Don’t Break the Chain! A Simple Technique for Personal Change

Don’t Break the Chain is a simple technique to help you change your daily habits and reach your goals.

Learn “Don’t Break the Chain” in 5 Minutes or Less

There are many areas of life where the greatest benefits come, not as the result of a single great moment, but as the result of consistent, daily action that leads us towards our goals. Indeed, many “overnight success” stories are really the result of years of steady, incremental improvement.

Comedian Jerry Seinfield has been credited with developing the Don’t Break the Chain technique. As a young comedian he recognised that, in order to improve his material, he needed to write regularly – at least a little each day.

So, he got himself a big calendar, and every day when he did his writing he crossed off that day on his calendar. After a few days, a chain of X’s appeared on the calendar. And as the chain of X’s grew, he told himself, “Don’t Break the Chain”.

That’s it.

Don’t Break the Chain Has Helped Me Change!

Over the last few weeks I’ve been applying Don’t Break the Chain to help me develop good habits in several areas (including some I’ve mentioned before):

  • Clearing my desk each morning
  • Clearing both my email in-box and send-items every morning
  • Clearing my computer desktop each morning (I tend to use it as scratch space for current work)
  • Making sure I drink enough each day

In each of these areas I’ve had greater success than I imagined possible:

  • I have just 4 emails left in my in-box (I need to tackle these next)
  • My email send items folder is empty
  • I’ve been drinking at least 0.6 litres of extra water every day, usually a lot more
  • My desk is tidier than it has ever been, and is consistently so (and if you know me, you’ll know this is nothing short of miraculous!)

Get the Right Materials

One of the great strengths of this method is that you really don’t need any fancy equipment:

  • A calendar. The bigger the better. I printed one from the internet.
  • A marker. A fat red one is ideal, but I just use a black ballpoint because that’s what I had to hand.

That’s all.

Of course, there are all kinds of smart-phone apps and on-line tools and special calendars for the method, but I’d recommend starting with a simple paper system and getting more sophisticated once you’re familiar with the method.

Know Why it Works

Some of the benefits that I’ve experienced with this technique are that:

  • It is simple
  • Daily action builds habits
  • It gives you regular practice
  • It provides feedback on your progress
  • It’s fun and rewarding
  • Small improvements accumulate, and compound
  • It makes you feel successful
  • Once you start to succeed, you’ll want to do more

Follow these Tips

From my experience, I think your chances of success are increased if you:

  • Choose a suitable goal, and know why it’s important to me.
  • Be specific about what you want to achieve each day.
  • Start with just a few activities – or just the one one: If you take on too much all at once, you’ll overburden yourself and fail.
  • Set small goals: Succeeding at doing 5 minutes is better than failing at doing half an hour.
  • Have a separate calendar for each activity
  • Don’t break the chain: Skipping one day makes it easier to skip the next.
  • Really – Don’t break the chain.

What are You Going to Change?

Examples of where Don’t Break the Change might be useful include:

  • Learning a language
  • Getting organised
  • Eating healthily
  • Exercising
  • Learning to meditate
  • Building a relationship

… and almost anything else.

Learn More about Don’t Break the Chain

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