Icon by RyRy from The Noun Project

Icon by RyRy from The Noun Project

Rest days are crucial for recovery, but in the words of Dr. Jim Stoppani, “they’re not an excuse to be lazy.” When you’re not doing anything (no matter how seemingly insignificant) towards the goals in your life, you’re gambling with your focus.

In the Get Disciplined subreddit, a user named ryans01 wrote an epic response to a fellow Redditor complaining about a lack of motivation, which included this nugget: “There are no more zero days.”

What’s a zero day? A zero day is when you don’t do a single f******g thing towards whatever dream or goal or want or whatever that you got going on. No more zeros. I’m not saying you gotta bust an essay out everyday, that’s not the point. The point I’m trying to make is that you have to make yourself, promise yourself, that the new SYSTEM you live in is a NON-ZERO system. Didn’t do anything all f******g day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non zero. You feel me? When you’re in the super vortex of being bummed your pattern of behaviour is keeping the vortex goin’, that’s what you’re used to. Turning into productivity ultimate master of the universe doesn’t happen from the vortex. It happens from a massive string of CONSISTENT NON ZEROS. That’s rule number one. Do not forget.

Rest days where you do absolutely nothing put you at risk of breaking your habits. Once your habits break, you open yourself up to stalling your timelines and ultimately deferring your goals. Stay focused by doing something, rather than nothing.


  • ScottKDC

    I respectfully disagree with this one. Ask any writer, artist, or athlete about the value in resting, and they’ll tell you they need to have a few zero days to recharge their batteries. (The graphic for this piece seems to imply as much.)

    It’s not being “lazy.” It’s letting something else fill the gaps. That’s when our minds come across ideas we hadn’t previously considered, it’s when our muscles rebuild. We all need zero days. Dr. Stoppani’s thinking is what leaves us with 24-hour news channels that produce anything to fill the empty space, and blogs that crank out meaningless content simply to keep readers “engaged.”

    Sorry, guys. I love 99U, but I think this one missed the mark…

    • M

      Ditto. I love 99U too, but this one I don’t agree with.

      • Daniel

        this advice might be outright unhealthy to some fellow people that already have a problem turning off

    • Yemi Agbetunsin

      Well, you can choose to see it another way if you like. But when you’re not trying to achieve something, you’re trying to achieve something else. Reading a book or an article on your “rest day” that may/not directly relate to your line of everyday work is still productivity. Just don’t spend the whole day doing nothing “purposeful” is the objective of this piece, I think.

      • reneehopkins

        If everything becomes productivity, then nothing is.

  • http://fb.com/chmessinger Charles Messinger

    If you want to recover yourself, go walk into the wild on the zero-days. Period.

  • Cheese Man

    I read an article on the twothousandtimes.com about a entrepreneur who never worked on Sunday. Not an ounce of work. He found he was far more productive during the week, and never burned out

  • http://hamzakhan.ca Hamza Khan

    I understand and appreciate everyone’s concerns with the advice. I must clarify that I’m not advocating for no rest whatsoever. As someone who once burned out in spectacular fashion because of non-stop work, I’ll be the first to tell you that recharging by slowing down is absolutely crucial. However, for those of us who quickly slip out of practice/lose motivation when we COMPLETELY shut down, this Non-Zero Day concept helps us keep our end goal at the top of mind even on our rest days. This comes at little to no extra demand on your time, attention and energy. One pushup isn’t going to ruin anyone’s day, hopefully 🙂

  • http://www.hipsobriety.com Holly Whitaker

    I severely agree with this. I think this takes a major amount of pressure off, I think we recharge our batteries not by having to do 100% in a day but by allowing ourselves to remained focused while giving a reduced effort. It gives over-achieving type-a’s such as myself a pass that at list if i did ONE thing it is working to the end goal, the 1 percent or .0001 percent – whatever – adds up. Hearts.

  • JDawgg

    I question whether or not it is possible for a “creative” to have a zero day unless you have the ability to shut the brain off completely. Is there really a Zero day ever?

  • Elayne M

    This makes me tired. If your habits are going to be broken from one complete day of rest or doing something different, then you have a bigger problem. I believe when you allow yourself to really unplug and think of different things, it opens up space for creativity and balance and new ideas. But hey, if this works for you – go for it!

    • http://hamzakhan.ca Hamza Khan

      That’s a good point, Elayne. Non-Zero days aren’t for everyone; they’re most effective for people who struggle with procrastination and for those feeling overwhelmed by a seemingly impossible goal. The concept plays into Jerry Seinfeld’s philosophy of sex: “Little, but often.”

  • http://www.dcustom.com Gordon Price Locke

    love this post. thank you!

  • felipe gonzalez

    One thing I like to tell people, is that when you have a dream there is no such thing as being bored. Every extra Minuite, every unused piece of time is an opportunity to inch you closer to the life you dream of living.

  • IAlmgren

    I see as “doing nothing” as very meaningful. Rest and play are vital for keeping my creativity juices flowing in a natural way. (Came to it through experementation).

    I live in Sweden at the moment and notice how I cannot possibly do things the same way at the same speed now in winter when it’s dark for the most part of the day and we see no sun for weeks. It frustrated me a lot earlier but until I get a job somewhere with more sun light I have to learn to manage my energy in a smart way. 🙂 So if rest or play in whatever form cheer me up and contribute to my well-being – great!

    Btw, my cat is my best teacher: she masters the art of doing nothing yet she seems to be quite happy in the end of the day. Probably nothing is something after all?

  • appl

    I think most of you are misunderstanding this approach. So let me clarify this. The None Zero Day idea isn’t celebrating workaholism. It’s not stating anywhere that taking time off is bad or that vacation is something to avoid. Quite the contrary, it’s all about focusing on what makes your only one precious life as pleasurable to you as possible. So let’s get to the actual problem here:

    The post was an answer to a guy on reddit who is a huge procrastinator. Just like me (and many more people in the world) he has dreams and goals but can’t get out of bed, can’t start to work, can’t start to do assignements, can’t even start to look for something else, everything becomes depressing, deadlines touch your brain, they raise the pressure, and everything feels horrible. So that’s the status quo we’re talking about here, alright? So the Non Zero Day approach basically says: do one thing each day, at least one thing that helps you get closer to what you want to be. And even if it’s just one push up. The theory is if you fill a long number of days like these at some point it’s gonna get better, at some point all of this struggle might be better to manage for you.

    This thing helped me a lot. And I do take time off. And these days aren’t zero. They are relaxing. A zero day is – remember – one of those depressing guilt days. And those I’m trying to cut off for good.

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