#1 - No More Zero Days

September 8, 2020

In this episode, join Matt for a journey into the topic of “zero days”.

Learn why having a non zero day matters, how it has helped him in business, and just how easy it is for you to get started with your own non zero days.

A non zero day can help you to achieve the goals and dreams that you have both in life and business.

Links:

Hello and welcome to the Nurture Flow podcast. My name is Matt (as you’ve just heard) and I’m here to tell you why you’re never going to have another zero day again.

So what is a zero day? To put it quite simply a zero day is when you don’t get anything done towards a dream or a goal. This could be something in your life or in your business.

You have a series of choices between the time that you wake up and the time that you sleep every single day. You can choose to move towards your goals, or you can choose to avoid them. After all, that’s the easy option right?

At the end of our short journey together today, you’ll hopefully feel energised and committed to never allowing yourself to have a zero day in the future.

Let’s wind back the clock to 2013 for a moment.

This was a bit of a hectic year in my life. I was at the peak of suffering from depression, which had taken hold over a 5 year period since watching my Grandmother pass away from Motor Neurone’s disease in 2008.

So much so, that in May 2013 I was a blinking cursor and a few lines of text away from saying goodbye to this world forever. Thankfully that didn’t happen and I’m still here to talk to you today.

My agency went through a 6 month legal battle with an ex-client, who had misunderstood a situation and chosen to take us to court for all of the money they had ever paid us. If you’ve never had to suffer through this stress… just imagine many sleepless nights and a lot of nausea. The situation was finally resolved in court, with the facts clearly laid out and we parted ways on amicable terms… just before my 30th birthday.

2013 wasn’t all bad though… in the summer I first spoke to my girlfriend Mel. I’ll tell you the full story of that in a future episode, but what I can share with you now is that she arrived in my life at the perfect time – helping to guide me on the right path. A path that I’m still on today.

Finally… in November 2013, I read something that truly changed my life and this is what I want to share with you today.

A post appeared on the website Reddit. You likely know what this is, but for anyone that doesn’t it’s a website that is somewhere between social sharing and a forum, driven by user generated content.

A Reddit user was reaching out for help. He was spending his first year away from home at college. He thought that the change of scenery would help with his feelings of not caring about himself. Unfortunately that didn’t work and he needed advice, so he reached out to the Internet to help.

A fellow user (ryans01) saw this post and responded with frankly, one of the greatest comments I’ve ever seen online.

Now I won’t read all of this out for you, as it’s a long comment – but I will link it in the show notes on our website – nurtureflow.com.

Ryan’s comment focused around four rules:

  1. There are no more zero days. No matter how bad you feel, you get something done towards your goal. Small actions lead to big results over time.
  2. Be grateful to the 3 You’s. The past you, the present you and the future you. If you feel bad or down, remember something good that you’ve done before. Appreciate the good things that you do today. And by taking actions today, you make life better for the future you.
  3. Forgive yourself. There will be days when you fail and maybe you end up having a zero day. It’s okay, things happen. But forgive yourself, pick yourself up and keep moving forward.
  4. Exercise and books. This one was quite a simple rule. Exercise brings endorphins, you clear your mind and you’re looking after your current and future self. Books educate, inspire and can take you into far off magical mystery lands.

As you can imagine the kindness and generosity that Ryan shared with his comment was very popular on Reddit, getting at the time of recording almost 11,000 upvotes and numerous awards from Reddit users.

In fact, a community was formed on Reddit around the ‘Non Zero Day’ concept. It currently has almost 100,000 members. All of that from one comment, by one person helping someone in need.

As you think about those rules none of them are particularly mind blowing in terms of what they actually are. They’re likely all things that you already do… or try to do in your own life. Yet sometimes it just helps having someone else say them to you.

For me personally, I read that comment and it stopped me in my tracks. It was exactly what I needed to hear and I copied it into a Word document, printing it out. Those pages are still on my desk today… a little coffee stained, creased and crumpled.

I’d be lying to you if I said that every day over the 6 or 7 year period were perfect. They weren’t. I’ve failed many times. It’s part of life. We learn from the mistakes that we make and they help us to be a better person.

