Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Breast Enlargement Hypnosis: Fact or Fiction?

Breast implant surgery is on the rise, as are a multitude of other surgeries for body augmentations to meet public demand to look better, or even look 'perfect'. There are now many websites in existence that claim their program can increase the size of your breasts (or penis) using only the natural state of hypnosis; but can these claims be justified?

The below is taken from:

A study featured on the The Learning Channel and conducted at Manchester University in England is of particular interest to proponents of breast enlargement hypnosis. Researchers separated participants into two groups: one group did actual muscle-building activities and the other spent the same amount of time simply visualizing muscle growth. Remarkably, the group engaging in hypnotic visualizations saw almost half of the increase gained by the group engaging in physical activity. If visualizing alone is enough to build muscle by over 16%, then it is enough to build breast tissue by the same amount or more.

Interested in discovering how visualization can help increase bust size naturally, Allan R. Staib and D. R. Logan of the University of Houston studied the effects of daily, guided imagery sessions on breast size. Results showed an average increase of 2.11 inches as well as reduced waistlines in each of the participants.

A study conducted by Dr. Richard D. Willard at the Institute of Behavioral and Mind Sciences in Indiana, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, showed similar results. At the end of 12-weeks of daily self-hypnosis and visual imagery exercises all 22 women analyzed experienced an average increase of 2.11 inches, and reported more well-proportioned and firmer breasts.

And from an exert from the study, R D Willard, Breast Enlargement Through Visual Imagery and Hypnosis. "The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis"

'At the end of 12 weeks, 28% of women had reached the goal they had set at the beginning of the program and desired no further enlargement. There were 85% who could tell that a significant enlargement in their breasts had been accomplished. 46% found it necessary to buy a larger brassiere. 42% had a loss in weight of greater than 4 pounds and still had an enlargement of their breasts. The average increase in circumference was 1.37 inches. The average increase in the vertical measurement was 0.67 inches and the average increase in horizontal measurement was 1.01 inches.'

But how exactly are these changes even possible? provides this explanation:

Breast Enlargement Hypnosis works by allowing your body to communicate to the deepest of its inner levels, using its own language. This communication allows for the creation of cells, tissues, nerves and muscles, all made of the required hormones necessary to help with the development of your breasts.

It does though lead on to an obvious question. "How does hypnosis communicate with your body?"

The communication occurs by bridging across to your subconscious mind. In essence the complexity of the language of the body means that we only have control of 2% of all of its potential through the conscious section of our mind. It is the subconscious that has contact interaction with the body, and as a result it is the subconscious that allows the body to operate.
All functions no exceptions …
Hypnosis is by far and away the most effective method to communicate with your subconscious mind. The use of hypnosis can easily provide the commands needed to generate all the required elements of breast enlargement.

I can hear you already asking the next question, "How Does Breast Enlargement Hypnosis Help Create My Breasts?"

There are three simple steps to the process…
1. Relaxation
2. Visualization or Imagination
3. Indirect suggestions.

During hypnosis, it is the conscious mind that is being hypnotized, and it is basically being told to take a subservient role to the subconscious mind. It is during hypnosis that the use of the subconscious mind allows us to communicate at the deeper levels.

It is often said that "a picture is worth a thousand words", and when you consider it, you will realize that a movie is just thousands of pictures put together. Visualization is a mental movie, where a series of pictures is created within the mind. This visualization is the best way to communicate with your subconscious mind, providing a clear image of what it is required to create.
By visualizing bigger and more attractive breasts, you can command your subconscious mind to create the breasts that you want. Through continual practice, you will begin to see the first results of the visualization in only two or three weeks.

Indirect Suggestions:
Indirect suggestions are messages that are sent to your subconscious mind, these messages though are designed so that they do not create any form of conflict, all that they do is to sink down into your inner mind. Despite the name, once the indirect suggestions are in the mind, they act directly.

Scientific research appears to support the claim then, but it does not show breathtaking alterations to every person that undertakes the program. So can Hypnosis really be used to change  your body? Yes. But some perspective and reality needs to be taken into consideration. It appears to work for some people, in-line with their genetic predisposition. If you are a cup size 32A the chances of jumping to a 32D appear to be minimal.

