For this sprint, I am working on something hard and time-consuming. I have just one goal for this sprint – to create a free workshop that I will host in the near future. The workshop is about three steps that you can do in order to launch your project in three months or less. I’m summarizing all the lessons that I’ve learned from launching different products myself and from helping my clients to launch their products such as side businesses, YouTube channels, podcasts, and online courses.
Creating this workshop is a lot of work. It’s one of those projects that I call a marathon project. They’re so time-consuming and so long that you really need to have some serious stamina to go through them. I’ve had two other marathon projects in the last five years: writing my masters’ thesis and finding a job.
I find the best way to approach these long-lasting marathon projects is to apply the Don’t Break the Chain Rule. You’ve probably heard about it from other sources. It is sometimes called the Seinfeld method.
Don’t Break the Chain Rule
The productivity method commits you to completing a daily goal for an extended period of time. Each day that you complete your daily goal, you add an “x” to a calendar. Eventually, you build a chain of x’s that extends days, weeks, or months. This streak of accomplishments is increasingly rewarding and dissuades you from breaking the chain. Eventually you’re able to build a long-term habit like daily journaling or morning stretching.
As you can see, this method is traditionally used for building habits.
I use it to work on long-lasting marathon projects. Of course, I like to make my own twist on this rule.
Following regular Scrum rituals
I still have my 3-week sprints. I still set my sprint goals. I still use a very clear definition of done. And I still do my sprint reviews.
I’ve written more about these practices here:
For example, this sprint I have one major work goal – Finish a workshop titled “3 steps to launch your product in 3 months or less”. Definition of done: Workshop slides are created, edited and designed. Talking points are written for each slide. In short, I am ready to present this workshop to an audience.
Decide on the criteria for the Don’t Break the Chain Rule
Whenever I want to make consistent progress on such time-consuming projects, I know I need to work on it daily Monday – Friday. And I pick the minimum amount of work I want to produce every day.
I want to emphasize one major difference between my approach and the regular Don’t Break the Chain Rule approach. My minimum daily goal is always presented in some sort of result, some sort of finished shippable work. It’s not enough to just work on a project for 1 hour. I need to produce an outcome from that 1 hour. Therefore, doing passive actions such as researching or planning doesn’t qualify for a cross on my calendar. It needs to be something tangible, something I can show to another person and say “Here, I’ve made this” (as Seth Godin would say.)
- When I was writing my thesis, my daily minimum was 500 words. Not 2 hours spent working on my thesis. No, it was putting in the words. Something I can show to my thesis supervisor and say, “Here, I wrote this section”. Some days I managed to write more. Some days it was exactly 500 words. Some days it took 1 hour. Some days it took 3. But all I cared about was the result – my word count increasing by at least 500 words every workday. If it did, I would put a cross on my calendar.
- When I was looking for a new job, my daily minimum was 10 job applications submitted per day.
- When I am working on my workshop, it is one section of a webinar or 5 slides, which is usually around 10 slides. Something I can email to my coach and say “Here, check it out. I’ve completed Section 2 of my workshop. What do you think?”
As you can see, the daily minimum is something you can share with other people. Something that is very specific, very tangible, something that consistently moves you forward to the final result.
How you can visualize Don’t Break the Chain Rule
This is a simple table I drew in my A4 notebook I carry with me.
Instead of an X, I put a shippable outcome I produced that day. It works the same way – I like seeing the chain and I’m motivated not to break it.
Another fun way to do it is to snap a picture of your daily result. It would work incredibly well for renovation, DIY, art, or craft projects. If you have one of those Palaroid cameras that print out the picture immediately, it is even better! You can dedicate a small section on a wall to post those pictures to keep you motivated to “not break the chain.”
How you can apply the Don’t Break the Chain Rule to your long-lasting project
- Select a sprint duration from 3-6 weeks long.
- Set a goal for the first sprint
- Create a clear definition of done for this goal
- Select when you want to work on your goal (every day or Monday – Friday)
- Select the minimum daily outcome
- Create some sort of visual representation of the chain (I think analog is always better than digital because you are more likely to see it on a daily basis). You can do it in your notebook, wall calendar, or sticky notes on a wall. You can be as creative as you want to. But don’t spend too much time on this step.
- Record daily outcomes and see your chain grow.
Other cool rules and mind tricks I have up my sleeve that might help you with your productivity:
- How to be consistent. Normalize, then optimize. The Rule of 10.
- Mind trick for starting new habits and building consistency
- The one-way to-do list
- Stop having this flawed assumption when setting goals
- The one question that stops my procrastination
- The one question that turns a lazy day around
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