How To Stop Procrastinating With the Seinfeld Strategy

Do you struggle with consistency?

Maybe you want to get fit but cannot bring yourself to show up at the gym every day. Maybe you want to write a novel, but somehow never get around to putting words on paper.

Then the Seinfeld Strategy might be for you. By tracking your progress on a simple wall calendar, you can bring about significant positive change.

Learn about the origins of the Seinfeld Strategy, how to put it into practice, and what pitfalls to watch out for.

Definition: What Is the Seinfeld Strategy?

The “Seinfeld Strategy” is named after Jerry Seinfeld, the famous comedian, best known for the sitcom by the same name.

The strategy itself was detailed by Brad Isaac, who supposedly ran into Seinfeld at a comedy event. In an interview on, he related the encounter:

One night I was in the club where Seinfeld was working, and before he went on stage, I saw my chance. I had to ask Seinfeld if he had any tips for a young comic.

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

Next, Seinfeld allegedly revealed his productivity secret to Isaac:

He 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 is to not break the chain.”

It should be noted Seinfeld later stated the episode never took place and was also quite adamant about it. In an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, he wrote:

This is hilarious to me, that somehow I am getting credit for making an X on a calendar with the Seinfeld productivity program. It’s the dumbest non-idea that was not mine, but somehow I’m getting credit for it.

Brad Isaac, the original bearer of the story, might have had his reasons to make it up. The young comic later turned software developer and created an app around goal setting, which he was promoting heavily at the time of the Lifehacker interview.

Seinfeld might not have come up with the concept and definitely didn’t endorse it. But for better or worse, it is now known as the Seinfeld Strategy. But I disagree with Seinfeld’s assessment of it being “dumb.” I have tried it extensively and the so-called Seinfeld Strategy works well. If you are struggling with consistency, it can be a useful tool to have in your toolbox.

The Basic Process

To implement the Seinfeld Strategy, follow this simple process.

1. Define Your Goal

Define what it is exactly that you want to achieve. Maybe you want to be a published author. Maybe you want to get your black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Whatever it is, get clear about it, ideally by writing it down.

2. Define Your Daily Action

Define what the one activity is that you must do every day to succeed with your goal. Write that down. Be specific.

If you want to be an author, you must sit down and write every day. So, your daily action might read, “Write 500 words for my Sci-Fi novella.”

If you want to get your BJJ back belt, you must refine your basics every day. So, your daily action might read, “Drill a core fundamental for 30 minutes.”

To be clear, there will be other, auxiliary activities that you will also have to do. An author must also edit what they have written. A BJJ athlete must also regularly do sparring. But there is always one foundational habit at the base level of the pyramid. This is the habit we will track via the Seinfeld Strategy.

3. Get a Calendar

Get a big wall calendar, one that shows all 365 days of the year at one glance. Amazon has them. Get a red marker with that.

Find a wall to put up the calendar. I recommend choosing a wall that you regularly have to look at. Think the wall across your desk, not that empty wall in the closet. Oftentimes, that will mean moving some furniture around. But if you are serious about your goal, you should be willing to do that.

I don’t recommend virtual calendars or tracking apps on your phone for this. Don’t get me wrong, they also work, especially if you want to share your tracking sheet with your accountability partner; that is a winning combination.

But for the Seinfeld Strategy, i.e., pure self-motivation, keep it physical. Put that paper calendar up on that prominent wall.

4. Start Tracking

Now, for every day you execute on that one foundational habit, you get to put a large red X on your calendar. Remember — the goal is to never break the chain. Ideally, once you start, from here on out, it will be only Xs.

This works so well because you are essentially entering into a competition with yourself. “Can I keep this chain going indefinitely?” Also, by having this large visual representation of the challenge in front of you, it stays at the forefront of your mind.

The Essence of the Seinfeld Strategy

The true essence of the Seinfeld Strategy is not putting Xs on a calendar or even never breaking the chain (even though that last one is important).

The breaking point is identifying that one activity that you need to do without fail to live the life you want to live.

The Seinfeld strategy is really “becoming.” It understands — to become the thing you must do the thing. Everything else will fall into place then.

Here are a few examples of what that might look like.

Want to become a painter? Paint a picture every day.

Want to become a photographer? Take 100 pictures every day.

Want to become a professional chess player? Play 10 games every day.

Want to become a professional swimmer? Swim 5 miles every day.

Want to become a singer-songwriter? Write a new song every day.

Want to become a content creator on social media? Record and publish 5 shorts every day.

Pitfalls To Watch Out For

The appeal of the Seinfeld Strategy is its simplicity. Do one thing every day, and the results will come. But there is actually a lot of detail to it, once you start applying it. Many people get confused by these details and eventually abandon the strategy.

Here is how to navigate these obstacles.