The question of body change was answered superbly by Psychotherapist, Counsellor and Hypnotherapist David Fairweather (website):

If you are looking to change your weight within the healthy range for your age as advised by a health advisor, then almost certainly hypnosis can help you. If you are in the midst of puberty and your body has yet to reach it’s genetic potential, then hypnosis may possibly help you maximize your genetic potential. If you are a 40 year old 5’2” male who would like to be a 25 year old 6’ male, then hypnosis absolutely cannot help you!
We are not lizards, we cannot grow new limbs, so it stands to reason that, once fully developed into adulthood we also cannot alter our matured bodies or fix age related baldness, simply by sending desires out to the universe and believing their fulfillment to be true. Sorry.
Your brain is certainly in control of everything about you including your ongoing cellular regeneration (healing, repairing cuts and bruises, fighting cancerous tumours etc) your biochemistry (creating and circulating seretonin, stress hormones, immune system functioning etc), and to some extent, your genetic potential, however, we are limited by the restrictions of reality.
Most psychosomatic conditions are triggered by stress, even blindness, deafness and physical immobility “caused” by the brain as a result of psychological trauma. Many somataform and psychosomatic conditions, can be resolved by accessing and engaging the sub-conscious mind (hysterical blindness for example), so stress related bald patches are open to treatment, the reversal of age related baldness, not so much.
Reality is where I do my therapeutic work. At times, that may involve working within a subjective inner reality, but, unless believing you have grown 10” or that you are not really bald, is sufficient success, then by all means you do not have to settle for my subjective truth, I’m sure you will find someone willing to take your money to strive for unrealistic physical enhancements, but please do not be offended that I would rather decline your business. Sorry.

Monday, 28 May 2012

10 Things to do in 10 Minutes That Can Improve Your Life

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Video: How to Spot a Liar. Pamela Meyer

As a follow up to the last post, this is Pamela Meyer speaking at Ted Talk Global 2011 about everything connected to lies.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Body Language and Detecting Lies

You've likely heard that body language accounts for up to 55% of how we communicate, but reading non-verbal cues isn't just about broad strokes. The same gesture can indicate a number of different things depending on context. In this post, we're going to take a look at three common situations in which non-verbal cues are especially important—detecting lies, going on a date, and interviewing for a job—then explain how to interpret body language more accurately so that you can read between the lines when a person's words aren't necessarily conveying the way that they honestly feel.
We lie a lot. When having a conversation with a stranger, chances are we'll lie in the first ten minutes. Sometimes we'll lie more than once in that same period of time. These may not always be big lies, but we still do it. We all willingly partake in deception from time to time because it helps us avoid conflict, but often we're better off knowing the truth. While words can be deceptive, the human body is a terrible liar. This is where reading body language and using your own effectively, can be extremely useful when communicating with others. First, the basics.

Body Language Basics

When you're reading body language, your primary goal is to determine whether or not a person is comfortable in their current situation. Once you do this, it's a process of using context and other cues—which we'll get into later—to figure out the specifics. There are plenty of ways a person may indicate their comfort level, but here are a few of the most common.
Positive body language:
  • Moving or leaning closer to you
  • Relaxed, uncrossed limbs
  • Long periods of eye contact
  • Looking down and away out of shyness
  • Genuine smiles
Negative body language:
  • Moving or leaning away from you
  • Crossed arms or legs
  • Looking away to the side
  • Feet pointed away from you, or towards an exit
  • Rubbing/scratching their nose, eyes, or the back of their neck
A single cue can mean a myriad of things. For example, crossed arms falls under the category of negative body language and can suggest that a person is physically cold, closed off, or frustrated. It can even indicate that they've simply had too much to eat. It's necessary to pay attention to multiple behavioral cues as a single one can be misleading. While it will help to indicate comfort level, to really understand why you need to look deeper. This means paying attention to other cues as well as their context. As we get into the specific situations, we'll look at how these cues work together to help uncover the truth in a given moment.

