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Don’t break the chain.

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Don’t break the chain.

Yellow metal chain

It’s been a really busy few weeks and I’m not ashamed to admit that my productivity levels are dipping and my motivation is slipping. Instead of accepting this (I’m stubborn, you see), I’ve decided to try something new.

I’ve been on all the productivity training and I’ve tried several tools and methods – they’ve all helped me, but they don’t feel like they’re having the same impact they used to right now. So I got to goggling, and I’ve discovered something I’ve never heard of before. It’s called ‘Don’t break the chain’.

It was apparently made famous by Jerry Seinfeld (although it passed me by). The story goes that he was asked for advice by a budding comedian around how to be a funnier. And Jerry shared his method – he’d write a joke everyday. Without fail. Once he’s done this, he crosses off that day in his calendar.

You have one overriding driver – don’t miss a day. Don’t break that chain. The idea being that, rather than spending hours facing that daunting task (of trying to come up with joke after joke in Jerry’s case), you’ve broken it down into a smaller chunk to complete each day. Manageable, right?

Well, not for me as I wouldn’t even know where to begin to write a joke, let alone a funny one. But the principle can be applied to anything, I guess. So I have decided to give it a go myself. I’ve set myself a manageable goal – something that I want to do, but that I’m just not finding the time to. My goal is a small one: spend 30 minutes each day cross stitching. Why cross stitching? Well, it’s something that helps be unwind and allows me to tap into my creative-side.

I’ve made a good start. I’m completing my daily 30 minutes and then crossing off the day in my calendar (I may move to an app once I decide which one I like best). I’m finding myself feeling pretty motivated so far. It feels new and fresh. I’m a perfectionist so the thought of a missing day, breaking the chain, makes me twitch. So there’s incentive to keep me focused. But I need to watch that as I don’t want it adding additional pressure.

Cross stitch sample of a fairy.

If I had set myself a work-related goal, I would probably have also set myself some additional perimeters to ensure my work-life balance. For example, rather than the goal being every day, I would’ve set it to be every week day and I would give myself days off when I was on annual leave. But, technically, then you just end up with lots of mini chains – or, viewing it with the ‘glass-half-empty’ lens, lots of broken chains. So, for me, I think I’d prefer to keep the goal to be one that is possible to achieve every day.

Research tells us that it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. So my hope is that, before too long, squeezing those 30 minutes in every day will become easier and I may even be bold enough to set myself another personal goal. Perhaps one around practicing the piano, singing or exercise. I may even be bold enough to try and learn Italian. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

While I like that it seems to have given me a motivational boost to find the time for something I wanted to do, I wonder if it is sustainable in the longer-term. I guess only time will tell on that. But, for now, it’s given me something I needed – something new and fresh for me to try.

Now I just have to not break that chain.

Zoe Connell, Organisational and People Development

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