Proposed Resolution: Do Something Every Day.

One of my Secrets of Adulthood–perhaps counter-intuitively–is “It’s often easier to do something every day than to do it some days.” I post to my blog six days a week. I take notes every day. I write in my one-sentence journal every day. Many people have told me that they find it easier to exercise when they exercise every day.

If I try to do something four days a week, I spend a lot of time arguing with myself about whether today is the day, or tomorrow, or the next day; did the week start on Sunday or Monday; etc. And that’s exhausting.

If I do something every day, I tend to fall into a routine, and routine has a bad reputation. It’s true that novelty and challenge bring happiness, and that people who break their routines, try new things, and go new places are happier, but I think that some routine activities also bring happiness. The pleasure of doing the same thing, in the same way, every day, shouldn’t be overlooked. By re-framing, you can find happiness in activities like doing dishes or sweeping the floor, as well as your beloved morning coffee-and-newspaper.

The things you do every day take on a certain beauty, and provide a kind of invisible architecture to daily life.

Funnily enough, two geniuses whom I associate with the idea of the unconventional wrote about the power of doing something every day.

Andy Warhol wrote, “Either once only, or every day. If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it, say, twice or just almost every day, it’s not good any more.

Gertrude Stein made a related point: “Anything one does every day is important and imposing and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful.”

So if there’s something that you wish you did more regularly, try doing it every day; if you do something every day, revel in it.

Every Friday’s post proposes a resolution for you to consider for your own happiness project.

  • Dory

    Excellent point! Making my resolutions fit into my daily routine makes them so much easier, almost automatic. For example, my doctor gave me some simple foot exercises which I rarely did. Once I made it a resolution, I started doing them before I put my socks on. Now when I pick up my socks I immediately think to do my exercises.

  • Cal Grantsmith

    I find it easier to keep doing something, not only everyday, but also at the same time everyday, then it really locks it in for me.

  • Shaynasmart

    I LOATHE doing the dishes by hand, but have to. It’s much easier to do them everyday, then wait until they pile up. And I end up feeling better about myself because it’s done and out of the way!

  • Carrie Willard

    I totally agree with “do it daily”. There are a few things that are important to me (exercise, writing, reading aloud to my kids) that I do every single day no matter what. It really is easier because I can’t procrastinate on it. 

  • Anna

     I allot certain days for certain activites. So MWF are work out days with one optional day on the weekend. I have two specific laundry days per week and a specific grocery day. It sounds counterintuitive but by blocking that time out as non-negotiatiable to do other things it leaves my other time that is free very open for fun things. My laundry is done, my work outs are done and I can read as long as I want, go out with friends etc.

    • Rachelvidrine

       This type of scheduling works well for me, too.

  • Dory

    This makes me think of the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Have you read it? It’s on my to read list.

  • nikhalik

    Pursue your passions with passion. The article rocks!

    Nik HalikTHE  THRILLIONAIRE

  • Kay

    Just love this post–and love how your pop-ups only come at the end of a session and not irritatingly at the start; how do you know all this stuff? Just glad you’re telling us. Now I get the “every-day-ness of things”  thanks

  • Julia Smith

    I certainly think this holds true for top priorities. Once you decide on what those are, it’s important to do something every day that develops those priorities and moves them forward. I have learned that to nurture my spiritual growth, I have to meditate every day. It makes a big difference!

  • http://crazyintrovert.com/ Glori (CrazyIntrovert)

    I want to write everyday! That’s it! Life and work keeps getting in the way of it though! Arghhh!

    • sophia

       Glori, have you tried 750words.com? It’s a free site that rewards you with badges for writing every day. I find it fun. :-)

      • http://crazyintrovert.com/ Glori (CrazyIntrovert)

        Thank you! I’m trying it out!

  • http://twitter.com/KaliWhipple Kali

    Great advice to do something everyday instead of just once-in-a-while. It becomes so much easier for me to do something everyday than it is to do it just every other day or so. When it comes to working out, I find it easier to make it a routine and do it every day.

  • JebberA

    Thanks Gretchen, for sharing all of your work on the happiness project. I’m new to your blog and tweets and am enjoying the daily dose if inspiration. Ha! See! I checkout your tweets ever day! I.m already doing something every day. Geese I’m good ….

  • ArbyOz

    It’s easy to see how this approach would work well for some people, and how it might be helpful for establishing good habits or practices, but I’m not sure that what worked for Andy Warhol and Gertrude Stein would hold true for everyone.  For me, some occupations and interests work best as occasional activities… done every day, they feel like onerous, burdensome chores.  If I can bundle the same task so as to perform it every other day or every third day, I spend only one half or one third as much time dreading  or resenting it, and accomplishing it gives me more of the gratifying sense of  a “project completed” than the joyless marking of yet another round of a task I don’t relish.  It depends on the person, I think.

