The One-Day Off Rule

Have you ever taken a week off from your habit and felt that it was too challenging to continue? Try the one-day off rule! The one-day off rule is exactly what it sounds like – taking a day off but never missing a habit twice in a row. Maintaining a habit routine is understanding life’s unpredictability. By adopting the mentality of “never missing a habit twice in a row”, you’ll feel motivated to make it next time and helps you rebuild consistency.

We all have cheat days on our habit routines.  Whether that means ordering that pizza, skipping the curls, or calling in sick for club, the notorious cheat day has many names.  However, we often get upset at the cheat day itself, when really what’s to blame is our view of it.  The key to realizing and maintaining realistic habit routines is remembering that life happens. 

Acting according to the one-day off rule means never missing a habit twice in a row.  By adopting this mentality, we feel particularly motivated to make it next time, telling ourselves, “I can’t miss it this time!”  It’s even easier than it sounds!  The next day shouldn’t even compensate for the missed day, the whole idea is rebuilding consistency one small step at a time. 

There are a few mental tricks that you can play on yourself to get into the habit of accepting cheat days.  And yes, that’s a habit too.  First, try considering habits to be investments that don’t suffer very much from a single day off.  It’s true! Looking back on your year, you won’t even notice that blank spot in your calendar.   

Or instead, consider all your habits to be potted plants.  This one’s an iris, it’s very demanding with its water.  While your cactus here won’t be needing very much attention.  Living a healthy life means taking care of your whole garden of habits.  Remember to prioritize those young and hard to manage habits so that they don’t wither off, while also not forgetting your old ones either.  Those last ones will take a little longer to dry up, but you can’t forget to water them tomorrow, or they really will begin to droop.  Your flowers won’t hold a grudge against you. In fact, they’ll be thankful that you’re keeping their environment healthy, they depend on each other too!   

When you do forget, ask yourself, “what made me not practice my habit today?”  Was it too hard or too easy?  Think carefully about the root cause and adjust your habit accordingly, intelligently.   

The moral is, we have a lot to gain from cheat days.  Whether it means taking time off to cultivate our other habits, or learning from the experience, our health depends on us making the most of everything that happens to us.    

Difficulties in routine are unavoidable, but the one-day off rule makes difficulties into positive experiences.  The next time you feel like you’ve let yourself down, ask yourself:

You might realize that things are going a lot better than you thought they were. 

Check out these articles to learn more about the one day off rule:

Bracke, M. – The Three Day Rule of Effective Habits: Marissa Bracke
Clear, J.- Marginal gains: This coach improved every tiny thing by 1 percent
Clear, J.- How to Get Back on Track: 7 Ways to Bounce Back After Slipping Up

Author: Zac Lo
Editor: Cathy Xie
Researcher: Michael Bacci