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Never Skip Two

At all costs avoid the physical and mental toll of skipping two in a row.

If I something pops up and I can't make a recurring meeting, the first thing I do might surprise you: I look at the next week to see if there's conflicts.

Because I Never Skip Two in a row.

Meetings, workouts, writings sessions, etc. Skipping two in a row is a no-no. Here's why skipping two brings negative consequences, areas of life that are most effected, and how I overcome the urge to skip.

Sustained momentum is not perfect. Take a car moving down a highway. It has to stop for food every now and then. That's like skipping one day of a habit; in the long run, this won't divert from the goal. Over the course of a roadtrip, it's just a blip on the radar. (My metaphors seem to consistently return to cars.)

Two in a row, though, is the start of a new habit. Your brain starts to become wired to believe the event, workout, or meal plan is acceptable to skip. You have to have a strategy to get back on track.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld uses an oft-quoted secret to stay on track: don't break the chain. For every day that he successfully writes, he draws an 'X' on his calendar. It just needs to be done, the writing doesn't have to be good and the jokes don't have to be funny. This is a visual way to track progress, just like the activity rings on my Apple Watch.

Another example: one meal of unhealthy eating won't derail your health (and is important for morale according to a lot of experts like Joe Holder). It's about being reasonable, staying attuned to long-term goals and not being too self-critical in the short-term.

Our brains are similarly when we skip the gym repeatedly. Nicole Lambert, Sports Performance Psychologist, says “if someone works out regularly and skips several workouts he or she may experience an increase in stress, lower self-esteem, embarrassment, guilt, depression, and lack of motivation.” Restarting or ramping up a workout routine can be like pulling my own teeth. I tell myself to just get through the first three workouts, no matter how much I want to resist, to get the good habit and elevated feeling back.

Sleep is similar. It's not optional. Getting two bad nights of sleep in a row leads to inflammation, headaches, and a weak immune system. (This is just one source, but there are plenty.) By listening to our body, we can hear the effects. Sometimes our bodies yell at us. "One more hour of sleep please!"

But getting back on track with meetings, personal goals, or family dinners isn't as easy. I use two strategies to Never Skip Two:

(1) consciously dedicate more energy to the task or habit. It requires reprioritizing.

(2) remember why I'm doing said habit. Returning to the why helps me get re-inspired.

The system isn't foolproof, but committing to not skipping two helps me to prioritize my time and energy, maintain momentum, and keep my brain wired towards the end goal.