productivity techniques, time management, project management,

A Simple Technique for Consistent Productivity

Stas Kulesh
Stas Kulesh Follow
May 23, 2024 · 6 mins read
A Simple Technique for Consistent Productivity
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In a world where distractions are at our fingertips and maintaining productivity can feel like an uphill battle, finding a reliable method to stay consistent is invaluable. One technique that has gained popularity for its simplicity and effectiveness is “Don’t Break the Chain.” This method, famously associated with comedian Jerry Seinfeld, focuses on building and maintaining streaks to cultivate habits and boost productivity.

The Concept Behind “Don’t Break the Chain”

The core idea is straightforward: commit to doing a specific task daily and mark each successful day on a calendar with an “X.” As days pass and the chain of “X”s grows, the visual progress creates a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to keep going. The goal is to avoid breaking the chain, as doing so can break the momentum and make it harder to maintain the habit.

Seinfeld used this method to write new material daily, ensuring he continued to develop his craft. This technique is versatile and can be applied to various goals, from exercising and learning a new skill to reading and writing.

Why It Works: The Psychology Behind the Chain

The effectiveness of “Don’t Break the Chain” lies in several psychological principles:

  1. Visual Motivation: Seeing a growing chain of completed tasks provides a tangible representation of your efforts. This visual cue acts as a constant reminder of your commitment and progress.

  2. Positive Reinforcement: Marking an “X” each day serves as a reward for completing the task. This small act of recognition can trigger the brain’s reward system, encouraging you to repeat the behavior.

  3. Commitment and Consistency: According to the principle of consistency, once people commit to something, they are more likely to follow through. The desire to maintain consistency can drive you to keep the chain unbroken.

  4. Loss Aversion: Humans tend to fear losses more than they value gains. The idea of breaking the chain and losing your progress can be a strong motivator to keep going, even on days when motivation is low.

The Numbers Speak: The Power of Consistency

Statistics support the efficacy of consistent daily actions:

  • Habits and Formation: A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that, on average, it takes 66 days to form a new habit. Consistency is key, and “Don’t Break the Chain” helps maintain the necessary daily repetition.

  • Productivity and Streaks: Research by Harvard Business Review indicates that people who track their progress and celebrate small wins are more likely to achieve their long-term goals. The daily “X” acts as a mini-celebration, boosting motivation.

  • Behavioral Economics: A study in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization showed that small, immediate rewards (like marking an “X”) can significantly improve adherence to tasks compared to larger, delayed rewards.

Implementing the Technique

Here’s a step-by-step guide to implementing the “Don’t Break the Chain” technique:

  1. Choose Your Goal: Select a specific task you want to focus on. It should be something that you can reasonably commit to doing every day. Examples include writing for 30 minutes, practicing a musical instrument, exercising, or meditating.

  2. Set Up Your Calendar: Get a physical calendar or use a digital one. Ensure it is placed somewhere visible, like your workspace or bedroom wall.

  3. Define Your Minimum Action: Decide on the minimum amount of work required to mark an “X.” This ensures you can still make progress on days when you’re less motivated. For instance, if your goal is to write daily, your minimum action could be writing a single sentence.

  4. Mark Your Progress: Every day you complete your task, mark an “X” on the calendar. Watch the chain grow and let it motivate you to keep going.

  5. Don’t Break the Chain: The primary goal is to maintain the streak. If you miss a day, start a new chain and aim to beat your previous record.

Tips for Success

  • Start Small: Begin with a manageable task. Starting small reduces the initial resistance and makes it easier to build momentum.

  • Be Flexible: Life happens. If you miss a day, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, focus on restarting and maintaining a new chain.

  • Use Technology: There are numerous apps designed to help with habit tracking, such as Habitica, Streaks, and Done. These can provide additional reminders and motivation.

  • Involve Others: Share your goal with friends or join a community with similar objectives. Accountability can significantly enhance your commitment.

Real-Life Applications and Success Stories

Many individuals and professionals have successfully implemented the “Don’t Break the Chain” technique:

  • Jerry Seinfeld: As mentioned, Seinfeld used this method to consistently write jokes, contributing to his success as a comedian.

  • Writers: Bestselling authors like John Grisham and Stephen King have emphasized the importance of daily writing habits. The consistent practice of writing, even if just a few pages, can lead to significant output over time.

  • Fitness Enthusiasts: Fitness influencers and trainers often recommend daily exercise, even in small doses, to build and maintain a habit of physical activity.

  • Language Learners: Polyglots like Benny Lewis, who runs the site Fluent in 3 Months, advocate for daily practice in language learning to achieve fluency.

Overcoming Challenges

Sticking to a daily habit isn’t always easy. Here are some common challenges and how to overcome them:

  • Lack of Time: If you’re pressed for time, focus on the minimum action you defined. Even a small effort counts and keeps the chain intact.

  • Low Motivation: On days when motivation is lacking, remind yourself of the progress you’ve made. The visual chain can serve as a powerful motivator.

  • Setbacks: Life events can disrupt your routine. If you break the chain, don’t dwell on it. Start a new chain and aim to go longer than before.


The “Don’t Break the Chain” technique is a powerful tool for cultivating consistency and boosting productivity. By leveraging visual motivation, positive reinforcement, and the psychological principles of commitment and loss aversion, this method helps you build and maintain habits that can lead to significant achievements over time. Whether you’re an aspiring writer, fitness enthusiast, or simply looking to add a productive habit to your daily routine, “Don’t Break the Chain” offers a straightforward and effective approach to reaching your goals.

For those using Slack to manage their workflows, consider integrating the Time bot. This tool can help you track your daily tasks and visualize your progress right within Slack. By using Time bot, you can easily maintain your chain, receive timely reminders, and stay motivated to keep your streak going. Start your chain today with the help of Time bot—your future self will thank you.

Try out Time for Slack with our demo and subscribe to your 7-day free trial:

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Stas Kulesh
Stas Kulesh
Written by Stas Kulesh
Time founder. I blog, play fretless guitar, watch Peep Show and run a digital design/dev shop in Auckland, New Zealand. Parenting too.