The one thing you need to reach your goals

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

I’m a lazy one.

In fact, sometimes I felt so lazy that I let my life slip away in an infinite sequence of days identical to each other. I had no motivation, no drive, no urgency.

Some day I found myself sleeping 10–12 hours only to get up and spent 10 hours on videogames.

Instant gratification became my daily bread.

I then remembered I had actual goals in life, that I had opportunities, dreams and things to do. I knew I wanted to be great one day. I found out there was a way to shake off my lazy ass and change my life for the better.

Non-Zero Days

When I first read about a non-zero day, the concept seemed so obvious that almost was stupid.

A zero day is when during the present day you do NOTHING to get you nearer your goal. Simple as that.

The only thing to do is then do something during the day. Duh.

Let’s say you want to read one book a month, or even write a book. You then set the goal to read one chapter or write 2000 words per day. Easy, isn’t it? Nope.

When we plan to change a habit and then we start, we are full of energy and motivation. After a few days, we can get tired, but we keep going on. One week in, or two, and we give up.

When we set goals, we have in mind a very nitid image of where we want to go. Too often, though, we lose focus on how to get there, we forget the process.

The two-minutes-rule

James Clear, the infamous author of “Atomic Habits”, suggests there’s a way to get past the initial struggle of forming a habit. He calls it the “Two-Minutes-Rule”.

It’s very simple. When you start something new, your very first action must take less than two minutes to complete. You want to read one book a week? Start with one page every day.

But if I read one page a day and the book has 300 pages, I’ll read it in one year, not one month. You did your math, didn’t you?

The goal here is not to focus on the goal but on the process. You want to form your habit of reading every day.

Moreover, once you started, it’s easier to keep going.

If you’re able to read one page, you can read two, for sure. And three. And four. Reading at a normal pace you devour 40 pages per hour, and in a few days your book is gone.

So why should you have non-zero days?

  • You actually do something during the day, even if it seems little
  • You’re grateful to yourself
  • You increase your motivation, hence you gain momentum
  • You have a chance to reach your goal
  • It’s easy to put in place, you need two minutes

The beauty of the non-zero day is that gives you momentum, motivation. You’re grateful to yourself because you actually accomplished something during your day.

Once you start repeating the same small action over and over again, day after day, it becomes a habit.

As the American philosopher Will Durant wrote in 1926:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.




I’m an Italian freelance translator living in France. I write about freelancing, entrepreneurship, self-improvement, language, life in general.

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Paolo Defraia

Paolo Defraia

I’m an Italian freelance translator living in France. I write about freelancing, entrepreneurship, self-improvement, language, life in general.

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