Spot a Liar

One of the biggest advantages of learning to read body language well is being able to judge when someone is lying with a fair amount of accuracy. Your intuition is never going to be 100% accurate, but with a little practice you can become more aware of when you're being fed a load of crap. It's very important to recognize what kind of lies you are actually detecting. The techniques we're going to discuss in this section correspond to big lies—the lies people tell when they are uncomfortable or afraid of the truth. These skills will get you almost nowhere in detecting white lies, small lies of omission, and what people do most often: exaggerate. Those types of deception are very hard to detect, and it's important to remember that, regardless of the type of untruth, you'll never know for certain. You can, however, pick up on common cues so you know when to hold a healthy suspicion about what a person is saying.
Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, conducted significant research on the ways we lie to figure out the common patterns in our body language. She found that liars often exhibit much of the behavior you'd find in any other uncomfortable person, but with a few very specific additional traits.
Fake Smiles

People are bad at offering a genuine smile when they're lying. In fact, a genuine smile (often referred to as a Duchenne smile), is often said to be impossible to fake. This is why many of us end up with awkward family photos. We may think we look like we're smiling, but to most anyone it looks like we're faking it. This is because your smile is in your eyes, or, more specifically, the wrinkles around them. You display a few crows feet when you smile genuinely because your smile pushes up your cheeks which bunches up the skin near your eyes. It's fairly hard to fake this. You need to feel some sort of genuine happy emotion at the time to do it, and when you're uncomfortable this is next to impossible. This is why a non-genuine smile can be a helpful indicator of a lie in progress.
Stiff Upper Body and Too Much Eye Contact

Liars like to overcompensate when they're lying, and so they'll often try to remain still and offer eye contact. This will often result in so much eye contact it's often a little unsettling, and their body will become stiff because they're attempting not to fidget. Normally, people move and do not hold eye contact for extended periods of time. When uncomfortable, however, people will often rub their neck or eyes and look away to the side. Rather than exhibit the positive body language that would imply comfort, liars tend to opt for doing very little. This, in and of itself, is an indicator. Look for tense shoulders and an unusually high amount of eye contact and you'll be more likely to spot a liar.
Context and Paired Behaviors

In addition to all these non-verbal cues, you'll need to pay attention to the context. Liars will often offer more details in their stories, suggest punishments for the "real culprit" if they're being accused of something, and answer you questions with a question to give them time to fabricate an answer rather than provide you with the truth. These behaviors, when paired with standard negative body language and the previously mentioned cues that liars exhibit, give you the right mix of untrustworthy behavior. Separately they may not mean much, but together they point to dishonesty.
It's important to remember, however, that some people are just awkward and exhibit this kind of behavior with regularity. You should take the way a person normally acts into consideration as well. Watch their mannerisms and eye movements when you know they're telling the truth and compare that to the times when you think they're lying. When you see consistent change when certain statements are made, you'll know how this specific person acts when they're thinking of what to say rather than recalling information. Again, this or anything else previously mentioned isn't sufficient in detecting lies. You have to look for multiple cues or what you'll just discover that you're fooling yourself into believing you know the difference between fact and fiction.

Read People on a Date

When you're out on a first date, body language can be an incredibly helpful tool. If you're not paying attention to the non-verbal cues your date is exhibiting, you can often go on talking about something that makes them uncomfortable or they find unpleasant. While you don't want to go into a date hiding who you are, you do want to put your best foot forward so, in the event you are a decent match, you can bring up the riskier topics a bit later once your date already likes you. This, of course, means paying close attention to your date's behavior which can be difficult when you're supposed to be speaking charismatically and listening to what they're saying. With a little practice, however, you'll get the hang of watching for the right signals and won't have to spend much time thinking about them.
You're not looking for anything complicated on a date—just the general indications of comfort and discomfort we outlined earlier. This means you're simply paying attention to how guarded your date is with their body. Initially, most people will be fairly guarded. They'll cross their arms, keep a reasonable amount of distance, and keep their palms facing themselves. This is okay and fairly common on a first date, and your goal is to change that body language into something more open and welcoming. You'll do this naturally when you connect with them, but you can encourage open body language by providing it yourself. We tend to mimic the behavior of others to some extent, so if you're warm and comfortable it will help your date change his or her behavior to match. This means keeping your arms uncrossed and open, offering a genuine smile whenever feasible and appropriate, avoiding distance from your date, and even showing your palms. All of these things imply that you're comfortable and will help make your date more comfortable as well.
You also want to be careful not to psych yourself out just because you picked up on some negative body language. Levels of comfort fluctuate frequently on dates because it's often a little nerve-wracking for most people in the first place. Don't worry about making a few mistakes. As a piano instructor would tell you for a recital, if you play a wrong note you should just keep going. Watch the non-verbal cues to see how you're doing and focus on anything that provides positive body language. If you receive extended moments of negative body language, move on to another topic. Of course, sometimes you're just not going to click and the date is going to be an awkward evening full of negative non-verbal cues. If this happens, the same piano-playing principal applies: don't get hung up on a problem—just move on.

