I'm not a very disciplined person when it comes to working. Leisure, on the other hand, I'm very disciplined about. I have devised several ways to make myself feel adequately productive even on my most sloth-y days. One of which is the concept of zero days. It is not some new novel concept that I came up with one morning. It is practiced all over the world in various forms, and not necessarily known by the term 'zero-days' but in spirit, they're all the same. For instance, take Seinfeld's productivity routine, or the inspiring story on Reddit that received a lot of attention.
In my case, I try to make every day a non-zero day in terms of professional, or personal fulfillment. To avoid zero days I do things that help me progress with one or more of my goals. Of course, as a prerequisite, I should set goals for my life. But that's simple. I could do it on the day of. I don't need an elaborate new year's resolution master list to pick goals from. For instance, this post is a result of me trying to avoid a zero day.
Things that I consider goals are pretty simple to achieve.
- Did I do something meaningful at work? Fixing a bug, making progress with a feature, or just doing a code review is enough for me to consider my workday as a non-zero day. It might seem like I put work above all else, but statistically, I am bound to work on any given day than not. So I like it or not, work plays a non-trivial role in determining how my day is spent. I like to be on the good side of the fence when it comes to work. The fence being, the call on whether or not one is supposed to love work. The good side being, it pays the bills and it keeps you happy, so it doesn't matter.
- Did I have a meaningful conversation with someone I like? This could range from my parents to friends to anyone in between. It is very important that the person be someone I like. This is because I've had several meaningful conversations with strangers. For some reason, it is easy. There is no baggage. But with people I like, however, the conversations are mostly mundane. I try to somehow escape that grind. I find it very satisfying if I have conversations about life, or politics, or anything that doesn't involve me simply getting to know how their day went or them, mine.
- Did I make progress with my hobby? Like The Joker says in the Dark Knight movie, I'm like a dog chasing cars. I just do things. I pursue several hobbies at any given point in time. I may not take significant strides toward getting better at any of those but I still consider them hobbies. Perhaps, my hobby is just pursuing hobbies. I digress. Right now, I try to write something coherent, learn to play something on the guitar, go out and shoot pictures, or simply read. Some of these are easy and others relatively hard, so I try not to fall back on the easy option frequently enough to hinder any progress I'm making with the harder ones.
- Did I learn something new? This is hard but very rewarding. I've come to realize that there is so much noise in my life. I spend all my waking hours connected to the internet. I don't take social media breaks or go on tech-detoxes. So it is hard for me to learn new things or feel like I learned new things because the signal to noise ratio of the content I consume on a daily basis is so low. So, at the end of the day, if I remember something I learned that day I feel good about it. The frequency of such days is, alas, not so great.
Though this sounds like a self-help post, it is something I thought I should write about. This post, which started as something I planned to write to break out of my zero day, ended up being something I did on a non-zero day because I'd already made progress with one of the other things.
Hope you have more non-zero days than zero days in your life. If you feel you start seeing more zero days, then come up with new things that would make your day non-zero.