The “Don’t Break The Chain” ritualization technique, popularized by Jerry Seinfeld, seems to be something that’s written as a hard and fast system. Do a particular thing every day and make sure you always keep at it every day so that you don’t break the chain. But it doesn’t have to be so regimented. Much like how you can tweak The Pomodoro Technique to best suit your workflow, you can adjust the Don’t Break The Chain approach to work according to your needs — and without compromising the integrity of the approach in the process.
One of the best ways to do this is to set yourself up so that certain habits only need to be done on certain days. For example, I don’t exercise every day. I take Thursdays off, so my “chain” for exercise runs six days with a break on Thursdays. But I don’t consider that a break in the chain because it is a consistent break that can be explained. The problem is when you start moving that break around. Once you start seeing the chain being broken in several different places, then you’ll subconsciously consider it to be broken. Then you’ll either give up on the ritual or beat yourself up about breaking the chain. So if you’re going to be working on something regularly like exercise, writing a book, or something that requires measured regular progress, make sure that you map out the days you plan on making that progress and then stick to it. A great online tool to help you do this for free can be found at Don’t Break The Chain.
If you’re trying to keep the chain going on several rituals at once when you first start monitoring them, you’re going to have a tougher time keeping it together. I’d suggest you start with one large tasks or action that will lay the foundation for success and happiness. For me, those kind of things are very large projects. Writing a book would be one, but you should probably be more specific with that and shoot for writing a number of words for the book instead. The more specific you are, the more measurable it is. Even if you make it a small action towards a much larger project (i.e., “Write 500 words for new book”), they’ll add up a lot faster than “Work on book,” and will mean a hell of a lot more as well.
Keep in mind that chains can have different intervals, too. As I write this, I’m sitting in a coffee shop waiting for my friend Jim Henshaw to arrive for our weekly get-together. This is something we do every single week, with very few exceptions. These sessions are a great way for me to unwind and reset myself for the days ahead, so it’s valuable to me. Every time we have to miss one, it throws me off a little bit. So it’s a chain that I don’t want to break unless there is a very good reason to break it, and both Jim and I make sure we let each other know far enough in advance so it doesn’t throw us off as much.
The bottom line is that the best way to make sure that you can keep at the Don’t Break The Chain approach is to make sure that each chain is valuable, because the last thing anyone wants to do is to break anything that’s valuable.
Photo credit: raZna via SXC.HU