One thing I have stuck to more than anything else since November 2013, is to make sure I do my absolute best to have a non zero day, every single day.

Let’s talk about how you can do that too…

I’m going to make a quick assumption about you here. You’re probably an online business owner and you likely work by yourself or you have a small team. You’ll typically work from a home office or have a small office in your local area.

If that’s not you, it’s okay – everything in this podcast works for you too.

Non zero days work for your business and your personal life. I’m going to focus on your business right now, as we all have different personal goals. You may even be that person who is getting close to the age of 40 and still believes that one day their favourite sports team will be picking up the phone asking if they want to play this weekend. I know I’m not alone with that…

So what can be a non zero day in your business? Anything. All we’re talking about are the actions that you can take to achieve your goals or the goals of your customers.

For service based businesses like digital agencies, the core focus of your day-to-day activities will be client work and managing client relationships.

A typical day might include:

  • Writing proposals
  • Running discovery meetings
  • On-boarding new clients
  • Working on a new website for a client
  • Answering communications from existing clients
  • Managing client websites and support tickets
  • Administrative work such as invoicing or accounts 

Every single one of these tasks and the others that you do each day count towards your non zero day. So you’re likely ticking these off already, and that’s awesome. I’m proud of you!

But there’s one area of your business that is likely being neglected. Your own website or marketing.

Many service business owners spend all of their time focusing on delivering client projects or helping their customers. This means they forget to take care of their own business.

When was the last time you created content for your business? Perhaps a blog post, some social media posts, a video or an email newsletter.

What about when you updated your last website? I’ve seen more than one digital agency website recently that was last updated in 2014 or 2015. It’s not a great look, especially when the agency is promoting design or marketing services.

But this isn’t just about digital agencies. 

You could be an E-Commerce store owner who is busy every day shipping out orders to your customers, but you don’t have time to work on new product development. 

You could be a digital course creator who spends all day answering questions and helping your students. This doesn’t leave you any time to create new lessons, new courses or do any marketing.

You could even be a personal trainer, accountant or psychologist. Someone who works each week, spending time seeing your clients. Maybe you have a dream of setting up an online course so that you can help people from around the world and stop trading time for money.

You have goals for your business. The first of these is usually a revenue goal. Now you might be someone who doesn’t like talking about money, and I get that. It can be a bit of a muddy topic. So let’s look at this simply.

You’re running a business to generate revenue and ultimately a profit. The income that your business generates supports you, your family, your employees and their families. You’re helping people in your local area, across your country and sometimes around the world. By making a profit, you also contribute back to your country as a whole through taxes.

If your business isn’t set up to generate a profit, then it’s a hobby… not a business. Of course charity owners are an exception here as a “non profit entity”, but I’m going to assume that they’re probably not listening to this podcast.

The level of revenue that your business needs to provide the support I mentioned and to generate a profit will vary. There’s a big difference between a solo business owner and someone who has a team of 10 or more employees.

Aside from a revenue goal, there will also be other goals that you’ll consider. These could be SMART goals. You’ve probably heard of that term before. In case you haven’t, the word SMART is an acronym and it stands for a goal that is: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

An example of a SMART goal therefore could be that you want to: Increase your monthly recurring revenue by 30% over the next 6 months.

Whatever your goals, each one will be achieved through a series of objectives and actions. There usually won’t be just one magical task you can do to achieve the goal.

Are you taking the time right now to make sure you’re working on those actions in your business? If you’re anything like the majority of business owners that I talk to every day… you might not be.

It’s vital that you remember that working on achieving the goals that you’ve set for your business is just as important as your client work or serving your customers.

I ran a digital agency in the UK for 14 years and I made the same mistake of ignoring my own business for many of the early years. It’s too easy to focus on client work as that’s where the money comes in. Every project that you deliver is more money in the bank for your business.

Schedule time in for your own work each week, or even a short period each day. My recommendation for this is at least half a day each week on tasks for your own business. This could be on one specific day, or you could take a short period of time every day.

There should never be a day that goes by in your business where you don’t achieve something that moves you closer to your goals. Yes some days will be harder than others. You might struggle physically or mentally, you may have to deal with a difficult client.

But you can still make these non zero days. Your business deserves to not have a zero day. Even if you just write one email or 500 words towards your next epic blog post – that’s a non zero day.

