Why I Try To Do Some Things Every Day, Without Exception.

A few days ago, I posted the quiz, Are you an abstainer or a moderator? As one reader pointed out in the comments, the abstainer/moderator split seems related to another tendency, at least in me–that I find it’s easier to do something every day than to do it some days. I post to my blog six days a week. I take reading 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; do I deserve a break, did yesterday “count,” etc.

True, if you do something every day, you tend to fall into a routine, and routine has a bad reputation. 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 routine activities also bring happiness. The pleasure of doing the same thing, in the same way, every day, shouldn’t be overlooked.

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.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • There are habits and there are events. Then there are the weird things in between. Thanks for the great post and the reminder to create strong habits, not flimsy ones.

  • I brush my teeth every single day…it’s not exactly magical, but it does provide beauty! What a simple concept. Will definitely have to start incorporating exercise as a daily task.

  • Sharyn

    Neat when you think about it, too, that YOUR habit of posting daily becomes MY habit of reading your posts daily. How one life touches another……..

    • gretchenrubin

      It’s so interesting that you say this, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people’s habits affect other people’s habits, how a dog’s habits influences a person’s habits, etc. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse.

      • Sandi Delia

        Yes! As I read the post I thought that I exercise every day ONLY because my dog needs it. And yet, the everyday-ness of the walk is one of my favorite times because it is just something I do and don’t have to think too hard or argue with myself about it.

    • Paul – The Kind Little Blogger

      Ditto. Sitting down of the morning and reading through Google Reader is one of my favourite parts of my daily routine.

  • If breaking a routine brings happiness, establishing the routine is a necessary first step.

  • Katie

    This is a fantastic point. I’ve been struggling with weights/core work, yet I do cardio everyday without thinking. Perhaps, I need to add my weights/core work to everyday and see if that’s easier. I definitely struggle with, today, or maybe tomorrow…thanks for posting!

    • fireflyeyes

      I’ve had a similar issue and definitely found if I go to the weight room first and do that for like ten minutes before cardio it’s easier than a long session 2-3x week. I just alternate upper body, core, and lower body so I don’t overwork myself.

  • Shirley Zheng

    Hi Gretchen, I’ve just finished reading The Happiness Project. You’ve given me much to contemplate and I know I’m a happier person already just from reading this book. Even though it may be only a slight improvement. Thank you for letting me face the happiness dilemma head first. I’ll be recommending this book to my friends! I’m in my last month of University and thanks for helping me get through this stressful transition period of my life into a proper adult!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that my work strikes a chord with you. Good luck with graduation and beyond.

  • There is a comfort in doing some things every day. Eating, sleeping, reading, exercising and writing, for instance. But I find some things I enjoy more if I only do them a few times a week, and others I enjoy immensely, going to like museums, concerts, the shore (which is just far enough a way) precisely because I do them infrequently.

  • Yes, but we need to acknowledge the fact that people are very different in
    the ability to stick to routines.
    Otherwise, why would so many fail in
    establishing new habits?

    You seem to be blessed with the unusual gift of simply deciding to do something every day
    and then do it.

    Good for you!

    Most of us know that we are better off following our routines but after a while we slip or
    get bored or whatever.

    The Furries & The Happy Club

    • gretchenrubin

      I’ve been thinking a lot about this very issue lately.

  • Daphne Gray-Grant

    I definitely find it easier to do something EVERY day rather than some days. Recently, I’ve started copying writing (see: http://bit.ly/OwzevJ for an explanation). For months, I tried to do it once a week and just couldn’t manage it. Now I do it every day and it’s WAY EASIER! Counterintuitive, I know, but it sure works for me.

  • Nicole

    This is one of the pieces of advice I WISH I’d known about years ago, but I’m great-full to know it now. Thanks, Gretchen!

  • Oh, yes, I am the goddess of “is today the day?” and “did yesterday’s email count as writing?”. I appreciate your insight in this post because, as a bona fide all-or-nothing girl, I can see that I may as well just embrace doing things every day. (“Things”= writing and working out.)

    I like to keep things simple, and you have helped me to see that daily is simple.

  • Marsc83

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is that every person who gets out of bed in the morning does every single day, without exception. And that one thing is: they choose what to wear. Even if it’s just staying in your pyjamas, that is still a choice. I’m not into fashion by any means, but I I can’t think of any other decision that we all make across the globe that happens every day.

  • fireflyeyes

    This post made me realize that one of the big reasons I am unhappy is that I don’t do a single thing everyday (beyond the obvious like eat, sleep, brush teeth). I don’t eat breakfast, have my favorite tea, write, read, work, cook, clean, exercise, get dressed, put on makeup, or leave my house everyday. I do all of those things SOMETIMES, but I don’t have any kind of consistent routine in my life. I don’t wake up at the same time, or go to bed at the same time. Maybe if I did things more consistently I would be happier.

  • Jocelyn

    I’m curious what “reading notes” are exactly? Are these notes you take while reading?

  • Carol

    Every morning, I wake up early and make coffee. I take my (strong, black) mug of Folger’s (I know, I should grind beans, but it’s too noisy and messy!) and a glass of water to my comfy recliner. I read and respond to my emails, and I read 3 newspapers online.

  • Natalie

    I ran every day for a year! A year! It was wonderful for my body and my spirit.

  • Jess

    I finally came around to the ‘abstainer’ view after years of insisting I was surely a moderator. The hardest thing I finally reckoned with on this was drinking – which you’ve posted about before. By simply abstaining, it is so much easier! I’ve written about this on my blog, if anyone is in the same boat: http://why-dry.blogspot.com/

    • gretchenrubin

      This is a great post. You’re right – ordering wine with dinner at a restaurant, for example, is something that’s so easy to do as a habit, without thinking – but when you add up the money, it’s surprising how much it is. And if you actually feel better when you skip (as I certainly do), it’s a double win.

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