Here is a simple yet powerful tool to establish habits, learn a skill, or complete a project. I used it to reinforce my daily meditation practice and to write two books.
The method is as old as procrastination but has been attributed recently to billionaire comedian Jerry Seinfeld, as in this frequently cited LifeHacker article, where it is called Don’t Break the Chain. I prefer positive instructions, so let’s name it Link-a-Day.
Buy or make a simple, clean one-year calendar. Do not just print your Outlook or Google calendar; those have too many distracting details for this purpose. You can start your own on any date and fit 365 days on one sheet by downloading my template here in Excel format or use the Google Sheets version here.
Print your calendar and place it in the physical world rather than hide it in a computer or app where it can be too easily ignored. Hang it where you will see it every day. I put mine on the wall right next to my computer monitor.
After you complete the promised activity for the day, mark it complete. When you miss a day or two, start again. No regrets, no excuses. Just start again. You can play games with Link-a-Day by playing for a longer unbroken chain or a shorter gap than last time.
That’s it. As Aristotle observed, a person is what she consistently does. Use this to start doing something you will be proud to be.
We are, therefore, wisely framed to be as warmly interested for a fictitious as for a real personage. The field of imagination is thus laid open to our use and lessons may be formed to illustrate and carry home to the heart every moral rule of life. Thus a lively and lasting sense of filial duty is more effectually impressed on the mind of a son or daughter by reading King Lear, than by all the dry volumes of ethics and divinity that ever were written. This is my idea of well-written Romance, of Tragedy, Comedy and Epic poetry.
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In the late 1960s, an MIT student went to a meditation class by Philip Kapleau, author of the classic, The Three Pillars of Zen. The student only went because his Ph.D. advisor had invited the speaker to campus.
No word on whether Roshi Kapleau was discouraged to see only four listeners in the large lecture hall, the organizer, his student, and two others. We do know that he effectively delivered his message because that student became Jon Kabat-Zinn, the most influential promoter, teacher, and scientific researcher of meditation in the history of the West.
It is not a speaker’s job to judge the audience. We save the world one speech, sometimes one listener, at a time.