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Imagine you’re about to start a new habit.
You want to turn it into a permanent routine.
So do you follow it every day or do it a few times a week?
Most experts would agree that the only way to turn an action into a habit is to follow it on a daily basis—to the point where it becomes an ingrained behavior.
That said, there are times where it makes more sense to implement the “occasional habit” that you complete only a few times a week. This leads to a simple question:
How do you know when it’s better to focus on a streak habit and when it’s better to follow the occasional habit?
In this post, we’ll explore both types. Plus, you’ll learn three questions to ask whenever you’re faced with a new habit change.
Let’s get to it.
The Benefit of the Streak Habit
There is a famous anti-procrastination technique known as the “Seinfeld Strategy” that can help you beat procrastination. This routine is based on a story of how an inspiring comedian asked Jerry Seinfeld about his secret to success.
The comedian described the following:
He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.
‘After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.'
The point of this Seinfeld example is simple—you don’t worry about good or bad days.
You don’t wait until you’re motivated. What’s important is you show up every day and do the work. In other words, the best habits are formed by not breaking the chain.
The “streak habit” works because you create permanent routines. You don’t worry about individual successes or failures. Instead, you focus on repeating the process day in and day out.
A streak habit is something you do every day–without fail.
If you’re an aspiring writer, you write every day. If you want to eat better, you stick to a sensible food plan every day. And if you want to be more productive, you complete a to-do list every day.
It’s not hard to form a habit when you have the “no-excuse” mindset. Simply focus on doing it—without fail—every single day and it’ll turn into a permanent routine.
The Benefit of the Occasional Habit
The opposite of the streak habit is a concept that I call the occasional habit.
The idea here is that it’s okay to not follow a routine every single day. In fact, it’s often better to take off the occasional day and focus on energy renewal.
For instance, I currently track ten habits on my Coach.me app:
- 10K steps
- Email outreach to one person
- Write for 30 minutes
- Morning routine
- Weigh yourself
- Use Pomodoro Technique (cool Productivity Hack)
- Inbox Zero
- Listen to Podcast
Do I do all of them every day?
Most of these habits revolve around my productivity and aren’t always applicable since I don’t work on Saturdays and Sundays. Yet, I’d consider them to be successfully formed habits because I’ll do them—without fail—during the workweek.
In a recent article, Joel Gascoigne (the founder of Buffer) experimented with a 7 day work week. Instead of working five days a week and taking off two, Joel tried to a follow the same core habits every single day: Work, go the gym, reflect, and rest.
While his individual days weren’t filled with as many activities, he thought that developing a “streak mindset” would improve his overall productivity.
Occasional habits are ones that can't be done daily. They are difficult to turn into routines.
To make a long story short, Joel burned out after a few weeks. His passion for work decreased. Plus, he strained a muscle at the gym due to the repetitive nature of exercising every day. What he ultimately determined is it’s important to take at least one day off each week for energy renewal.
3 Questions to Choose Your Habit Type
Now that you know the difference between the two types of habits, you might wonder which one is better.
My answer is it depends on the habit you’re trying to form.
You can figure it out by answering three simple questions:
#1: Is it de-motivating?
Sometimes there are “de-motivating habits,” which are risky to follow every day.
The running habit is a good example because it’s impossible to do every day without getting injured.
A better strategy is to focus on developing an occasional running habit that you follow three to four times a week. And maybe in a year or so, you could get to the point where you’d run six times a week.
Look at the habit you’re trying to form. Is it something that can be done every day without a negative result?
If so, then it would make a good streak habit. On the other hand, if you feel like there’s a risk of injury or burnout, then schedule in a few days off each week for energy renewal.
#2: Is it necessary?
Some habits are related to your job or business. So, on your days off, it’s not that important to complete them. Instead, you’d be better off relaxing and doing other things.
If a habit isn’t necessary on a certain day, then it’s okay to skip it. Often you’ll find that scheduling in rest days creates a lot of passion for a task. Just remember: You’re not being lazy if you miss a day, you’re being strategic.
#3: Is it enjoyable?
It’s okay to enjoy a habit. In fact, I’m sure there are certain routines you look forward to on a daily basis. If you find that a routine is motivating and there isn’t a downside to doing it every day, then I’d recommend turning it into a streak habit
For instance, I love reading, so it’s easy to follow this habit every day since it’s how I relax during productivity breaks and at night.
To better help you turn any goal into habits you can sustain, take a few minutes to watch this video:
Final Thoughts on Streak Habits VS Occasional Habits
I feel that there isn’t a right answer to the streak vs. occasional debate. Most of the time, it’s better to not “break the chain” when you first start a habit. But, it’s also important to consider the negative consequences of obsessively doing the same thing every single day.
Really, the best way solution is to answer the three questions I just mentioned:
- Is it de-motivating?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it enjoyable?
Apply these questions to the habits you’re trying to form. You’ll find that it’s better to follow some every single day and skip a few days on the other ones.
Now it’s your turn.
Do you believe in streak habits? Or do think it’s important to take a few days off? How do you determine what’s right for you?
Sound off below in the comment section…
If you are looking for a NEW good habit…. Why not check out this massive good habit list.
Finally, if you're looking for resources on building good habits, check out these blog posts:
- How to Build New Habits That Stick [The Ultimate Guide]
- 13 Steps for Building a Habit Stacking Routine
- 29 Best Books on Building Good Habits
Finally, if you need help with building habits, then check out this nine-step blueprint that walks you through the entire process of creating lifelong habits.)