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I must be one of the only people on the planet who hated the Seinfeld show. (Which was really uncomfortable when I worked in an office where everyone else insisted on dissecting each episode and quoting it ad nauseam.) So while I’m not a fan of Jerry himself, I do recognize that he was extraordinarily successful at whatever he was supposed to be good at. (I think he was supposed to be funny.)

If you haven’t heard of Jerry’s productivity secret yet, I am delighted to be the one to share it with you. It has quite literally changed my life.

This so-called “secret” was blogged about quite widely in 2007, so I fully acknowledge that this can rightly be considered old news. But I hadn’t heard of it until a week ago, and maybe you’re in the same boat.

Here is Seinfeld’s Secret for Success:

Jerry wanted to be a successful comedian. How does one become a great comedian? By writing jokes. Lots and lots of jokes.

The problem was, Jerry wasn’t so different from a lot of us. While he said he wanted to be a great comedian, his priorities seemed to be aligned elsewhere. Day after day went by with no new jokes.

He made a deal with himself. He decided he would spend a certain amount of time each day writing new material, no matter what. He bought himself a calendar, hung it in a prominent place, and every time he’d finished his writing for the day, he marked that day with a big red X.

If you stick with this for a few days, you will have a nice row of Xs on your calendar. And something in your mind will start to shift. Once you see how awesome those Xs look, you won’t want to break the chain–for anything.

Why is this important? Remember that old saying, “slow and steady wins the race”? It’s a proverb for a reason. The people who are most successful are consistent–they may take small steps, but they take those small steps everyday, and eventually they get a hell of a lot farther than those of us who sprint and rest, rest and sprint.

People have used this trick in a number of different ways. One excellent article suggests choosing three things you’d like to be successful at, and deciding how long you’ll spend working on them each day. Because I am woefully behind in so many things, I chose four. I decided I wanted to write fiction (one hour), market my writing to larger magazines, agents and editors (one hour), clean (thirty minutes) and exercise (at least 30 minutes) every day.

You’re allowed to take weekends off if you want to. You can even take holidays and sick time. I decided to opt for the weekends off because I figured I’d need the break.

I’ve followed the Seinfeld Secret since I learned about it five days ago, and in that time I have:

– written almost 10,000 words and nearly finished a novel that has been hanging over my head since NaNoWriMo ended;

– pitched articles to two international magazines, rewrote my query letter, researched markets and editors, and worked on my novel synopsis. I also found an experienced writer who is willing to look at my synopsis once I’m finished;

– fully cleaned our main living area, reorganized a bathroom cabinet that was so full it wasn’t closing properly, and almost finished cleaning my office. When I started this plan five days ago, I couldn’t even see the floor in there for all the piles of stuff lying around; and

– walked almost 19 miles and burned 2,345 calories.

Before I started this plan, I never seemed to find time for my marketing. I did all right at the writing and exercise components, but I was never consistent. And cleaning? Fuggedaboutit!

Have you heard of the Jerry Seinfeld Productivity Secret? Do you think it could work for you?

As for me, I just hope I can stick with it! It’s doing wonders so far.

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26 Comments

  1. Shelley Munro

    I never watched Seinfield, but it sounds as if his productivity methods are working for you. I use lists and a timer when it comes to my writing, and that works for me.

    Shelley Munro

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks for commenting, Shelley. It really is working. I guess everyone needs to find a system that works for them.

      Reply
  2. Javier

    J is a fantastic letter, LOL. And Seinfeld is, indeed, pretty funny. Take care and glad to know you found a key to improved productivity.

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      I agree, Javier…at least about the letter J. I was looking forward to this letter. X, not so much.

      I think it’s killing me, but I’m definitely productive now!

      Reply
  3. jessicatrianadeford

    Great post. I need to do that and stick to it, because you are so right, consistency really is the key to success. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks for commenting, Jessica. If you try it, let me know. I’m really interested in hearing how it works for other people.

      Reply
  4. Bish Denham

    I love this tip. So simple, so visual. It’s something I definitely need to try.

    New follower and AZtech minion stopping by to say HI!

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks, Bish. I’m glad you liked it. Welcome to my blog and thanks for following! I’ll be sure to check out yours too.

      Reply
  5. Chrys Fey

    There are times when watching Seinfeld gives me a headache, but for the most part I find it funny. Marking off the days you write on the calendar is a great idea. I’m going to have to get another calendar just for that purpose! It’ll help kick my butt into gear. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      It really works, Chrys. I just finished the NaNo book! So excited.

      Don’t forget to buy yourself a cool marker to make those Xs. This is a great excuse to get an awesome new marker. I got a “Glam 80s set”. πŸ˜‰

      Reply
  6. Rhonda Parrish

    Ya know, a few years back I did something similar to inspire myself to workout every day. It worked. I don’t remember why I stopped now, but perhaps it’s time to start again…

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      That’s what I’m afraid of Rhonda…that something will make me stop. I really bad at getting back into things after a vacation, I know that much.

