No Zero Days - How To Make Progress on Rest Days

Rest days are crucial to recovery. Whether your goal is physical or mental in nature, a rest day can help you recharge your batteries, avoid burnout, and allow you more clarity and focus for the week’s worth of activities.

However, rest days are not an excuse to be lazy. Whenever you take a day off, you risk losing your focus on your goal, or derailing it entirely through the “what-the-hell” effect.

So how do you find the balance between the two? A Reddit user in the subreddit Get Disciplined came up with a very good concept that can give you the answer to that question – No 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.


What this person is really preaching is consistency. One of the biggest reasons that we don’t accomplish our goals is because we approach them as a sprint rather than a marathon. We do the “30 day diet” or the “8-week workout program” and try to completely overhaul our lives in that short period of time. This rarely works as we usually run out of willpower by the end of week one. Then we go back to doing absolutely nothing to achieve our goal.

With No Zero Days, you’re making the commitment that each day you are going to get closer to your goal. It doesn’t matter if you only write 1 sentence of a book or do 10 pushups – you still made progress.


As I mentioned in the beginning, rest days are still important for revitalizing the mind, body and spirit. So how do you find the balance between a rest day and a no zero day?

1.    Active recovery

If your goal is fitness based, one thing you can do that will give you rest, while also helping you make progress, is active recovery. This may include foam rolling, stretching, walking, doing light yoga or meditating. Any of those will allow your body to rest while you still make progress towards your fitness goals. [1]

2.    A cheat meal, not a cheat day

Just like rest days can be taken too far, so can “cheat days” - when one skips their diet for the day and allows oneself to go on a binge. This can escalate quickly and completely derail your progress. If your goal is diet-based, give yourself one meal to indulge, but make sure that you’re still making progress with an overall healthy day. [2]

 3.    Plan rather than create

We all need time to let our creative minds rest. Instead of sitting at your desk and producing something every day, take the time to assess and plan. What worked well last week and what didn’t? Where can you improve for next week? This will help you make major improvements without having to spend time beating your creative head against the wall. [3]

These are all just examples; they will obviously differ based on your own goals. The important thing is to do something that will lead to progress - even if that activity only indirectly affects your progress.


Every day is an opportunity to move closer to your goals. Although it is important to recharge your batteries, you should not use a rest day as an excuse to be lazy. Even if you need a day’s rest from the direct activities that lead to your goals, there are many indirect activities that you can do that will keep you progressing. The most important thing is to stay consistent, and to have No Zero Days.


  1. Schwartz, Gary E., Richard J. Davidson, and Daniel J. Goleman. "Patterning of Cognitive and Somatic Processes in the Self-Regulation of Anxiety: Effects of Meditation versus Exercise." Psychosomatic Medicine 40.4 (1978)
  2. Polivy, Janet, C. Peter Herman, and Rajbir Deo. "Getting a Bigger Slice of the Pie. Effects on Eating and Emotion in Restrained and Unrestrained Eaters." Appetite 55.3 (2010): 426-30.
  3. Wooden, John. Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organizaion. N.p.: McGraw-Hill, 2005. Print.