You’ve created something awesome and the small actions that you do each day, will add up to bigger results over time.

Now I said I wasn’t going to focus too much on the personal side of things as there is such a wide variety of goals that individuals will have. However, 2020 has been a year unlike anything that we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

We’ve seen a pandemic sweep across the world, taking the lives of many and forcing businesses to close and people to go into lockdown in their countries. The impacts of this have had a huge effect on the mental and physical health of all of us.

For Mel and I here in the UK, we’ve actually been pretty much in lockdown since the very start of March – when we both took a decision to stay safe and protect ourselves. Both of us are considered ‘at risk’.

The lockdown in the UK as well as our own additional decision to protect ourselves has created a situation where we’ve only seen people in person once in the last six months… if we don’t include delivery drivers who stand in the driveway and wave awkwardly after dropping off a package.

That’s a lot of strain on your mental health – especially if you’re people who are normally sociable and enjoy spending time with others. On some of the days it has been really hard to function and get anything done.

Our story isn’t unique at all. I’ve seen this repeated everywhere I look, in each of the communities that we’re in. People around the world have suffered from their sense of normality taken away. 

Of course, some have had it far far worse too. It was particularly saddening for my family that a long-time friend of ours who was a champion horse racing jockey took his own life earlier this year.

No matter how we are affected by events that are outside of our control, it’s important that we’re still able to focus on our goals and dreams, as well as things that make us happy. And this is where we can ensure that we keep having a non zero day.

Even the smallest possible action that you can take, can really improve your mental health. 

Admiral William H. McRaven gave a commencement address to the graduating students at the University of Texas in May 2014. In his speech he talked about his time as a Navy Seal and 10 lessons that he learned and wanted to pass on to the students.

I’ve included a link to the full video in the show notes on our website, but I’d love to just read you part of that speech here. Admiral McRaven said:

“Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack — that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task — mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

This is such a powerful idea and it’s awesome to see that the Navy Seals also understand how important a non zero day can be. By making your bed each day it’s teaching a valuable lesson about how taking one simple action each day can really improve your mindset.

I hope that the idea of having a non zero day in your business or personal life is as inspiring to you, as it has been to me over the last 7 years. So I want to leave you today with a challenge…

I challenge you to make every day for the next 3 weeks a non zero day. You don’t have to do this at an Olympic pace or have it be a burden. Just the simplest task to make your day a non zero day.

After 3 weeks, you’ll find that it starts to become a habit. A really positive habit that improves your mental and physical wellbeing.

And be kind to yourself. You’re doing amazing things, supporting your family and growing your business. Not every day will be perfect and that’s okay. Remember to forgive yourself and don’t be hard on yourself if something goes wrong. It’s good that we have experiences to learn from and there will always be a better day to come.

Zero days don’t need to ever be a thing in your life anymore.

Thank you for listening to the first proper episode that we’ve released for the Nurture Flow podcast.

If you enjoyed this episode, please feel free to subscribe in your podcast player of choice. I’d also be honoured if you’d consider leaving a rating or a review if you feel that the content is valuable to you.

Have a great day ahead, you’re awesome, take care!

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4 Comments

  • Great podcast! I can so relate to this when spending the day on small tasks. With working for myself and trying to build my business, I have in the last month or so started to think just this, that each task may be small and some days, goals or plans don’t seem to get worked on, but it’s all progress. Thanks and keep up the great work Matt.

    Reply
    • Hey Richard,

      Thanks for the kind words!

      It is indeed all progress. Sometimes the long task lists can grind you down, but it’s just a case of chipping away at things and making sure that every day is a non zero day. Doing that again and again will lead to things getting easier 🙂

      Reply
  • Wow, what a fantastic podcast! As you mentioned, I also suffer from a bit of depression. The “Make your bed” suggestion is a fantastic way to start the motivations for the day. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Thanks Phil, really appreciate the great feedback 🙂

      I love the “make your bed” concept from Admiral McRaven. His time in the Navy Seals sounds like it was tough but really taught him and his colleagues some great steps for life. We can take these concepts and use them like rocket fuel in our own lives and businesses.

      Reply

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