Prevent Burn Out By Not Completing Tasks Every Day

Prevent Burn Out By Not Completing Tasks Every Day

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Stop doing things every day to prevent burnout and actually reach your goals
Customize the Goal Tracking Spreadsheet to meet your goals without burnout

Habit creation really can be a challenge. Often times, we tell ourselves that to make something a habit we have to do it every day. Every. Single. Day. And for the first week you actually do it. Because you’re excited! This is great! I feel great flossing every day. Or sweeping every day. Or doing sit-ups every day. But this is actually not sustainable nor necessary for most tasks.

Inevitably we fail. Once the excitement wears off. The one day we get tired. We don’t do it. Now your whole streak has fallen apart. Now the entire week is completely ruined because you missed a day. And if the week is now ruined, why not just skip tomorrow? Let’s just call this week a wash and start anew next week. But then next week comes around and you’ve completely lost your momentum. Now you feel guilty for messing up last week. And have lost all interest in having flossed teeth or photoshop-esque abs.

Setting Ourselves Up For Failure

When it comes to goals & habits, we constantly set ourselves up for failure. It is unrealistic to go from never doing something to doing something every single day. Of course you’re going to screw up. You’ve spent hundreds of days not flossing your teeth before bed. And all of a sudden we expect ourselves to diligently become a flosser overnight. You have never flossed before but now you will floss your teeth every single day for the rest of your life.

That’s just not how things work. That’s not how our brains work. Our brains don’t like big scopes. Well, we use big scopes as an excuse. At some point, you decide that flossing every single day is hard. Or you don’t have time to sweep the floor every day. Or you’re just too tired to do sit-ups tonight. And when you think about having to do this again tomorrow and the next day and the next day. Well, our brains just tell us to give up. That is too many sit-ups. Too much sweeping. And too much flossing.

The Key to Forming Habits is Keeping a Routine

Instead, I will argue to set-up a weekly routine to help form habits. Even if these are to be daily habits like flossing. Start out with low expectations.

Change “floss every day” to “floss Wednesdays and Sundays”. That’s it. Two days a week. It is far easier to transition from nothing to 2, than nothing to forever. And flossing two days a week is still better than not at all!

What this does, is help you develop a routine. Monday is for sweeping. Tuesday is a break day. Wednesday is for flossing. Thursdays are sit-ups. Fridays and Saturdays you’re free. And Sunday floss again. Mentally, this is far easier for our brains to tackle. And it makes you less likely to skip a day.

Before, I would skip flossing because I’d tell myself that I’ll just do it tomorrow. And I’m only skipping one day. But now, I have it in my head that flossing is on Wednesday and Sunday. I don’t need to skip it if I’m only doing it twice a week. Then over time, I’ll realize that it’s not too difficult. And I can extend this habit to Friday’s. Until eventually I’m flossing every day because it doesn’t feel like a chore. And it actually feels weird when I don’t do it! That is the sign of a fully established habit.

It’s Okay To Break The Chain

This does go completely against Seinfeld’s chain method. I get it. You do something every day to get better at it. But you can’t start out that way. You have to build up to it. Ideally, you do want to floss every day. But you can’t immediately start flossing every day. Because this is why we fail at our goals so often. This is why we never completely form habits.

Tracking non-daily weekly goals sets us up for easy wins. And these easy wins keep us motivated. And excited to keep going. With small requirements, we are less likely to fail. We don’t like failing. Failing means we quit. This way, our motivation stays constant.

Having a routine means your goals are flexible. Yes you should floss every day. But flossing four times a week is still better than not at all.

How To Track Weekly Goals

I’ve been successfully using my weekly habit-creation spreadsheet since June. In that time I have started flossing daily, cleaning up the kitchen before bed, and a few other habits part of my bedtime routine. I am trying to form new habits. But not too many at once.

Also remember, you won’t create a habit or reach a goal, if it doesn’t follow your life value. Every goal you make should be based on something you value in your life. You need to know why you have these goals in the first place. Many times, we are actually going after someone else’s goals. Thinking this is what we need to do to be successful.

What do you value? Health, Family, Friends? What are you doing each day to make sure your life follows those values? Some of these types of goals aren’t measurable. But that’s okay as long as you know why you want to do them at all.

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8 Replies to “Prevent Burn Out By Not Completing Tasks Every Day”

  1. Great post! I cringe every new years when I see people’s “plans” for working out. “I will run 5 miles every day!” What? Even I don’t run every day and I’ll bet marathon runners don’t run every day. I always liked the just do something for 5, 10, 15 minutes rule. Whatever it takes. I did that with ukulele when I didn’t like the music we were learning in class. But I stuck to the 15 minute rule and got through that not so great time and now practicing has become a habit that does feel weird if I don’t do every day. But even now I can go a day here and there without doing it and still I have the habit.

    1. I will actually be posting next week about the 15 minute rule. You’re ahead of the game! I love that rule because for some things 15 minutes is a long time and for some it’s nothing. Having a set amount of time provides a good reality for how long (or not long) it takes to do a certain task. I’m not sure where the “every day” part of habit creation came in; clearly we have habits that we don’t do every single day!

  2. I read something interesting recently about it being easier to stick to a resolution or habit 100% of the time rather than 98% of the time. I think when you’re starting out, the not doing it every day helps prevent burn out, but I think over time, the more you make exceptions, the more it becomes a negotiable part of your life and routine rather than a set thing.

    1. The way I’m framing it, by setting a goal to do this task twice a week, you are meeting it 100% if you do it for those two days. Because what happens is we say we’ll do something every day, but that is unrealistic so we miss a day or two, hence the 98%. If you keep skipping days and making excuses, then you’ll never get anywhere. But if you slowly ease yourself into it, 100%, then it’s easier to build from there.

  3. I don’t think that routine itself is the only useful way to form lasting habits. You can also add actions onto existing triggers, or create an external trigger with reinforcement.

    Toothpaste is a great example. Your standard toothpaste contains mint and menthol, which make your gums tingle. At some point you came to associate that sensation with the positive emotion of cleanliness, and now your brain craves that feeling. After years, it may seem like sheer routine, but that routine was born from a trigger-action-feedback loop.

  4. Heck yes Leslie! I came back to your site to look for any budget updates. I’m hoping starting in Jan will make things easier for me. I started going through your post and found this one….I started doing a checklist last year. It helped me out a lot. I can’t figure out how to save this one though. I print mine off each month and check things off. This one might be fun to try. :)

    1. Hi Jolene! Okay, to make the checkmark add the following into the cell =char(10004). That should do it. You can always just use an X or any other identifying marker as well. I’m still swearing by this habit tracking sheet, I hope it works well for you!

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