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Ground rules, golden rules, rules of thumb – no matter what wrapping we clothe them in, rules are sometimes hard to accept and uphold, especially for those entrepreneurial and artistic types among us. After all, the rules-are-made-to-be-broken philosophy gives us freedom, sparks our imagination, fuels our excitement, and nudges us to take healthy risks.

On the other hand, rules also give us order, they tame chaos, help us connect the dots of a clear life vision and then focus on what’s really important. There are always two sides of the same coin. Rules can be either useful or restrictive, yet if you choose the ones that work best for you, magic will happen on multiple planes of your reality.

To help you kick off this important selection process, the rule we propose today is one that you will not want to bend. It was formed and defined by Matt D'Avella, documentary filmmaker, entrepreneur, and YouTuber, who, like so many of us, struggled with the lack of motivation and slips in productivity.

Drumroll please, here comes the two-day rule.

One Rule to Rule Them All

If you ever wondered what the magic number of habit formation was, it’s two, two days. More specifically, it will be much easier for you to form and stick to new routines if you only let yourself slip for one day at a time. This rule is really straightforward, yet also genius in its simplicity.

Let’s say you want to start going to the gym. We can all agree that movement is what our body and mind thrive on – provided that it’s consistent. To make it so, you need to promise yourself to skip a gym session no more than one day in a row. Make a vow to yourself to invest time and energy into physical activity at least every other day. Consistency is key.

What’s more, your habit tracking will also turn into a piece-of-cake practice. The rule of two days is easy enough to remember and uphold. You only need the most minimalistic grid calendar (that you can make yourself, it’s a matter of a few horizontal and vertical lines) to mark the days you exercised and calculate (ok, calm down, there’s no math involved) when you can have a day off from the routine. As simple as that.

Action Triggers Motivation

Or is it? Well, habit tracking is, yet there’s also the question of motivation. Will the two-day rule help you break out of a rut? Can it beat your resistance and procrastination? Will it inspire you to keep going? Yes, yes, and yes. Why? Because action triggers motivation, not the other way round.

Whatever your endeavor, begin and stick to it for at least five minutes. This initial stage is crucial to keeping your momentum going. Enhanced productivity, the on-a-roll effect, the state of flow, as well as your long-lived enthusiasm for what you do need to be activated. Only then will the wheels of motivation and execution start spinning on their own.

As always, baby steps will get you far. Commit to focusing on the task for five minutes. Then, as per the two-day rule, stick to this practice at least every other day. Is this too much to ask of yourself? Certainly not.

Beware of Unhealthy Extremes

Going back to our gym example, the two-day rule encourages us to never spend more than two consecutive days without physical activity. However, it does not state the opposite. How many gym days in a row is too many? Of course, this is up to your own judgment.

Nonetheless, too much of anything may be unhealthy. Remember about balance. Those off days are there for a reason, too. We need a break to step back, evaluate our progress, and gain perspective. Be careful not to take your new habits too far either. The two-day rule is supposed to light up the bulbs of motivation within you, not dim your enthusiasm.

Rule the Day

Tiny adjustments may be revolutionary. No matter what it is that you dream of achieving, the magic of the two-day rule lies in its applicability to old and new habits, big or small actions, and both professional and personal goals. It will most likely spread the ripple to other routines, too. This rigorous rule will still enable you to take multiple days off as you need them, it will keep you on track and deeply rooted in commitment to your goals. And the best part of implementing it is: should you fail, you can always begin again.

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