    • gretchenrubin

      Interesting observation. A good example of how we must always think about what is true for ourselves.not just assume that because something is true for others, it will be true for us too.

      _____

  • SlimWhistler

    I love this one, Gretchen.  There is  beauty in chosen routine.

  • Peninith1

    Interesting way to approach this: Go over your day and identify the things that you ‘just do’ every day possible: brush your teeth, make your bed, eat breakfast, check your email, write in your journal, take meds, read something or other . . . those are fixed stars in my firmament anyhow. For example, I really can’t imagine not making my bed and having that moment of happy contemplation of the order it makes in my room. And that has not always been so. I can remember the effort it took to start keeping a journal, and the decision to start making my bed every day, and learning to use a computer for email and then getting one at home. It IS possible to add activities that I do every day. Exercise is the one I am working on now.

  • http://heallovebe.wordpress.com/ Jamie Falahee

    Just wanted to say thank you for the information on your blog and in your book!  It has helped me to start pursuing my own happiness project and posting information I find in my blog

  • http://anislandmom.com/ Anislandmom

    I had a professor my freshman year of college who spoke about this, about the beauty of routine, of how daily habits can often bring greater happiness than always flying by the seat of our pants, so to speak. It was an interesting message to deliver to 18-year-olds, and one that has stuck with me because it was completely counter to how most of us were living our lives at that point. And years later, I well understand this from much experience of trying it both ways.

  • http://www.sweetandsage.com Sage

    Love it! This is such a simple idea, but something I really needed to hear today. I DO feel better when I’m in a routine, and I’m tired of half-assing my goals. Thank you.

  • Amanda

    Thank you for posting this.  As soon as I read your words, I realized that I felt that it is so true, and that I have been struggling to realize this in my daily life with a few key things.  My practices for my artwork, and my exercise, will feel steadier now.  I know I will be enjoying your blog too- thank you for creating this!

  • http://milkandhoneyliving.com/ Becca Voeltner

    Great reminder – I find your point entirely true! I am working towards this in a few areas of life – I am a fairly sporatic person and tend to do things once every so often. This year I started a daily index card, a little recipe box filled with dated index cards sits right in our living room and every evening I write down what we did, something funny someone said, etc. and it is proving to be an amazing way to “journal” without needing to sit down for an hour and recount the past 2 weeks (which is NOT happening in these days with young children)!

  • http://www.insignificantdetail.blogspot.com/ Stephanie

    The timing of this post inspired me to commit to a 30-Day Challenge at my yoga studio: daily yoga for the month of May! I’m hoping to end the month calmer, stronger, AND happier.

  • Estradpao

    I’ve actually committed to doing something new every day. It’s a routine that won’t ever feel like a routine. It’s harder than I thought it would be when I made the resolution but it is a good challenge. I also have started to value the little routines that help me everyday like your five minute clean up before bed. It’s helpful and puts me at ease before bed since I know my workload for the next day won’t be as heavy

  • Stephanie B

    Your post brought to mind a YouTube video that I saw recently – related both to doing something everyday AND exercise. What I like is that there is also freedom & flexibility in the routine (it doesn’t matter what you do – just do it!) not to mention the incredibly compelling argument he makes.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo

  • DanaRae Pomeroy

    Routine keeps me sane (or as close as I’m going to come). Not every day can be scheduled, but certain things happen every day. I get up, enjoy a couple cups of coffee while I write in my morning pages, meditate. Four days I do an hour workout at the pool and one day I line dance. Afternoons are generally for writing or editorial projects. Those are givens. They keep me centered and focused and still allow flexibility to some degree. I work much better within routines and schedules. Hold good thoughts, please – we leave Saturday for “vacation,” which means driving to OK to drop off Himself and his dog, continuing on to AZ with my dog, spending ten days or more with sister and Mom and then the return trip in reverse. While I look forward to the adventure and spending time with family, I also know my routine isn’t going to fit the travel time or routine in AZ. The flip side is it will be a new experience and an adventure.

  • Cindy W.

    I am a consumate procrastinator to the point where nothing will get done for days then I will clean, do laundry, pay bills etc in a flurry of activity and marvel at how much better I feel when it is all done.  So my new mantra is ” Just don’t do nothing” which is borrowed from an article I read about diabetes management but then realized that it can be useful in other aspects of life.