A personal ‘productivity’ tip sometimes referred to as ‘Seinfeld’s Chain’ after Jerry Seinfeld, the US comedian is a useful reminder of the need to ‘keep at it’. The story is that, when he started writing, Seinfeld would mark each day he had spent his planned time actually writing by putting a big red cross through that day on a large wall calendar. After a few days he would have a chain of crosses – and it required him to keep putting in the effort so as not to break the chain. Even when he had ‘better offers’ or when he felt ill, the motivation to keep the chain going was very strong.
The same approach can be used for anything which requires regular effort and activity – exercise, program coding, learning to play a musical instrument, etc. it is not one long practice session that makes improvement – it is regular, incremental performance gains resulting from regular action.
The productivity professionals amongst you will recognise that this is the fundamental concept behind kaizen – regular, small improvements leading to a major impact on performance over time.
But it also applies at a more general level. We all know we should ask ‘Why?’ regularly.
‘Why do we do it like that?’
‘Why do we do it at all?’
‘Why is it done here?’
‘Why is it done like that?’
If we keep asking, we keep coming up with suggestions for change – and improvement.
So, tomorrow make sure you observe some work and ask questions about it … and come up with some (perhaps very) small suggestion for improvement.
Then mark your ‘Why X’ on a calendar and START the chain.
Repeat daily until you have a chain of at least 5 Xs.
Now look at your calendar. 1 working week – 5 improvements. If you don’t break the chain, that will be 250 in the year … and a potential transformation of productivity and performance.