance and just plain refusing to quit will get us where we want to go! You shared a truly inspiring article and I thank you for putting so succinctly a reminder that was very needed. Sticktuitivness is a winning strategy!

  • Maria

    What an absolutely brilliant post! just amazing!

  • Carolyn Dunn

    Slow but steady wins the race. Thanks for the tip about the inexpensive calendar. Seinfeld plus Michael Phelps’ … Be willing to “Stay in the pool longer!”

  • Neno Chafu

    The Buffer Productivity Blog is really life-changing. Thanks to all of you Buffet Team!

  • Neno Chafu

    Sorry for the keyboard mistake, I meant “Buffer Team”. And also thanks for such a great blog post too: Identity-Based Habits – How to Actually Stick to Your Goals

  • Shalin Jain

    Having read the seinfeld story on LifeHacker (http://lifehacker.com/281626/jerry-seinfelds-productivity-secret) we built an app called Wonderful Day: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wonderful-day/id502432398?mt=8. It makes implementing Seinfeld Strategy a breeze.

    Seinfeld Strategy does work. Give it a spin.

  • Jeffrey James

    This is great. If we want to be awesome like Jerry Seinfeld, we need to start doing the work, and keep doing it. Simple concept, great results.

  • Dimas

    Thank you, James. Awesome post, like always :)

  • Meghan Talt

    I liked your post and I agree that consistency is a key factor in success! I also think understanding the underlying psychological reasons behind WHY we procrastinate is important for the long run. Here is a great article which addresses those underlying reasons and offers suggestions to help you overcome them: http://www.psychalive.org/2013/10/stop-procrastinating/

  • http://delgermurun.com/ Delgermurun Purevkhuu

    Incredible post. I am developer, so far what is most valuable thing to do everyday for developers?

    Thank you.

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