1. “But I want to feel inspired”

Many people give up on the Seinfeld Strategy because of what I call the inspiration bias. They only want to work on their book when they feel inspired. They only want to write a song when they feel the kiss of the muse.

That is a surefire way to fail.

Ironically, if you want to do passion-based work, you can’t wait for passion to show up. You write your 500 words every day no matter what. You compose a crappy song no matter your mental state.

But a curious thing happens when you do — when you show up every day, some of these “bad” turn out to be great days. Inspiration stops by, seemingly out of the blue, even though you were not feeling it just 10 minutes ago.

Also, by never breaking the chain, you make sure you are ready when a truly “good” day comes around. There is no resistance to getting started or to keep going. Since you do this every day, the friction is minimal. You can fully exploit the creative mood you are in.

2. “I want to create better, not more”

With any kind of creative or entrepreneurial endeavor, there is this debate — quality vs. quantity. Should you try to win by increasing your output? Or should you strive to do less, but increase quality?

At first glance, the Seinfeld Strategy seems to fall onto the quantity side of the spectrum. “Just keep doing the thing every day.” There is no mention of quality.

This trips people up. They think to themselves, “What is the point of writing a lousy joke every day if it’s so bad that I am never going to use it on stage?”

But it’s not true. The Seinfeld Strategy’s primary focus is quality. It understands — to get to perfection, you must put the reps in. You must start doing the thing every day, to eventually do it well.

Of course, mindlessly doing more is not going to help. Just creating more crappy shorts for Instagram won’t make you famous. Just doing more biceps curls with little intensity will not make you big. You must practice with intention. You must strive to refine your reps.

But it starts with the reps, not with the refinement. The refinement happens later.

3. “I need to come up with a strategy first”

Most people postpone doing the thing as they don’t have the perfect strategy in place yet.

“Before I start writing jokes every day, I want to come up with my stage persona as a comedian first.”

“Before I start working on my screenplay, I want to have a complete outline first.”

“Before I start creating content for my personal brand, I want to research the best niche and the best platform first.”

“Before I start going to the gym, I want to research the most effective workout program and diet first.”

They are trying to come up with the perfect strategy on the drawing board — but it’s not working. All they are doing is postponing action.

Start doing the thing. Your strategy will become clear as you do the thing.

Am I saying you shouldn’t have a plan? No. For example, as a content creator, you should make an educated guess about your platform and your niche. You need a starting point.

Just be aware that most of these initial hypotheses turn out to be wrong. That is perfectly normal. As you gather more data actually doing the thing, you start to realize your mistake and course correct. That’s how the game works.

For this reason, don’t spend an exorbitant amount of time on strategy; it will change anyway. Give yourself a week or two, tops, to do research. Then start doing and fill in the blanks as you go.

4. “I am not getting results”

People start doing the Seinfeld Strategy and expect immediate results. They think if they have a 30-day streak going, they should already be rich and famous.

Well, think again. Like everybody, you are grossly underestimating the effort that is required. Don’t think 30 days, think 300 days before you start seeing some initial, mild results.

5. “I must reach goal X in 6 months from now”

Goal X doesn’t care about what you want. It takes as long as it takes. Instead of fixating on the outcome so much, fixate on the process:

  • Make sure you absolutely never break the chain
  • Make sure to reduce friction as much as possible
  • Make sure to always refine your output

Process over outcome — that is how you get there.

6. “I had this one hiccup”

When you start out with the Seinfeld Strategy, there is this temptation to get very granular. You look at every single attempt and analyze the heck out of it. You get lost in the details.

But especially in the beginning, it is not about the details. It is about establishing the habit.

Don’t fret about that one customer turning you down — it is really about developing that cold-calling habit.

Don’t fret about that one girl or guy telling you “No” — it is really about developing the habit of talking to strangers.

Don’t fret about that particular page reading like crap — it is really about developing that daily writing habit.

Don’t get too hung up on the details. Yes, you want to refine. But at the same time, you need a large enough data set to see patterns. That one, isolated instant won’t provide you with enough information yet. Keep collecting more data, then start analyzing.

7. “I failed once, now I’m done”

I keep saying how you should never break the chain. I stand by it — that must be the ultimate goal. But to get to that point, ironically, you will have to break the chain a couple of times first.

Consistency is a skill. You need to learn it first before you can start reaping the benefits. And with any learning effort, there will be failures in the beginning.

So, mentally prepare yourself for that. Strive to never break the chain, but know it will most likely happen a couple of times in the beginning, until you have mastered the skill of consistency.

The trick is to reframe these failures. Don’t think, “I failed, I am bad at this.” Instead, think, “I failed, yes. But it’s a necessary aspect of building that consistency skill. So really, I got one important milestone out of the way. Now let’s try again.”

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