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Taking it Day by Day

Now things are starting to cool down here in the tropics, I'm working on getting myself moving on a few projects. The trick in the past has been putting some work in on the things I want to do consistently; most of the time, I'll do something for a few days, then leave it for a couple, which turns into a week, then a month, then a year.

In the last few months, I've been reading a couple of texts on getting myself organised. The first one, Getting Things Done by David Allen, has a neat five-part system for getting all the things I have and/or want to do in some kind of order so that they can be provessed, but it's no good having a system if you don't put it to consistent use.

Enter Upgrade Your Life by Gina Trapani, a collection of posts and ideas from the Lifehacker website. I borrowed the first edition (entitled Lifehacker) from the local library and ordered the second edition for myself at Angus & Robertson. There's one neat trick in that edition which didn't appear in the original: The Seinfeld Chain.

The idea is credited to Jerry Seinfeld, and can be summed up thusly: If you want to make sure you get yourself into a good habit, get a calendar for that task and mark off every day on which you exercise your habit. If you keep it up consistently, you'll not only have a visual record of your commitment and consistency, but you'll be invested in not breaking the (eventually) lovely big chain.

(In a way, I'd actually been doing something like that at one point, but for the purpose of evil; my Xbox's blog over on the 360voice website not only tracks how many days I've been playing, but makes a happy comment on every day that I play and miserable ones when I don't.)

I've implemented the Seinfeld Chain for a few things, but rather than buying a calendar or three, I'm using a Web-based utility designed specifically for making and maintaining Seinfeld Chains. It's called dontbreakthechain.com, and I have four chains going, three of which I'll talk about here:

  1. Walking the Dogs. This is something I've been slack on since before summer, which isn't good for me, given all the sitting down I do at work, nor the dogs, especially Ziggy, who's grown into a right chubbo. So far, I have a three-day chain running.
  2. Inbox Checks. Part of the Getting Things Done process is to define a set of “inboxes”, which could include your e-mail inbox, an intray on a desk for mail, bills, random notes and the like and make sure they're processed regularly; i.e. making sure you look at each item, figure out what needs to be done next with it and either doing it now or filing it properly for future action. This has a four-day chain.
  3. 1,000 Words Per Day. Yes, I'm getting back into writing, and the best way to do that is t write. So I'm taking Robert A. Heinlein's advice and writing 1,000 words every day. Will you see these any time soon? Possibly; some will be blog posts, some will be e-mails and letters to people, and some... well, I'm still a bit shy about making public statements or promises considering I've broken them a lot in the past, so I'll keep mum there. I'm one day in on this chain, and planning to put a check in today's box by writing a letter to Chookie (this post may be just shy of 700 words, but I still want to write Chooks a decent letter and do it tonight).

That sentiment about public statements goes for the fourth chain, which is still at zero days. That's a real “I'll talk about it when I'm ready” kinda deal.

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