      Reply
  7. Stephanie Faris

    Great tip! I have heard that before. I got a great tip of my own early on–someone told me if I really wanted to be productive, set an hourly goal for my WIP. At the top of every hour, sit down in front of the PC and write that designated # of pages (1, 2, whatever). You can’t get up until you’ve reached that goal. Once you’re finished, get up and roam the house, surf the internet, etc., but at the top of the hour sit back down again. Writeordie.com is also a great tool to make yourself write without stopping!

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      I’m glad that works for you, Stephanie. It wouldn’t work well for me, because every time I stop writing I lose the flow of the story and it takes a while to get back into it.

      I also have way too much on my plate! Fitting in one session a day is perfect for me, and more than I’ve been able to stick to for awhile, so I’m happy. I just finished that darn NaNo novel! πŸ™‚

      Thanks for the info, though. You never know who might be reading this and find it helpful.

      Reply
  8. Frank Powers

    I didn’t hate Seinfeld but I’d rather watch anything else. It undoubtedly changed pop culture and did have 5 or 6 funny moments during it’s run but I never really cared for it. Given that, I was a bit nervous coming here to read his big secret. I’m glad I did. I know I am not nearly disciplined enough yet at, well, anything. I’ll be giving this a try. Thanks for the tip.

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      You’re very welcome, Frank. I’m glad you gave it a chance. When I was first told about it by name, my initial thought was, “ugh”. But then I heard what it was all about and it sounded just crazy enough to work!

      Let me know how it ends up working for you. And welcome to my blog. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  9. Tana

    I have never heard of this, but I am going to buy a calendar and try it out!!! That sounds great! And congrats on sticking to it, and getting so much done!!! I need to do that! I am so disorganized, and I get so far behind in things, I get all panicky!
    P.S. I thought I was the only one who didn’t really like that show. I did see some eps a year ago, and for the first time kinda found them funny, but up until then? Nope.
    =-)

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks, Tana. You definitely won’t regret trying it, and if you stick with it for a while, it becomes a habit.

      I’m familiar with that panicky feeling. It comes from procrastination. This can really help, if you break down what needs to be done into small steps and stick to your schedule. It takes practice, but it’s worth it.

      And you’re definitely not alone. I HATED that show, and the way people would talk incessantly about it. Blech.

      Reply
  10. debi o'neille

    Just came by to read a few previous posts. This one’s a gem. While I never watched Seinfeld, this post has a lot of value. Thanks. By the way, I take weekends off, too. πŸ™‚
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

    Reply
  11. Holli Moncrieff

    Thanks so much, Debi! It’s really worked for me.

    Reply
  12. Rebecca Douglass

    I think this’s might be for me. And now I really get your comment to me on my blog, about cleaning for just thirty minutes. Fitting it into a variable work schedule will be e challenge–I can’t completely set a daily schedule and stick to it because things change.

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      I’ve got a variable work schedule as well. I’m a freelance journalist, so I’m constantly juggling my own goals around interviews, assignments, and other peoples’ schedules.

      One of the biggest ways I set myself up for failure is by thinking I could stick to a schedule. I was going to write in the mornings, work on journalism in the afternoons, and market after that. Well, what happened if my interviewees were only available in the morning? Or if my journalism articles took longer to write than I expected?

      The genius of the Seinfeld method is that your goal is to work on your project daily, for whatever amount of time you allotted yourself. So 30 minutes of cleaning can be fit in whenever you can find room for it in a 24-hour day. This is the only thing that’s worked for me so far, so I’m excited to share it with other people.

      Reply
  13. Donelle Lacy

    I guess old news is new news to me too. I think the key for me would be the small increments of time. I usually see a daunting task and think “I’ll never get that done”, but I’m always amazed at what I get done if I time myself and only work within that timeframe. That way I also don’t get burnt out.

    Thanks for this! Looks like Jerry has another convert!

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      That’s one of the reasons why it works. So often we set ourselves up for failure by expecting too much, but if we do little bits each day, we’ll be much farther ahead in the long run.

      Good luck, Donelle! Let me know how it works for you.

      Reply
  14. Michelle D. Argyle

    I hadn’t heard of this, and I’m a HUGE Seinfeld fan. His humor is right up my alley. But I’ve been doing something similar to this for almost two years now, and it has worked beautifully. My things have been to write, to exercise, and to read. I think cleaning used to be one of those things, but I’ve been so consistent with that for so long that it’s not even on my list anymore. It just gets done without me having to schedule it in because it’s a top priority.

    I’m so glad you’ve discovered this! I always feel like a slow tortoise, and now I’m beginning to see things add and add and add until I’ve accomplished a lot. Just keep going/writing/swimming/etc. My motto. πŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Holli Moncrieff

      That’s awesome, Michelle! Great minds think alike. I’m so happy to hear something like this has worked for you as well, and I’m doubly happy to hear that the cleaning has become second-nature. I can hardly wait until that happens to me!

      Reply

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