Communicate Effectively in a Job Interview

Job interviews are a lot like first dates in the sense that you're trying to convince another person, whom you don't know, to like you. The key difference is that on a date you're both meeting on equal ground. When you go into a job interview, however, the interviewer has most of the power and you have, essentially, none at all. This creates an environment where you're going to likely be considerably more uncomfortable than the interviewer. You'll display negative body language as a result, and that's not good. When interviewing for a job, you want to override any non-verbal communication that makes you seem closed off.
A charismatic beginning can make all the difference, as first impressions are hugely important in hiring decisions. A smile, pleasant handshake, warm greeting, and the previously mentioned positive body language will set the stage for a comfortable interview. You don't know what sort of (potentially negative) expectations your interviewer is bringing to the table, so it's never a bad thing to override them by demonstrating you're a pleasant and charismatic individual.
Offering up the previously discussed positive body language is easier said than done when you're uncomfortable, so the best thing you can do to override that discomfort is to feel prepared. (A lack of preparation is the main reason you suck in an interview, after all.) Even if you begin to feel unprepared later on, walking into the room with confidence will at least help you make that important first impression. To prepare, research the company. Remember a few useful "sound bites" to use and fall back on if you're struggling. Know what differentiates you and makes you special and remind yourself right before you walk into the room. Preparation breeds confidence, and it'll be easier to display positive body language when you're feeling good about yourself.
While natural comfort is going to be your most valuable tool, there are a few tricks that can help you out. Assuming American cultural standards, eye contact is more important in a job interview than most other situations. If you have trouble meeting someone's eyes, just look at their mouth. You'll also want to avoid blocking your own eyes in any way, as doing so can convey discomfort (among other negative feelings). Just like on a date, leaning slightly forward is a positive cue for your interviewer. It also helps to appear to be a good listener, as you'll be talking most of the time. When you ask your own questions, or your interviewer has something to tell you, eye contact is especially important. You can also convey that you're in a "listening mode" by occasionally placing part of your hand over your mouth. This helps indicate to others that you're not going to talk and therefore paying attention.
All of this said, every interviewer is going to understand that you'll be a little nervous. It's natural and no reasonable person should or would expect anybody to walk in with no tension whatsoever. If you're a little bit tense, don't worry about it. That much is expected. In fact, too much comfort might convey to some that you're overconfident and not taking the interview seriously. In the end, your fate rests in the hands of another human being so there's only so much you can do. They may not like your shoes or prefer to hire someone younger or older. You never know what you're going to run into, but you can at least try to tip the scales in your favor with the help of some positive body language.
Remember: Body Language Is Only Part of the Picture
A better understanding of human body language can be useful in your own communication and in understanding others. It can also be a lot of fun to feel like you know what other people are thinking, when they're lying to you, and how comfortable they are in a given situation. That said, you're not a psychic. You can't read minds and the non-verbal cues you interpret are never going to tell you exactly what someone is feeling or thinking with spot-on accuracy. These techniques will help you find clues that can help you understand other people. Use them to communicate better and gain a better awareness of those around you. Don't pretend they're magic. All you're doing is paying closer attention to your natural, human intuition.
By Adam Dachis, original source
Special thanks to Samantha McCullough, William J. Tebbenhoff II, and Tyrone Mann for their contributions. This article also references information from the work of Pamela Meyer and Joe Navarro

