Seinfeld System Inspires Creativity

I never saw a time management tool I didn’t like – for at least 15 minutes. So when my husband started printing out monthly calendars and marking the days with big red X’s, I was intrigued.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“Trying out the Jerry Seinfeld system,” he said.

Turns out that when Seinfeld was not standing in line waiting for the Soup Nazi, he was back home writing jokes for at least 15 minutes a day. All thanks to a productivity system he reportedly invented called “Don’t Break The Chain.”

“Pretty simple,” explained my Seinfeld protégé. “You just print out a monthly calendar and put a big red X on each day you put in at least 15 minutes working on a big priority. By the end of the month, you want an X on every day, so you don’t break the chain.”

He was nailing a calendar sheet to the office wall as he spoke. Four sheets actually, because he figured, at 15 minutes per priority, he could cover four priorities that he might otherwise postpone in only an hour a day. His were exercise, writing, meditation and – happily – chores.

Not to be outdone, I requested blank copies of the better-than-Seinfeld calendar template he had created. Besides a mere calendar, it included lines to write in what he’d decided were permissible activities in each category. This was to comply with the requirement that you lay down the “rules” in advance.

I couldn’t wait to get started and picked exercise, writing, meditation and marketing. Forget chores. It looked like my husband would be doing them.

I was excited. Online, I discovered that one exuberant blogger, test-driving the system for exercise, writing and cleaning, reported that with very little effort the first week he’d written about 30 pages, done 700 pushups, 980 sit-ups, jogged several miles and his apartment was “as clean as a catalog photo.”

I figured with the Seinfeld system, by month’s end I’d have written a poem a day, developed a mediation habit as solid as the Dali Lama’s, an exercise routine to rival Jillian Michaels’ and a client base like Tony Robbins’.

The exuberant blogger and my husband agonized about a lot of details ahead, such as when they were “excused” from these priority activities. Sickness? Vacation? I decided to take the road less traveled and just made up the rules as I went along. Church on Easter definitely counted as meditation. E-Mails to one’s accountant during tax season were definitely writing. And so forth. Yada, yada, yada.

April is not done, but so far, I must confess that I’m less productive than either my husband or the exuberant blogger. But I’m far more creative.

For example, I’ve enhanced the red X system. My chain – still unbroken – has alternative colors: yellow X’s for under 15 minutes where I did over 15 minutes the day before, blue X’s for alternate activities. For example, walking a total of 15 minutes a day, including to the refrigerator, might earn a blue X.

I know. Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason. I think Seinfeld said that, too.

Copyright 2015 Pat Snyder





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