The “No Zero Days” Productivity Mindset Might Change Your Life

Anyone who’s used the internet (and Reddit in particular) is aware that much of the internet is a valueless wasteland. But every so often, you stumble along a gem, submitted by an anonymous stranger seven years ago that has the answers to every question you asked.

The No More Zero Days post by /u/ryans01 is one of those posts. His post was in response to a Redditor who was depressed, feeling bad about themselves, and didn’t know what to do to make their life better.

Ouch. Sounds like you’re having a tough time max. That sucks. I’ve been there, so I kinda know what you’re talking about. I’ve been in the ever circling vortex of self doubt, frustration, and loathing. It’s no bueno. I know. If you don’t mind lemme tell you a couple things. You can read em if you want, read em again later if you feel like it. But honestly man, if I spend all this time typing this out to you and you don’t let it be a little tinder for your fire, well, you’re just letting us both down. And you don’t HAVE to do that. You don’t HAVE to do anything. But you get to choose.

(Who am I? My name’s Ryan and I live in Canada. Just moved to a new city for a dream job that I got because of the rules below. I owe a lot of my success to people much cooler, kinder, more loving and greater than me. When I get the chance to maybe let a little bit of help out, it’s a way of thanking them.)

I could summarize the post for you, but I think that would ruin how good it is. Instead, I’ll break it into the four rules and quote each section for you.

Rule #1: No More Zero Days

Rule numero uno — There are no more zero days. What’s a zero day?A zero day is when you don’t do a single fucking 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.Didnt’ do anything all fucking 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.

What a simple rule. Who could fail to implement it? All you have to do is at least one thing before the day ends that makes your life a little better.

The best part about this rule is how low the bar is. You can’t make any excuses. Either you did what it took to make it a non-zero day, or you didn’t. End of story.

Rule #2: Be Grateful to the 3 You’s

La deuxieme regle — yeah i learnt french. its a canadian thing. please excuse the lack of accent graves, but lemme get into rule number 2. BE GRATEFUL TO THE 3 YOU’S. Uh what? 3 me’s? That sounds like mumbo jumbo bullshit. News flash, there are three you’s homeslice.There’s the past you, the present you, and the future you.If you wanna love someone and have someone love you back, you gotta learn to love yourself, and the 3 you’s are the key.Be GRATEFUL to the past you for the positive things you’ve done. And do favours for the future you like you would for your best bro.Feeling like shit today? Stop a second, think of a good decision you made yesterday. Salad and tuna instead of Big Mac?THANK YOU YOUNGER ME.Was yesterday a nonzero day because you wrote 200 words (hey, that’s all you could muster)? THANK YOU YOUNGER ME. Saved up some coin over time to buy that sweet thing you wanted? THANK YOU. Second part of the 3 me’s is you gotta do your future self a favour, just like you would for your best fucking friend (no best friend? you do now. You got 2. It’s future and past you). Tired as hell and can’t get off reddit/videogames/interwebs? fuck you present self, this one’s for future me, i’m gonna rock out p90x Ab Ripper X for 17 minutes. I’m doing this one for future me.Alarm clock goes off and bed is too comfy? fuck you present self, this one’s for my best friend, the future me.I’m up and going for a 5 km run (or 25 meter run, it’s gotta be non zero). MAKE SURE YOU THANK YOUR OLD SELF for rocking out at the end of every.single.thing. that makes your life better. The cycle of doing something for someone else (future you) and thanking someone for the good in your life (past you) is key to building gratitude and productivity. Do not doubt me. Over time you should spread the gratitude to others who help you on your path.

A big part of the reason my life is good is past me.

  • Past me kept my room tidy so present me can find my books and notebooks no problem.
  • Past me made a spending plan so present me can enjoy spending money on takeout and camper van equipment without guilt.
  • Past me conquered the mental resistance that goes with a gym visit so present me can enjoy physical exercise without any resistance whatsoever.

Present me can only take the time to do things for future me because past me took the time to do things for present me.If present me were always busy making up for what past me didn’t do, future me will always be busy making up for present me. The cycle has to end somewhere. Stop today and do something for one of your two best friends, future you. When you are future you, enjoying a full day of relaxation with ALL your responsibilities taken care of, you will be glad you did it.

Rule #3: Forgive Yourself

Rule number 3- don’t worry i’m gonna too long didnt’ read this bad boy at the bottom (get a pencil and piece of paper to write it down. seriously. you physically need to scratch marks on paper) FORGIVE YOURSELF. I mean it. Maybe you got all the know-how, money, ability, strength and talent to do whatever is you wanna do. But lets say you still didn’t do it. Now you’re giving yourself shit for not doing what you need to, to be who you want to. Heads up champion, being dissapointed in yourself causes you to be less productive.Tried your best to have a nonzero day yesterday and it failed? so what. I forgive you previous self. I forgive you. But today? Today is a nonzero masterpiece to the best of my ability for future self. This one’s for you future homes. Forgiveness man, use it. I forgive you. Say it out loud.

When you’re feeling down about yourself and reading self-help articles all day, it’s easy to start getting down on yourself — but like /u/ryans01 write,being disappointed in yourself just makes you even less productive. If you want to achieve your goals, the first step is to forgive past you for your mistakes so you can move forward with a clean slate.

