I've made no secret of the fact that I used to work in comedy. Sure, it was a fledgling career at best, having performed improv and sketch comedy sporadically at venues in a variety of places over a period of only a few years, but comedy is still in my blood...and it always will be. It's that love of the craft that led me to Jerry Seinfeld in the first place, and more recently to his online series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.1
While I was never a huge fan of his television series, I'm a big fan of his online one because it involves Seinfeld having candid and casual conversations with fellow comics that often lead to places that they rarely (if ever) go in traditional interviews. I love the light and breezy (yet entertaining and informative) tone of the show, and it's something I check out every time a new episode drops.
But I don't just follow Seinfeld's productions on the web. I also put three of his better known routines (not comedy routines, mind you) to use in my own work and life. Here are three things Seinfeld does that I've built into my own workflow to help me with my productivity.
1. Splash Water On The Face
This is definitely one of the simplest things I've added to my morning routine, but since I've been doing it first thing for so long now it has actually helped more of my morning routine stick. On Episode 68 of Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin, Seinfeld mentions how he splashes water on his face as part of his regular morning routine. I may have removed the other elements of his routine (the sports radio listening, the regular bowl of oatmeal), but I've taken the splashing water on the face a step further.
You see, I don't just splash water on my face. I splash it on my face three times. I do this because it wakes my brain up a little bit more because it has to count along with the splashing, creating a bit more activity than just splashing alone. I also do it because I'm a night owl, as I've written about before, so I believe I need to have a heavier dose of cold water on my face in order to really wake me up.
2. Don't Break The Chain
This is probably the most commonly used "productivity trick" that Seinfeld employs. Brad Isaac shared details about the trick over at Lifehacker a few years back:
(Seinfeld) told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. "After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain."
"Don't break the chain," he said again for emphasis.<
Apps like Full (which I've been using regularly), My Minutes, and Lift (which I've been using not-so-regularly) have this system in mind at their core. So every time I use Full and complete something associated with a habit (like exercising), I'm keeping the chain alive.
I also use this trick to track my daily word count, but instead of going digital on that front I'm using my NeuYear Calendar. I can't recall where I read about doing this, but I've found it to be exceedingly helpful — especially when writing a book.
3. Work It Out On Paper
In the 2002 film Comedian, you get to see the process of two very different comedians: Orny Adams and Jerry Seinfeld. One of the things that has stuck with me years after watching the film is while Adams was big into using digital solutions to map out his routines, Seinfeld dealt with good old-fashioned paper. Now he may very well move some of what he captured on paper and put it into something digital (like Evernote or something similar), but the fact that he started on paper is something that resonated with me because that's often where I start things.
Seinfeld demonstrated the need to capture ideas, and since it was in the early 200s there was no smartphone for him to use. He used paper because there was no other option readily available to him. Even now — when there are more options — he may very well still use it, either as a gateway to the digital realm or as a place of permanence. Regardless, there's definitely a power that paper has, and I use it to full advantage in my own workflow.
All of these things that Seinfeld does that I've adopted don't just revolve around productivity alone, they revolve around mindful productivity. Knowing that I need to splash water on my face to start my day (three times, no less) because it propels me forward into the next thing is crucial. Tracking my habits through a "don't break the chain" style of quantification is only part of the equation; why I'm doing it adds value to the whole process (and helps me stick with it). Understanding why getting things out of my head is far better than keeping it in my head has led me to keep a paper notebook and a pen with me wherever I go.
Sure, these three things that Seinfeld does (and I've adopted) help me get things done. But they also help make sure I stay on track to get the right things done...and that's what we all really want to do more than anything else.
During South By Southwest, I'll be sitting on a panel with Craig Jarrow (The Time Management Ninja) and Marc and Angel Chernoff (of marcandangel.com) entitled Mindful Productivity in a World of Interruption. You can learn more about the panel here — and we're hoping to be able to share it with those who couldn't make it to SXSW somewhere down the line.
Photo credit: ematil1023 via SXC.HU
1 I also love coffee a lot, which may have a little to do with it.