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The Seinfeld Strategy – The Simplest Way to Build a New Habit

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It’s not easy to break old habits and replace them with new ones, but one method can make the process a lot easier: the Seinfeld Strategy. 

The Seinfeld Method - Seinfeld Calendar
The Seinfeld Strategy

So what does comedian Jerry Seinfeld have to do with habit-forming? Well, a lot!

You don’t just wake up one day and become of the most successful comedians and the best at something. It takes years of consistency, perseverance, and hard work.

Jerry Seinfeld indeed didn’t become a successful comedian overnight. It took him a tremendous amount of writing and practice, day in and day out, to hone his craft and master his delivery. But how did he do it?

This is where the Seinfeld Strategy comes in.

What is the Seinfeld Strategy? 

The Seinfeld Strategy, also known as “don’t break the chain,” is a simple but powerful technique for building new habits and sticking to them.

The strategy was initially introduced and published in a Life Hacker post called Jerry Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret, which helped it gain popularity.

The article shared that when Brad Isaac was a young comedian, he caught Seinfeld backstage at a comedy club and had to ask if he had any tips for a young comic. Jerry Seinfeld said: “The way to be a better comic is to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes is to write every day.” 

And Seinfeld didn’t leave it to that. He explained that he uses a unique calendar technique to keep track of his writing habit.

So what is this unique calendar technique and seemingly simple method Seinfeld talked about? 

The Seinfeld Strategy in the nutshell

The Seinfeld Strategy, in a nutshell, is super simple: place a calendar on the wall and mark a big red X on the day you complete your new habit. After some days of finishing your new routine, you start seeing a chain of Xs. Your only job is not to break that chain. 

The five steps Seinfeld used were:

  1. Set a goal
  2. Get a calendar
  3. Practice daily
  4. Mark a big red X when you make your habit
  5. “Don’t break the chain.”

Psst! Jerry Seinfeld is not the only one who believes firmly in the power of daily habits.

“I can predict the long-term outcome of your success if you show me your daily habits.”

John C. Maxwell

“Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.”

Robert Collier

Related post: 39 Inspiring & motivating quotes about habits

5 steps of the Seinfeld Strategy

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the Seinfeld Strategy and how you can use it to build any habit.

Here are 5 steps to habit-forming success.

1. Set a goal and choose the action steps to get there

When Seinfeld wanted to develop into an even better comic, he knew he needed to create even better jokes to become one. And the only way to become better is to practice – to write more. And he did.

So think about what your goal is and what the steps are.What are the things you need to practice every day to get there?

Make sure your goal is something you truly want and is aligned with your core values and that the steps to get there are realistic and something you can commit to daily.

2. Get a wall calendar & place it on the prominent wall

Seinfeld used a big wall calendar with the whole year on one page and hung it on a visible spot.

You can do the same or grab a printable monthly calendar and place it on the most visible spot in your home or office – where you’ll see it every day.

Where to place the calendar? 

Example 1) So let’s say you want to better your eating habits. And your new routine involves eating 3 cups of vegetables every day. Place the calendar on the fridge because that’s where your new habit happens.

Example 2) Or let’s say you’re a blogger and have been writing a few posts here and there and don’t see many people visiting your site. Because most likely your new routine involves writing, place the calendar on the wall next to your desk.

Psst! Grab printable calendars here: Cute & Free Printable Calendars by SaturdayGift

3. Practice daily

Seinfeld had realized that if he wanted to write better jokes, he needed to write consistently and have a system to track his progress.

The key is progress, not perfection, and the magic happens when you get out of your comfort zone and concentrate on your daily habits.

Even though it’s just a little bit you do each day, it’ll add up. So make sure your habit is something you can do every day without fail.

Start with something small.

Example: Let’s say your goal is to become healthier.

If you find yourself saying that you can’t allocate time going for a walk every day for 20 minutes, you already know you’ll need to choose something smaller.

Think about what you could commit to? Could you do stretching for 5 minutes, go outside and walk around the house, or take your vitamins each day?

Start with anything that will be a step towards a healthier life. And do that.

The idea is to commit to one thing at a time. And that one thing needs to be something you can do every day.

And if you’re like me and you notice yourself saying that you don’t have time to start doing something new each day or that it just feels too overwhelming, commit to a minute a day.

I was able to change my mindset when I said to myself, “There are 1440 minutes in a day. You can spare one, right?”

The key is to create the habit first, even though you’d do it only a minute a day. It’s still a daily habit if you do it every day.

After the habit is established and you feel confident, you can always add more or do it for longer.

Also, please note that you don’t need to become “the best at something” or “a success.” The same daily progress applies to anything you do – big or small.

4. Mark a big red X when you make your habit

Get a big red magic marker – each day that you complete your goal, put an X over that day.