Rule #4: Exercise and Read Books

Last rule. Rule number 4, is the easiest and its three words. exercise and books. that’s it.Pretty standard advice but when you exercise daily you actually get smarter. when you exercise you get high from endorphins (thanks body). when you exercise you clear your mind. when you exercise you are doing your future self a huge favour. Exercise is a leg on a three legged stool. Feel me? As for books, almost every fucking thing we’ve all ever thought of, or felt, or gone through, or wanted, or wanted to know how to do, or whatever, has been figured out by someone else. Get some books max. Post to reddit about not caring about yourself? Good first step! (nonzero day, thanks younger me for typing it out) You know what else you could do?Read 7 habits of highly successful people. Read “emotional intelligence”. Read “From good to great”. Read “thinking fast and slow”. Read books that will help you understand.Read the bodyweight fitness reddit and incorporate it into your workouts. (how’s them pullups coming?) Reading is the fucking warp whistle from Super Mario 3. It gets you to the next level that much faster.

Simple facts:

  1. Exercise helps you be productive because when you exercise, your body can do more and think more clearly
  2. Reading books allows you to learn from others instead of learning from painful experiences, which is 10 times slower.

That’s all there is to it.

That’s about it man. There’s so much more when it comes to how to turn nonzero days into hugely nonzero days, but that’s not your mission right now. Your mission is nonzero and forgiveness and favours. You got 36 essays due in 24 minutes and its impossible to pull off? Your past self let you down big time, but hey… I forgive you. Do as much as you can in those 24 minutes and then move on.

I hope I helped a little bit max. I could write about this forever, but I promised myself I would go do a 15 minute run while listening to A. Skillz Beats Working Vol. 3. Gotta jet. One last piece of advice though. Regardless of whether or not reading this for the first time helps make your day better, if you wake up tomorrow, and you can’t remember the 4 rules I just laid out, please, please. Read this again.

The beauty of his philosophy is that it’s simple to remember and put into practice. You don’t have to wake up at 5 AM or Follow These 3 Productivity Rules. You just have to make sure every day is a non-zero day.

Bonus: How To Turn Slightly Non-Zero Days Into Huge Non-Zero Days

Many people had the same question: That’s great for turning zero days into non-zero days, but how do you turn non-zero days into awesome days? Here’s /u/ryans01’s response:

Someone asked what I meant by “much more when it comes to how to turn nonzero days into hugely nonzero days”. The long and short of it is a simple truth, but it’s tough to TOTALLY UNDERSTAND AND PRACTICE. It’s this: you become what you think. This doesnt mean if I think of a tree, I’ll be oakin’ it by august. It means that the WAY you think, the THINGS you think of, and the IDEAS YOU HOLD IN YOUR MIND defines the sum total that is you. You procrastinate all the time and got fear and worry goin on for something? You are becoming a procrastinator. You keep thinking about how much you want to run that 5 k race in the spring and finish a champion? Are ya keeping it in mind all the time? Is it something that is defining your ACTIONS and influencing you DECISIONS? If it is, then you’re becoming the champion you’re dreaming about. Dreaming about it makes it. Think and it shall be.But do not forget that action is thought’s son.Thoughts without actions are nothing. Have faith in whatever it is you’ve steeled your mind to.Have faith and follow through with action.

Ok, Ryan that’s a bunch of nice words n shit, but how does that help me turn slightly nonzero days into hugely nonzero days. Do you believe all these words you just read? Does it makes sense to you that you BECOME WHAT YOU THINK OF? Ask yourself: What do I think of? When you get home and walk in the door. (how quickly did you turn that laptop on? Did turning it on make you closer to your dreams? What would?) At the bus stop. Lunch break. What direction are you focusing your intentions on? If you’re like I was a few years ago, the answer was either No direction, or whatever caught my eye at the moment. But no stress, forgive yourself. You know the truth now. And knowing the truth means you can watch your habits, read books on how you think and act, and finally start changing your behaviour. Heres an example: Feeling like bunk cause you had zero days or barely nonzero days? THINK ABOUT WHAT YOURE DOING. and change just a little bit more. in whatever positive direction you are choosing to go.

What he has to say isn’t new. Like every other productivity writer on the planet says, your mindset affects your outcome. What you think is what you get. If you want to go far, think about going far and take actions that people who are going far take.

My life started turning around when I started making sure every day was a non-zero day.No matter how bad the day was, I made sure to read at least a few pages from a book, do a few exercises at home, or take care of one or two tasks around the house.

  • I read 100 books a year, but I started by just reading a few pages before bed.
  • I exercise multiple times a week, but I started by just inviting friends to the gym and hanging out while we did a few arm curls or something.
  • I’m building an entire camper van, but I started traveling by saving some pocket money and taking a road trip in a Honda Civic and staying in an Airbnb.

In Conclusion

Remember the 4 rules:

  1. No Zero Days: Every day, do at least one little thing that will help make your dreams come true.
  2. Remember Your Two Best Friends: Your past self is your best friend because they did stuff to help you out, and your future you is your best friend, which is why you’re doing to do things to help future you out.
  3. Forgive Yourself: Guilt and disappointment hold us back and create only more guilt and disappointment.Forgive yourself and move on with a clean slate, every day.
  4. Take Care of Your Body and Mind: Exercise (even if it’s just one push-up) and read (even if it’s just one page). These are like rocket fuel for improving your life.

Your life will improve on an exponential curve. Each non-zero day will add up slowly, slowly, slowly, until one day you look back and are astonished by how far you have come.