This productivity technique is attributed to Jerry Seinfield, but you may have come across it before. I think a cavewoman might have invented it centuries ago. And it’s supposed to work like this:
You’ve got something that you want to work on, but you’re a bit blocked. You want to move it up your to-do list and get serious with it. The Jerry Seinfeld productivity technique suggests that you buy a cheap calendar, put it on the wall, and cross off each day that you take action. Or make a scratch on the wall of your cave if they haven’t invented calendars yet.
The idea is to put a big fat cross through each day that you do something on your priority project. The crosses on the calendar form a chain. There’s an incentive to take some action every day, and you don’t break the chain.
Jerry Seinfeld uses his calendar to mark every day that he works on comedy material, and he tries to keep his chain of crosses going, working on writing material every day.
Jerry is one of the most successful comedians of all time, earning $69 million a year, so this productivity technique is working for him.
Keep the chain going.
I wouldn’t mind getting $69m a year, so I gave the Jerry Seinfeld productivity technique a go.
For ages, I’ve wanted to produce more videos, but had a real block to doing this. I stop and start, and never develop any momentum on it. Even though I know that if I can master this, it’ll be a great way of communicating all the zillions of ideas in my head about how to develop a successful business.
I printed out a calendar, put it on my cave/home office wall, and blu tacked a red Sharpie next to it. I knew I had some extra time for a few days, so I thought I could get a head start.
It was great at first – I learned about camera positioning and watched a bunch of tutorials about editing techniques in Camtasia. But a whole day was wasted trying to set up a lighting rig which wouldn’t reflect in my glasses, and I started to get a bit disheartened. Then my partner wanted me to come out of the cave and go for a walk in the sunshine. And then a client needed something, and then something went wrong with the website.
My chain lasted four days.
I felt guilty twice, first for not doing the thing I wanted so much to do, but also for breaking the chain. I threw the calendar in the recycling and did some more research on how to get into action.
A lot more research.
I found this all so fascinating that I’ve been reading tons of books, looking into the science behind habit formation, how our brains work and trying out lots of other productivity techniques.
So why won’t Jerry’s productivity technique work for you?
The problem with the Jerry Seinfeld productivity technique is that it’s one single tactic. It’s a great tactic in itself, but we need more than a calendar and a Sharpie pen to get going when we want to get into action.
In fact, from my research, we also need:
- A compelling reason – the big why
- Other people encourage us and be on our side
- Other people to give us tips and tricks to improve, so we don’t waste all day cutting up bits of shower curtain to stick over a lamp to reduce glare when making videos, for example.*
- A feeling that we’re making progress along the way, which stops us giving up
- To quickly get to the point where getting into action is intrinsically enjoyable – we humans can’t maintain a grind for very long.
- Recognition for our hard work
- A way of protecting some time each day to work on this. So we can permit ourselves to ignore all the other urgent claims on our time, for a little while.
- Bach’s cello suites (optional, but you get my point)
Can you see a theme coming out of my research?
You need other people to reach the finish line.
Projects which involve working on your business rather than in your business work better when you do them with a group of other people with you. If you’re around other people who also want to do the same, you help each other reach the finish line.
It doesn’t matter if one person wants to work on writing new content, while I want to gain momentum on creating videos and someone else wants to make three sales calls a day. What we need is other people to be doing this with us. And then we can make $69m a year/conquer the universe/get some great new clients.
Why we procrastinate
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. One of the things I hear from my clients all the time is
“I didn’t have time to do the client work and to productise, even though I know that this is the best way to scale my business.
“I’ve done A, B and C, but I didn’t get chance to do D” where D is the action that would get their new thing out to the world and make some money from it.
And I’m willing to bet that you’ve said those things as well. Seeing as you’re human and all that. I certainly have.
An invitation to join us
I’m on a mission to bring together business owners and founders who want to scale their businesses and help more people by building product-based businesses. Every few months I bring together a group of people in the Productise Your Expertise programme. Over six months, we work together to build products and develop a tribe of people who will buy those products.
Interested in joining a group of interesting clever people who will help you on your way? And get help and support from me along the way?
Even if you’re Jerry Seinfeld and cross over your calendar every day, I bet you’d love working on productising with us.