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Treating Drug Addiction With Hypnotherapy

'Malkovich' left this comment on my blog post "How Can You Be Addicted to a Behaviour?": 

'Hypnotherapy sounds exciting. Do you know any cases that managed to deal with drug addiction with this method? I think it's all in our minds most of the time.'
To answer this question I found a great article from that discusses some of the main points surrounding uses of hypnosis for drug addiction. Beneath that I have included some research (including a case study) that shows how effective hypnosis can be in successfully treating drug addiction. 
It has often been said that one of the hardest things to tackle is drug addiction. However there are ways to help people who are addicted to drugs. One of these is to use hypnosis. There are several centers that use group hypnosis to tackle this problem.
First of all, just as it would happen in an individual session, the sufferers will be prepared, by being given a thorough explanation of the process. Then trance will be induced, deepened and used by giving detailed suggestions geared towards cessation of the destructive habit.
Suggestions to this effect will probably make willing subjects give up their addiction for the foreseeable future, provided their motivation to change was strong.
The only problem with this is its generalized approach. Because the therapy is not individualized and since people get addicted to drugs for all kinds of personal reasons and might be at different stages in their process of healing,  it might be that this way of working is only suited to some and not to all.
It is well known that hypnotherapy can be highly effective in treating people with an addiction to cigarettes. In the same way other addictions can be treated very effectively because the same principle is at work: hypnosis bypasses the critical conscious mind and deals directly with the subconscious.
Clinical trials have showed that out of ten individuals that tried group hypnosis to treat their drug addiction, all of them stayed drug free for six months after their sessions came to an end. However, after two years had passed, seven out of ten stayed drug free while the other three went back to taking drugs.
Obviously these results are very positive, and while results may not show up immediately, after a few sessions it has been proven that people stay clean for an average of two years or more.
There are some factors that are going to influence whether an addict is going to respond positively to this “group” approach. First of all, as already mentioned, there must be a strong motivation to stay free of drugs and a willingness to try hypnotherapy.
One of the first things you should ask yourself, if you have a drug problem, is whether you are willing to admit that you do have a problem and if you would be comfortable to join a centre for rehabilitation. Once there you could try many of the different techniques that will be on offer and if you don’t succeed with the others, try group hypnosis.
If on the other hand you feel you’d rather seek individual treatment you could see a hypnotherapist as well as a counsellor / psychotherapist and tackle the problem with their joined support. It is very important when you do this that you are truthful and you collaborate fully with them. They are bound by confidentiality and they will be able to help you more if you answer their questions with honesty.
Hypnotherapy, whether used in a group or not is very helpful in the treatment of addictions and it has been found to be highly effective in treating people with all sorts of issues. The only prerequisite is to be open to it working.
Whether you decide to go for the group sessions or the individual therapy, one session is not going to enough. A few sessions will be necessary (probably more when group hypnosis is concerned), but you will be able to feel the results fairly quickly, within the fist few days or weeks after you have started seeing a hypnotherapist.
And for the research... (courtesy of
Hypnosis Shows 77 Percent Success Rate for Drug Addiction                                               Treatment has been used with 18 clients over the last 7 years and has shown a 77 percent success rate for at least a 1-year follow-up. 15 were being seen for alcoholism or alcohol abuse, 2 clients were being seen for cocaine addiction, and 1 client had a marijuana addiction                                                                 Intensive Therapy: Utilizing Hypnosis in the Treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders. Potter, Greg, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Jul 2004.
Hypnosis For Cocaine Addiction Documented Case Study                                                       
Hypnosis was successfully used to overcome a $500 (five grams) per day cocaine addiction. The subject was a female in her twenties. After approximately 8 months of addiction, she decided to use hypnosis in an attempt to overcome the addiction itself. Over the next 4 months, she used hypnosis three times a day and at the end of this period, her addiction was broken, and she has been drug free for the past 9 years. Hypnosis was the only intervention, and no support network of any kind was available.                                           
The use of hypnosis in cocaine addiction. Page RA, Handley GW, Ohio State University, Lima, OH USA 45804. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1993 Oct;36(2):120-3

