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Danila Petrova
Danila Petrova

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The only productivity advice you need: The two-day rule

Productivity craze has taken over the internet with a new passion in the midst of quarantine. And I can see why. The idea that we can stay safe in our homes and turn the stress and anxiousness over everything that is happening into measurable value for success is tempting.

And I am no exception. I have written an article or two about how to make the most of quarantine and listed all of the habits I have been trying to cultivate. "Just think about everything I would be able to get done if I just pushed myself!".

I imagined myself leaving my home post-quarantine in a gorgeous fit body, with straight A’s on my university projects and receiving praise for my outstanding performance at work. Glorious isn’t it?

Yet, the reality proved to be more challenging. Months in, I have found my steadily depleting motivation to be a chain that is pulling me down. And so is the fatigue that built up over my unrealistically high-performance expectations.

Unrealistic expectations

As we are all navigating uncharted territory, and we are all dealing the best we can with the level of uncertainty that we have. No one knows how long we will have to base our lives on social distancing.

Or how deeply it will affect our careers, personal lives and overall psyche. The changes are deep within our lifestyle and for now we should think of this as the new reality for the forseeable future.

So we should approach this as a marathon and not a sprint

I think that now is the time to recognize setbacks as a natural part of life, that we don’t necessarily need to power through on willpower alone.

As such we will not be able to be on our best performance at all times. And that is ok.The truth is that we do not need to be perfect with following our routines. Sometimes we need to take a break to recharge from the accumulated fatigue. Especialy when we are bombarded with negative news day in and day out that affects our overall wellbeing.

The key is to know when to push and when to take a step back. Evaluate what is the most importanhaving a negative impact on you. Then choose if you need to spend less time and energy on activities that wear you down, even if they are textbook "good for you".

Productivity is reliant on your habits

While sometimes you need to cut your losses and take a step back to take a break, you are likely still bound by deadlines, so you cannot afford to skimp out on getting work done.

In the IT industry in particular, turning in your work on time is imperative to the overall project performance. In this case, the best you can do is make the most of what you have at your disposal.

Everything you do is a habit. Whether is checking the corona statistics in your area every day, or The routines you have in place help drive your productivity almost subconsciously, once they have been previously established. So if you find yourself demotivated, the key is to make your work process as easy to follow as possible.

Observe your habits. Ask yourself why you are doing the actions, what you get from it, and what the side effects of it are. For example

One of my most-maitained habit has been working out. After quarantine I couldn't go to the gym four days a week for two hours, so I adapted it to a home workout. But I considered all of the stress of the transition as well as the emotional wear-down of worrying about my family's safety.

I chose to go the micro-habits route. I now aim to have just a little bit of exercise daily. A small walk, some stretching, working with resistance bands or circuit training. I also introduced my bike to my routine as well as it seems to be a great stress release. I cannot comfortably maintain a grueling training program, so I instead tweaked my habits to do just enough to feel ok and accommodate my current needs.

The two-day rule

Habits rely on accumulation over time. You start to associate repetitive surroundings, actions and activities with their respective outcome. For example - when you grab a water bottle, change into your gym clothes and put on your workout playlist your brain expects you to switch into training mode. And so you feel more ready to take on your exercise.

If you perform the same actions on a regular basis, it will be significantly easier to maintain the activity and extract the best results from your efforts. The more you skip the weaker the habit is, and the more time it will take you to get to your goals. The key to being productive is the two-day rule.

It is the only rule you need to follow to bring strong foundational habits. The core idea of it is that if you have a scheduled or repetitive routine you cannot allow yourself to skip two times in a row. And let’s face it, things come up. Sometimes we can’t show up to maintain your habits - you may be on vacation, or an emergency situation may come up.

However, if you set out to never skip on your activities twice in a row, you will still get farther ahead than if you were to get your habits derail completely and have to keep trying to rebuild them from scratch.

Getting things done does not have to be complicated

When it comes to being productive it is so easy to get in our heads. We become obsessive with the process and planning and setting up systems in place as an attempt to micromanage our daily routines. But in all of our desire for improvement, we forget to set aside the time for ourselves.

Yes. We need to have practices and a plan to follow. But more often than not the biggest changes come with doing as much as you can consistently. And allowing yourself to have a moment of weakness, as long as you keep yourself accountable not to quit will go a long way to making any good changes stick.

Do you believe in the two-day rule? Is this something you have been doing subconsciously? How do you stay on top of your habits?

Top comments (6)

tan profile image

Thank you so much for such an awesome post!

I've also never heard about this rule before.
I've heard people say that, in order for you to turn an action into a habit, you should repeat it for +25 days, without ever skipping it. This made it harder, at least for me, because missing one day would frustrate me even more.

I will try to apply this mindset over the next few days. Thanks!
Kind regards.

danilapetrova profile image
Danila Petrova

I am so happy this was helpful to you! I am not gonna lie it is definitely not an original concept I came up with.

Actually, I stumbled upon it with Matt D'Avella's video - he is an awesome videographer who really gives great advice with stunning visuals. I am linking the video that inspired my article below. His channel is a gold mine for anyone who wants to make positive changes in their life and appreciate what adds value and what is a distraction.

I applied the two-day rule to my life, and it helped me to not be as hard on myself. Especially since social distancing hit me harder than I thought it would and reached the point of burnout. Yet I still feel fulfilled as I take small steps in the right direction. Working on my goals every other day is still better than giving up on the third day and not doing anything for a week right!

justsharkie profile image

I've never actually heard of the two day rule before, but I love the sound of it! Once I miss two days of something, it's like a spiral of missing more and more days.

Definitely going to start doing it in my everyday life. Hopefully it'll help me keep on top of some thing I let go of!

danilapetrova profile image
Danila Petrova

I have been the same way in the past! But this adds so much unnecessary pressure to be perfect, which is never sustainable!

Take coronavirus aside. In our normal lives we go through breakups, or other hard times and health issues. Or we simply take a vacation or get hooked on doing an activity with new friends. There is so much that can derail our routines so we should accept that as a part of the process and adapt.

Just doing as much as we can, allow ourselves to take a step back without feeling guilty, yet still have an accountability system so we don't fall completely off-track.

For me, it has worked, and I am so happy that you found this article helpful! You can also check out the source that introduced me to the practice: a video by Matt D'Avella. The visuals are stunning, and as much as I tried I didn't come close to explaining it as well as he did.

kurgeye profile image
Kani Gureye

I've heard about the two day rule before but I appreciate this post as I can try and implement this now that I have more free time. I like the idea behind it and it leaves room for adaptation when unexpected events come up which always happens in life. Thanks!

jschleigher profile image
James Schleigher

Interesting! I will try to keep this in mind.

Before reading this article, I sometimes let small bursts of procrastination out. I noticed that doing this helps me not be overwhelmed and keeps me motivated to achieve my goals. So when I was planning my day, I purposely postponed finishing one task in one and a half hours even though I knew I could finish it in one hour.

On another note, I especially like to plan with project management software, which can help to remind myself of my to-do list and better organize my tasks.