Yet all those good habits are no match for one problem. I’ll call it the Consistency Monster. Long story short: I do the good thing most of the time, but then fall of the wagon and do the opposite for a while. I eat really well most of the time, and then go to Taco Bell. I run 30 miles a week for a month or two, and then take a six-week hiatus.
A while back, though, I read a post on Lifehacker about Jerry Seinfeld’s “Unbroken Chain” concept. Basically, the story goes that a young comedian once asked Seinfeld for advice, and Seinfeld told him to write every day. Seinfeld said to make up a calendar and mark an “x” on every day he writes jokes. The goal is to keep the chain of x’s going without missing a day. The longer the chain gets, the harder it is to miss a day.
Lifehacker proposed that this could be adapted to any number of things. I took the advice and decided to spend some time every day writing, doing web design, and exercising. The goal here isn’t to radically change your life. The goal is consistency. The key is to set a bar that’s low enough to be do-able, but high enough to give you a sense of accomplishment. For instance, with my writing and web design, I try to do at least 15 minutes each day. It’s all about getting a little done each day. I’m not trying to write a book (well, at least not in one sitting).
|My three Unbroken Chain calendars|
I started out saying I would either do 15 minutes of stretching or 25 sit-ups and 10 push-ups. At first, I opted for stretching more often. I always feel guilty that I rarely stretch before or after runs, and I thought this would be a good remedy.
Lately, though, I’ve opted for the sit-ups and push-ups, particularly when I’m crunched for time. I’ve been slowly increasing the number of each activity. I’m currently doing 36 sit-ups and 15 push-ups each time. I’m trying to build my abdominal muscles and get rid of a bit of flab.
I’ve been doing it for nearly two months now, and I haven’t missed a day. I can’t say I’ve noticed much of a difference in my fitness level – or my gut – but these things take time, I suppose.
The main thing for me is that the Unbroken Chain has helped me finally conquer the consistency monster. Though I don’t do a ton of exercise, or writing, or web designing every day, I do do some exercise and writing and web designing every day. And a little bit every day adds up to a lot of x’s and a lot of progress.