Significantly More Methadone Addicts Quit with Hypnosis. 94% Remained Narcotic Free Significant differences were found on all measures. The experimental group had significantly less discomfort and illicit drug use, and a significantly greater amount of cessation. At six month follow up, 94% of the subjects in the experimental group who had achieved cessation remained narcotic free.                               A comparative study of hypnotherapy and psychotherapy in the treatment of methadone addicts. Manganiello AJ, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1984; 26(4): 273-9.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Consciousness and the Illusion of Reality

Friday, 18 May 2012

Hypnosis and Fertility: Can Hypnotherapy Aid Conception?

Conception is defined as the union of a male sperm and a female ovum resulting in a zygote. Prior to the first pregnancy which resulted from in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in 1973 it was believed that human fertilisation must occur within the woman’s body. Although this pregnancy only lasted a few days, it wasn’t long before further experimentation resulted in the successful birth of Louise Brown in 1978.

Louise Brown has gone down in history as the first ever ‘test tube’ baby, signifying the beginning of reproductive endocrinology. Since her birth extensive research and further discoveries have meant that couples with fertility problems now have a variety of medical options available to them. Many couples, who may never have been able to have a baby, are now parents because of assisted reproductive technology (ART). And yet there are many others, who after countless attempts at a variety of interventions remain childless.

Unfortunately ART only offers people another option and isn’t necessarily the solution to fertility problems. When it comes to having a baby, there are no guarantees. With all the advancements in science, embryologists still can’t say who will and who won’t go home with a baby. The creation of life is wonderfully intriguing and mysterious, and I suspect the answers can’t be found under a microscope.

It isn’t hard to see how difficult having fertility problems can be. And with an ever increasing number of people choosing to try IVF, it seems that this struggle may have become compounded. IVF is a very time consuming, intense and demanding procedure. People put a lot of financial and emotional investment into it, and some believe that there happiness depends upon the successful outcome.

Irrespective of the outcome, going through a cycle of IVF is likely to have a negative effect physically, emotionally and psychologically. The impact of which is magnified by treatment failure. The demanding nature of the procedure can also affect people’s work and social life. The high financial cost of IVF is well known and with some couples choosing to do 3 or more cycles the financial burden can become heavy. It is also quite understandable that relationships may suffer sexually and emotionally under these kinds of stressful circumstances. Simply put, IVF can affect every aspect of life, and in the case of an unsuccessful outcome, people may be left feeling devastated, disappointed, exhausted, stressed and without hope.

In the time that I have worked with people undergoing IVF, I have heard repeatedly that hypnosis has made such a positive difference to their experience that they can’t believe anyone would go through IVF without it. Whilst some fertility units offer counselling to their patients, I think that the inclusion of hypnosis offers so much more than talking therapy alone.

Firstly, clients can be taught how to achieve a deep state of relaxation using hypnosis which will help to significantly reduce levels of stress. Secondly, hypnotherapy can be used to equip them with tools and inner resources which will help them to cope better and handle an unsuccessful outcome more easily. Thirdly, hypnosis can be used to help prepare mentally, emotionally and physically for IVF. This preparation can range from positive lifestyle changes, changing limiting beliefs to eliminating a needle phobia. And lastly, hypnosis can help to increase the chances of a successful outcome.

According to a study presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Berlin in July of 2004: hypnosis can effectively double the success of IVF treatments. The study was conducted by Professor Eliahu Levitas and his team at Soroka Hospital in Israel to determine if hypnosis could improve the success of the embryo transfers stage of IVF.

The study of 185 woman found that 28% of the women who were hypnotized for the IVF treatment became pregnant, compared to 14% of the women in the control group. Professor Levitas studied the effects of hypnosis for the IVF treatment and embryo transfer only, because prior studies that demonstrated the stress of the procedure created small contractions of the uterus that prevented the successful implantation of the fertilized egg. The professor indicated that tranquilizers had been used in prior studies, but nothing worked as well as hypnosis. "Performing embryo transfer under hypnosis may significantly contribute to an increased clinical pregnancy rate," Professor Levitas told the conference in Berlin.