The idea behind this strategy is to make a daily habit that can seem small and even insignificant at the time, but when done consistently, it will lead to your larger goal.

And whenever you complete your daily task, you get to reward yourself by putting a big X over that day on the calendar. Seeing the chain of Xs will give you a sense of pride and accomplishment. And you start liking those Xs. You don’t want to see a day without one.

You cant’ help but start enjoying seeing the chain of Xs on your calendar. And your only job when it comes to your new habit is not to break the chain.

Please note. Make sure to use a marker that doesn’t bleed through the calendar and color your wall or fridge door.

5. Don’t break the chain

When you place a big red X on the calendar each day after completing a task, you start seeing a chain. Your only job is not to break the chain. When you skip a day, the chain is broken, and a white square is staring back at you on your wall. And you need to start building the chain again.

Just keep at it, especially in the beginning. Because the idea behind Seinfeld Strategy’s motivational power is that you’ll start to like seeing that chain – a lot!. You don’t want to break it, and you keep it ongoing. And like magic, you’ve developed a new habit.

The Seinfeld Strategy - Don't break the chain, but if you do... continue the next day and start a new one
“Don’t break the chain.” – The Seinfeld Method

Essential tips for the Seinfeld Strategy (and mistakes to avoid)

Here are a three crucial tips (and mistakes you’ll want to avoid) when using the Seinfeld Strategy:

1. Keep it physical

Don’t use a digital calendar – it has to be a physical one.

This method was created years ago, so it was natural for Seinfeld to use a physical calendar. But the key to success lies in it: to use a physical calendar and the big red marker and see the chain every time you walk past your calendar.

So, don’t try to take the Seinfeld Strategy digital – you’ll agree with this after you start adding those big red Xs on the wall calendar.

Psst! Grab cute & free printable calendars here.

2. Keep it realistic

Don’t use this method for something you don’t do every day.

If you have a goal – like going to the gym twice a week – this method is not for that because you won’t see a chain.

But if your goal is to do something healthy every day, then you get to mark the red X, when you do stretching, are not snacking, or are exercising (and now going to the gym twice a week qualifies).

3. Keep it in sight

Don’t keep the calendar out of the sight – it has to have its own dedicated place where you see it every day.

You need to see it every day to be reminded of your goal and get that “rush” of adding a big red X on the calendar. So, place it in a strategic location where you’ll pass by often.

And the calendar has to be its own dedicated thing. Don’t incorporate it with other habit tracking systems or keep it in your bullet journal or planner.

What to do if you have to skip a day?

The Seinfeld Strategy - what if you have to skip a day?
What if you have to skip a day?

Not all habits can be made daily, nor are they meant to.

Let’s say you have a work-related habit you want to establish. It’s not good to think about work every single day. You need days off to recharge.

Or what if you have an exercise-related habit to develop and get the flu. It’s not healthy to push yourself, and you need those days of rest to get better.

So, what do you do when you have to skip a day for the Seinfeld Strategy?

I like to cross those days off with a red line instead of an X or use a different colored marker because it symbolizes that I didn’t break the chain but needed a day off.

But if you do miss a day for another reason, don’t beat yourself up about it and never skip twice. Just continue the next day.

And don’t cheat! Leave that day empty and start a new chain.

Why does the Seinfeld Strategy work?

The beauty of the Seinfeld Strategy is that it’s so simple that you can use it for anything.

The Seinfeld Strategy can work for writing a book, learning a new skill or language, weight loss… pretty much developing any new habit.

The Seinfeld Strategy boils down to three things:

  1. Set a goal with realistic action steps
  2. Track your progress – keep it visible
  3. Whatever you do, don’t break the chain

The Seinfeld Strategy works because it’s all about progress, not perfection. And if you focus on the process, the outcome will take care of itself.

Like Seinfeld didn’t measure the success of his new habit by the outcome. He didn’t care whether the jokes were good or bad. He realized that if he just wrote, the excellent material would follow.

He also didn’t care if he was motivated or inspired to write. He just focused on writing every day and trusted that the small habits every day would add up eventually.

Watch your progress grow for a few weeks, get “addicted” to seeing those Xs, and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done!

Next steps: grab a calendar or a printable habit tracker

Printable calendars

Want to start the Seinfeld Strategy right away. Super! Grab a free printable calendar here, print it out, place it on the wall and start seeing that chain of Xs grow.

Elegant horizontal monthly calendar
Printable calendar by SaturdayGift

FIND YOUR FAVORITE HERE: Cute & free printable calendars

Habit tracker printables

Ready to create routines and tackle more complicated systems? Grab a cute & free printable habit tracker.

Monthly habit tracker
Printable habit tracker by SaturdayGift

GRAB A HABIT TRACKER HERE: 43 pretty & free habit tracker printables


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