I’m an avid follower of Lifehacker, particularly mind hacks.  One that has appeared recently, and appears to be gaining momentum, is Jerry Seinfeld’s “don’t break the chain” time management technique.

The idea is simple, set yourself a few goals to achieve each day and if you manage them all you mark the day on a calendar with a cross.  Put that calendar in an obvious place so you can’t help but see it and that’s it.  I printed a year calendar from and printed it out in A3 then stuck it to the back of my front door.


My long running problems are thus;

  1. Insomnia/oversleeping
  2. My flat (or apartment, to any American readers) is a very messy
  3. I’ve more projects than time and make none of them

To try and fix this I’ve set myself three simple tasks;

  1. Have breakfast before work
  2. Tidy something until it’s noticeable
  3. Work on a project until something has been learnt

Next to my door I’ve a blackboard wall, it has a list of my projects on it which include building my Mini, a clock for my dad, my 3d printer and brewing beer.  The idea is I work on one per day and in the long run they all get a bit done rather than all stagnating.  I’ve also decided to factor in my fallibility.

A lot of people who have tried this idea have been brutal in its execution whereas my aim is to average out.  For example, if I miss breakfast one day then if I know I’ll not get that cross through the day.  Despite missing that aim it’s counterproductive as mentally the day is written off before it starts.  Instead, if I miss breakfast I have to double up on one of the other tasks.  Today, I had breakfast but was a bit late for work.  Rather than writing the day off I instead doubled up on tidying and tackled a particularly untidy area of my flat that I’ve been avoiding for a while;  Behind my sofa.

I did so, and despite the fact I was a few minutes late for work I know that overall I have achieved something today.  To a lot of people this may sound odd but personally, I need momentum.  I need to feel that I’ve achieved something every day otherwise what’s the point?  It doesn’t matter if I’ve tidied something, succeeded in solving some tricky problem at work or having a eureka moment in a personal project, I need to ride a wave.  If I was anal about my tasks I’d be setting myself up to fail and I’d give up as all too quickly I’d lose momentum.

I’ve also decided to average out over the week to avoid burning out.  If I’m at work on a Friday, when I get home I don’t need to tidy or build anything as long as the previous four days I’ve done so.  This way I feel I’ve earned a pint, which if true then I have!  For the weekends, I have to get out of bed before 10am so still get a lie in but still have to work on the other two tasks.

If anyone is reading this (huzzah, readers!) and you think it sounds too simple then I urge you to give it a go as today something peculiar happened;  I felt guilty.  Because I got in a few minutes late, not the end of the world I know, I felt I’d let myself down and had to make up for it.  This wasn’t a conscious act but the simple fact that its working and the mind hack is settling in.  As such, behind my sofa is now tidy and seeing it tidy for the first time in months is highly rewarding!

Fingers crossed this will continue and little by little my flat will get tidier, I’ll build and make more things and I’ll finally get my sleeping problems in check (after 20 years).  The strangest thing is that these simple rules, on a daily basis, are almost trivial but the cumulative effect is astonishing.  Long may it continue!