By Sjanie Hugo

For the full article: 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Procrastination Help: Courtesy of Jerry Seinfeld

I've long been overwhelmed by an unwieldy list of goals that would sit, unaccomplished, in a long-term to-do list year after year. Then I came across a simple trick that solved my chronic problem. As gimmicky as it may sound, I'm now accomplishing everything I'd been putting off in just an hour a day. Here's how you can, too.

I exercise every day. My apartment is always neat and tidy. I've finished more projects in the last 60 days than I have in the entirety of 2011. I did all of this with very little effort. How? I finally decided to give Jerry Seinfeld's productivity secret a try. It's more commonly known as "Don't Break the Chain," and the concept is simple: spend some amount of time doing a desired activity every day and, when you do, cross off that day on a calendar. This creates a chain of Xs showing your progress. If you don't do your specified task on one day, you don't get an X and that chain is broken. It seems almost too simple to work, but it's allowed me to accomplish so much more than I ever thought possible.

That said, the concept wasn't perfect for me and it didn't account for things like sick days and vacations. The trick assumes you have one goal and never take a break. I wanted to exercise, keep my apartment clean, handle chores more responsibly, work on various development projects, and write screenplays, but not every single day for the rest of my life. Originally, I looked at my schedule and realized there was only about an hour per day I could devote to any of these tasks while still enjoying a social life and maintaining my sanity. That did not seem like enough time to do anything, so I gave up. But then, for some reason, "Don't Break the Chain" started inadvertently appearing in web searches and email messages. I'd heard about it but never really bothered to find out what it was or how it worked. When I finally looked, I realized that if I devoted 15 minutes per day to each one of my desired tasks I'd make some progress, and that would be better than no progress at all. Besides, practising multiple skills at once is supposed to be good for you. I figured, what's the harm?

I decided to start with three goals to try it out and so I put three calendars on the wall for the month of December. I marked one Writing, one Exercise, and one Cleaning. After a week I'd written about 30 pages, done 700 push ups and 980 sit ups, jogged several miles, and my apartment was as clean as a catalog photo. Everything was easy, my progress was visible, and my tasks started to become addictive.
Now that you know the broad story and what can be accomplished, let's talk about how this works.
The entire process is remarkably easy and you can get everything ready in about 15 to 30 minutes. We'll go over each step in detail, but here's the general outline:
  1. Figure out your goals. Start with no more than three, and add a fourth goal after three weeks if you can handle it.
  2. Set daily minimums for each goal. Things like "I will run one mile" or "I will put away 10 stray items" work better than setting a time limit.
  3. Set your boundaries and rules. Because this process expects you to work every single day, you have to figure out what you're going to do when you're sick, on vacation, or just find yourself in a situation where you won't be accomplishing your goal that day but don't deserve the punishment of a broken chain.
  4. Print out a calendar for each goal and label it with that goal. I prefer a series of monthly calendars because there's more room to make a big X, but traditionally "Don't Break the Chain" uses one year-long calendar. Either way, put these calendars up on your wall where you'll see them regularly.
  5. Buy a fat red marker, or any marker—the fat ones just make bigger and more rewarding Xs.

When you're selecting your goals, I've found it helps to start broadly. When I first began I wanted to write a very specific screenplay, but I knew I'd finish it and move on to something else. As a result, I simply made writing a goal. Additionally, your exercise routine shouldn't be the same every day or you won't get enough variation, so I made exercise another broad goal. Basically, don't be too specific when you're deciding what you want to do. You can define your projects as you go. The important thing is that you pick categories that includes many projects so you always have something to do. I found that I ran out of cleaning tasks very quickly, so I needed to expand my cleaning goal to chores in general. Everything is up to you, so you can adjust your process as needed.

