After a live performance put on by one of the masters of comedy, Jerry Seinfeld, a young comedian came up to his dressing room. He asked him, “What is your secret to success?”
Seinfeld turned to the young man and said, “in order to succeed at comedy, you need to tell better jokes. And in order to tell better jokes, you need to write everyday. So what you need to do is get a giant calendar of the whole year and every day that you write a new joke, mark a big red X on that day. Then it is as simple as not breaking the chain.”
That’s it. That’s what moved Seinfeld from your typical struggling comic to a place where he’s still pulling in a cool $80 million a year. I’m no comedian, but after reading this, it got me thinking, can I do the same thing in my life?
9 months after reading that article, I have a big calendar and a whole bunch of red “Xs” on it. My personal challenge was following the “Paleo Diet for Athletes”. And I can say that Seinfeld’s method of productivity does indeed work wonders! Here’s what I’ve learned after using it for 9 months.
1. THERE’S SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT THAT RED X
Small wins are an important part of establishing any habit or achieving any goal. There’s a certain rush of excitement that I got from marking that red X after I followed my diet for the day. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and felt like I had a small win every day.
2. BREAK IT DOWN INTO SMALL CHUNKS
I’m sure I’m not the first one to give Seinfeld’s productivity method a go, and I’m sure that most fail within that first month. Having a huge calendar like I had can make the task seem daunting. When I had cravings for my old diet of pasta and PB&Js and I only had 1 out of 52 weeks marked down, I felt like there was no way I could keep this up. So I had to really focus on one rule “just eat Paleo today”. It felt like I could never go the entire year, but if I just focused on getting through today, I knew I would eventually establish the habit.
3. AFTER 2 MONTHS, IT BECAME SECOND NATURE
To all of you who believe the “21 days to make or break a habit” rule, I have some bad news – it actually takes more than 3 times longer. James Clear brought this to my attention in this article on habit formation, and he was dead on. At about 2 months, the task became easy. Everything from what I bought in the grocery store, to what I was craving for breakfast, and what I immediately looked for on a menu was paleo, paleo, paleo. Since that point, it was no longer a challenge, it was a lifestyle.
4. YOU WILL HAVE SLIPS, AND THAT’S OKAY
I was not perfect. There are currently 4 days on my calendar with big blank spaces on them for days that I didn’t follow my diet. Unfortunately, most people will take this as a loss, feel guilty and actually increase their chances of indulging again. Like any failure in life, the best thing you can do is learn from it. I took the time to understand why I gave in to temptation, and created a plan to not let it happen next time.
5. NEW CHALLENGES AWAIT
After 273 days of using the Seinfeld method to change my diet, I’m confident that I don’t need to mark down a red X everyday in order to continue eating paleo. So I’m on to the next challenge. In the last 9 months, I was able to completely overhaul my diet – giving me better energy, focus, and running endurance. And I can’t wait to see what I can accomplish next by using this simple, yet incredibly effective strategy!