A few years ago, I was browsing reddit and stumbled upon an interesting concept called “no more zero days” left as a comment on a thread by user ryans01. Applying this concept to my life has changed it tremendously, and has put me on a stronger path to achieving my goals.
A zero day is when you do nothing that helps you get one step closer to reaching your goals. Avoiding a zero day could mean doing the smallest action; for example, doing a single push-up before bed even if you’re exhausted. You don’t have to go run a marathon right away––doing one push-up is still better than doing nothing and it can help you in your long term goal. Another example is writing a single sentence for that long essay you’ve been avoiding. You don’t have to go all-out and finish your essay in one day, but at least writing one sentence gets you closer to completing it.
Reaching goals can seem difficult. The trick is to divide them into smaller ones, assigning tasks to achieve them, and setting milestones to track your progress. The reason for this is that goals are much less intimidating when broken down into smaller achievable tasks, as explained in a Twigberry Studio article. This makes it easier to start, and starting sets you on a path to achieving those bigger goals.
It is also important to write down the goal with a goal date, which increases our chances of sticking to them according to an article on Action for Happiness. The first step is to figure out what your goal is in a trackable way.
Let’s say you want to get fit by summer 2020. How can you write down that goal in a measurable sense? Maybe your goal is to lose 20 pounds in the next four months. Then break it down into smaller goals: lose five pounds per month, then break it down to 1.25 pounds per week. Your goal is no longer to lose 20 pounds, which could seem like an impossible task, but to lose 1.25 pounds every week. Now you have a way to track your progress in terms of milestones and see where you’re at in terms of your bigger goal.
Finally, set tasks in order to achieve that goal which, if followed correctly, will lead you to your desired outcome.
What I have found by applying this rule to my life is that sometimes I start off by just doing one small step, and I end up doing a lot more. For example, I start off by doing one push-up, but then I just keep going until I can’t do anymore. Or, I will start off by writing one sentence of my essay, but then the ideas just start flowing and I end up writing a lot more. I have realized that the hardest part is simply starting. Once you get over that initial hurdle, you will find that everything else flows a lot easier. Not only does it get you closer to your goals, but it can also change the way you think.
After consistently following the ‘no more zero days’ rule for a while, it becomes routine. Doing at least one productive thing per day becomes second nature and a zero day might feel like a day wasted. In essence, this rule can really make you into a more productive person.
During his TedXTalk, “How to achieve your most ambitious goals,” Stephen Duneier talks about goals being achieved by taking our ambitious dreams and pursuing them by making a marginal adjustment to our routine. The first step is making that decision. He says that when you’re at home clicking through channels or scrolling through social media, make the decision to change your focus. He gives the example of putting down the remote/phone, picking up a book and reading one word: “If you read one word, you’ll read two words, three words, you’ll read a sentence, a paragraph, a page, a chapter, a book. You’ll read 10 books, 30 books, 50 books.” But it all starts with that first decision to change your focus.
Graphic by @sundaeghost