Now that you have goals, you need to figure out the minimum amount of work you're required to accomplish each day in order to earn your X on the calendar. Because I only had an hour to spare, I had to keep my tasks to 15 minutes each. Telling yourself you have 15 minutes to work on something doesn't provide you with tangible accomplishments, however, so I recommend setting very simple goals that seem like a little but add up to a lot very quickly. Here's what I came up with:
  • Cleaning: Do one chore per day. For example, put away 10 stray items, vacuum, take out the trash and put in a new trash bag, clean the counter tops, and so on. Pick one, do it.
  • Exercise: Do a portion of your exercise routine each day. Go for a jog or walk, plus push ups, sit ups, free weights, or another targeted exercise. Do as many repetitions as possible and take no breaks. (This amounts to 15-20 minutes of exercise, which is really all you need to get reasonably fit.)
  • Writing: Write one page per day, or revise three pages of existing writing.
  • Development: Complete one specific task on your development list. This may mean styling an element in CSS, writing a new function, or fixing a bug.
The idea is to essentially capture a task that you can easily accomplish within a given time frame. With things like exercise, you'll probably always use up the total allotted time because as you get stronger and faster you'll need to work harder to continue to get better. With things like cleaning, however, taking out the trash only takes a few minutes and scrubbing the toilet can take a bit longer. Some days may be a little longer and some a little shorter, but it all evens out in the end.
It's unrealistic to expect yourself to work on all your goals every day for the rest of your life. Sometimes you get sick and sometimes you need a break. That said, it just feels wrong to put an X on a day where you did nothing. It also feels wrong to break the chain for a reason beyond your control or for a hard-earned vacation. If you think of this process like a mini-job, however, the solution is simple: time off benefits.
When you're sick and can't perform your duties, put an S instead of an X on that day. If you're on vacation and cannot or do not want to perform you duties, put a V on that day. How many days do you get off? I just use the same rules as my job: three weeks per year including sick days. You can follow the same benefits you get at work or just use the standard allotment: 15 vacation days and six sick days. Your days off get reset at the end of every year, and if you start after the first of the year you should prorate the number. As for weekends, you can decide if you want to take those off or not. Personally, I find the weekends to be the best days to work because I have so much time. I prefer to work every day because the commitment is so small and it helps build better habits, but you should set rules for yourself that work best for your life.
Since starting this process, I've taken one trip, gotten something like the flu, and hurt my arm. None of these problems prevented me from working on my goals every single day. When I was on the trip I couldn't clean my house so instead I cleaned where I was staying to help out. I also spent one day sorting the mail and another day getting my car washed. When I hurt my arm, I simply did other exercises until it felt better. When I was under the weather, I just sucked it up and worked anyway. I don't necessarily recommend this, but I've come to love this process so much that I wasn't going to let fatigue and difficulty breathing stop me from getting things done. (I wish I was kidding.)
Once you've got a plan together, you're going to need calendars to keep track of your progress. You can buy one, or you can just print them for free. I used iCal to print mine because I like the way they look, but you can easily grab free, printable calendars from Print Free. Monthly calendars take up a lot of room on the wall, so you may prefer to print out a year instead. "Don't Break the Chain" traditionally uses a single page year-long calendar, but I like seeing my progress in large form. Choose the type that works best for you.
Silly, yes, but this is also the fun part. Getting a big, fat marker doesn't require much additional explanation, but there are a couple of things to add. First, you want to avoid anything that's going to run through paper so permanent markers like this one are not a good choice. (That is, unless you print your calendars on very thick paper.) Instead, I recommend picking up a pack of Crayola Broad Point Markers. You get eight for less than the cost of a permanent marker. Also, you may want to pick up some Industrial Strength Adhesive Velcro. Velcro comes in handy in life (especially for tablet owners) but it's also a simple way to stick your marker on the wall besides your calendars so it's always available to cross off a day.
You're done getting everything together and you can start right now. But if not right now, then tomorrow. Whatever you do, don't plan to start on a distant day. Your plan should be so easy that very little can get in the way of your daily progress, so if you're not ready to start tomorrow then you need to go back and figure out how to make your plan simple enough to do so. This process works because it creates good work habits, doesn't require much of you, demonstrates your progress visually every day, and makes you feel incredibly accomplished and productive despite only working for a short period of time. It's easy, it's fun, and if it's something you want to do you should do it now. There's no reason to wait.
By Adam Dachis