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When Was Your Last Zero Day?

When Was Your Last Zero Day?

In the backpacking community there is a term for a day that a hiker takes where no progress is made toward their destination, that term is known as a zero day. A zero day is taken so that the hiker can repair or replace gear, take a long shower, go into town or simply take a day to rest and allow their bodies to recover strength for the next section of trail.

When you are hiking trails like the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) or the Appalachian Trail (AT) zero days become very important if you want to make it to the end of the trail. Your joints, muscles and mind need rest and a chance to heal from the constant wear and tear of the trail. Without zero days, the body breaks down and hikers leave the trail due to medical issues that could have been avoided with a little rest.

As leaders and entrepreneurs, we need to have zero days as well, so that our bodies and minds can have a chance to heal. Our work may not include walking 20 miles or more over rough surfaces with wet socks and a constant cold drizzle that saps our strength but we do push ourselves mentally and physically.

In the early start up phase of an enterprise, business leaders will often push themselves into working long days and weekends. At times, you are the only one who understands the both the urgency and the rush of completing the next task, developing the next product and working with multiple functional hats in the same day.

Before burnout, a stress related illness or injury occurs, you need to take or put a zero day into your schedule.

The benefits of a zero day for an entrepreneur include:

1)  Reconnect with your network. Your support system (spouse, family, close friends, etc.), needs you to check in both emotionally and physically from time to time. If you have a great network, they care about you and want “proof of life” from time to time. You will be surprised how much just physically be around will reconnect the bonds of your network.

2)  Allow new ideas to come to you. When you are heads down on a task or project, it can be very hard to open your mind or heart to inspiration. Doing something as routine as cutting the grass, painting a room or just sleeping in can free yourself to be open to inspiration. Time away from what you are working on might just lead to a break through to a challenge you are facing.

3)  You physically need a break. The more stressed that you become the more your body can react to that stress in negative ways. Some of those physical manifestations can be in the form of muscle cramps, headaches, back aches and other ailments. Just like the long distance hiker needs a break to let joints and heal and rest, you need to change the level of stress and positions that you normally find yourself in when you are working on your projects.

4)  Enjoy the scenery. When hikers enter an especially beautiful stretch of the AT, they sometimes take a zero day so that they can take short day hikes and explore the area. Many hikers hit a pace of 20 or more miles a day, which makes it hard to stop and look around at some of the valleys, waterfalls, and other features that make getting into the outdoors worth the sacrifice. A zero day may be just the thing to allow yourself the opportunity to explore a local park, art exhibit or something else that you have been too busy to appreciate.

If you are of a faith that believes in a Sabbath then you believe that one day a week was set aside for rest and observance of God. The tricky part of using the Sabbath as your zero day is that if you are an active volunteer/supporter of your church then the Sabbath really may not be a true day of rest.

The point of a zero day is that you have time when obligations and work are not required but restful activities (open to interpretation) are the order of the day.

Coach’s Wrap Up

Like the song, New York State of Mind says, “Some folks like to get away, Take a holiday from the neighborhood, Hop a flight to Miami Beach or Hollywood, but I’m takin’ a Greyhound on the Hudson River Line…” different people have different needs or ideas about what can recharge them.

Whatever you do to rest and get ready for the next challenge make sure that you plan for a zero day or two and allow yourself to disengage with work and engage with family and activities that refill your cup.


Do you plan zero days in your week or work schedule? What activities refills your cup and allows you to push through the next challenge?


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