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Repetition, Motivation, and Seinfeld Calendars

Posted on January 18th, 2009 by Neil Crosby. Filed under Blog Posts.

A couple of months ago I wrote about Calendar About Nothing, a Seinfeld Calendar designed to keep track of your open source contributions, and my goal to achieve a flow of 60 uninterrupted days. Over Christmas I managed to get to 50 days before a bout of Christmas visits and another Seinfeld calendar stopped me in my tracks.

For those not in the know, Seinfeld Calendars are named after Jerry Seinfeld, who when asked how he managed to come up with so many ideas put it down to doing a little writing every day. So the story goes, he had a wall calendar that he’d put a big red cross through the date of every day that he did any writing. By building up an uninterrupted row of crosses he was provided a means of motivation to continue and make that uninterrupted set of days even longer. As the effort to break that record grew, so too did the motivation to not break the streak of days and have to start building it up again.

Seinfeld Calendars really are an excellent means of motivation, which I guess is why they’re used so often. Off the top of my head I can think of Seinfeld Calendars in Calendar About Nothing, Wii Fit, Flickr, the Nintendo DS Brain Training games and pretty much any Project 365 you can think of. They are everywhere, and provide a great way of motivating people to keep producing content.

Unfortunately, Seinfeld Calendars aren’t always great. Since I hit my 50 day high on Calendar About Nothing I’ve been pretty lax about getting back on the horse. Because of the amount of effort required to get to 50 days I’ve been less inclined to try and re-reach it. After all, I’m already in the middle of the “best ever streaks” list on Calendar About Nothing, and it’s going to take almost two months of concerted effort to get any higher.

This is the sort of problem that any “top ten ever” list has though – the people at the top have put in a lot of effort to get there, and it will never get any easier for new people to get onto the list. This is one of the reasons why I don’t (obviously) show a Top Ten of All Time list on The Ten Word Review any more — as a new user, seeing those old timers at the top of a high scoring list can be very disconcerting. Instead, I show a rolling “best scoring” list for the past week which obviously has a much lower barrier to entry.

It’s this sort of thing that would be interesting to see integrated into Seinfeld Calendar Systems. Rather than trying to beat your best streak ever, maybe try beating your best streak in the last month or three. Maybe try and “fill the month”. For me, anything that makes the calendar into a game that’s winnable with a little effort is enough for me to put that effort in. If the effort required is too high though, all bets are off.

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One Response to “Repetition, Motivation, and Seinfeld Calendars”

  1. What I love about the Seinfeld calendar is that it lets you channel your stubbornness and redirect it from not starting into not missing your reps.

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