Don't Break the Chain!

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A great motivational tool for process goals!


Don't Break the Chain is a motivational technique used to track daily process goals. The basic method employs a monthly wall calendar. Each time a daily process goal is completed, a mark or sticker is put in the box for that specific day. The idea is to see how far you can get without missing a day. If a day is missed, the count starts over. (Note: The larger the mark or sticker, the greater the visual impression.)

Don't Break the Chain works on three levels

Firstly, there is the built-in incentive to try and keep the chain going. This can help a great deal with daily motivation, especially if you stick to the plan and restart every time you miss a day.

Secondly, it provides a visual record of your progress. This helps you see that you are making steady progress towards your goal. Even if you miss a day and have to start your count again, you still have visible proof that you are progressing forward.

Thirdly, and indirectly, it aids in the development of new, positive habits. Through experimentation, NASA determined that it can take 21-46 days for the brain to neurologically hard-wired a habit. They also determined that even missing one day during this period can interfere with the process. So by not breaking the chain, you are actually creating a new positive habit.

Obviously there is a fourth bonus in applying this method. If you stick with it, you will undoubtedly reach your goal.

I have used this system with great success. However, I chose a slightly different tool. I created a physical chain using brightly-colored paper clips. In my case, the daily incentive was even greater, because if I missed a day, I had to dismantle the chain (which is a tedious task in itself). The other thing that I really liked about the paper clip chain, was that it was tactile. I have a massive bulletin board which I use for work, and I really enjoyed maneuvering my chain from top to bottom and side to side. It eventually covered the entire board and went trailing off to the floor. The ritual of adding paperclips was also motivating. There were many days when I quadrupled my quota, just so I could add 4 paper clips instead of one. Maybe I'm just a sucker for ritual, or symbols, or both... but Don't Break The Chain certainly helped me create the majority of this website, so I know it works. And actually, it was fun too!

If you have an iPhone, there are several Apps available that allow you to create visual chains. I have used Streaks. It allows you to track multiple goals. It doesn't have a built-in reminder (which I think is cheating a bit anyway), but it does display your current longest streak on the badge icon - which should be reminder enough.

If you want motivation for your daily process goals, I highly recommend you give the Don't Break the Chain method a try. Whether you use a calendar, paper clips, an App, coins in a jar, or anything else you can think of - this may be the motivational tool you've been looking for!



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