How to Increase Your Actions Per Day (APD)

This is an article from NF Rebel Writer, Daniel Thrasher 

Have you ever watched a professional gamer play Starcraft on the computer? Seriously, just watch a few seconds of this:

These guys are insane… their fingers fly over the keyboard like hummingbird wings, and their pointer finger taps the mouse button so fast it sounds like a machine gun going rat-a-tat-tat. When professionals play a real-time strategy game, they’re always doing something; usually they’re juggling five or more competing goals at the same time (attacking, defending, building, scouting, and so forth).

In fact, one of the most common ways to measure the skill level of a professional real-time strategy player is in “actions per minute.” In a game of Starcraft, it doesn’t matter whether the player is researching new technologies, issuing commands to their military units, or training a new worker – every click and stroke of the mouse or keyboard counts as an action!

These players usually hit hundreds of actions per minute, up to 300 (APM) being normal for pros and some even top out as high as 600 APM! That’s up to 10 actions per second in a typical game, which is crazy fast! (In fact, I strongly urge you not to try this at home. Your wrists will hate you…)

Professional or a newb, any player in a real-time strategy game cannot afford to be paralyzed by choice… sitting around in a state of inaction and thinking instead of doing something, right now, is going to get you clobbered.

Sound familiar?

Every action we take in these games, or on the quest to lose weight and gain muscle, takes us one step closer our goals. When we fail to take action, we slowly get overtaken by the enemy swarm of inaction, laziness, and a sedentary lifestyle.

You don’t need to be a fan of these RTS games to take advantage of this “actions per” mindset, and today I’m going to show you how it has been the missing ingredient from you taking action in your own life. 

Simply focus on raising your Actions Per Day, and start winning life. 

Success Based on Actions Per Day

The gamers use actions per minute (APM), but we’ll be using actions per day (APD). 

STOP stressing so much about any single decision. 

Instead, look at your total actions over a month. How? By measuring progress in actions per day for at least one week – ideally, for a full month.

For instance, if you’re going to tackle a new exercise goal, here are some actions you can count…

  • Did you weigh yourself? That’s one action.
  • Did you hit the gym for a workout today? One action.
  • Did you click the order button on a new pull-up bar? One action.
  • Did you swap out fries in favor of veggies at dinner tonight? One action.

By consciously focusing on taking as many single actions as you can each day, you’ll make so much more progress than you ever could with the haphazard “when-I-feel-like-I-have-time” method.

Some actions you will take are going to be habitual. It might be difficult to start running or eating veggies, but eventually it’s going to be a breeze. These are the best ways to accrue actions because while they may difficult at first, they get easier and easier until they don’t even feel like work. Eventually, you are living a healthier life on auto-pilot.

One-time actions are basically anything else that helps you pursue your fitness or health goal, like signing up for a gym membership or learning to cook a meal. (FYI: Research and reading are great, but for this challenge, they don’t count as an action. Nice try!)

Hopefully, you’ll start counting habitual and one-time actions like these:

    • Did you go for an afternoon walk?
    • Did you cut out one soda from your normal consumption today?
    • Did you make yourself a healthy lunch?
    • Did you try a new veggie?
    • Did you finally try deadlifting or that new exercise you’ve been researching?
    • Did you do yoga today? Or do those mobility stretches?

Over the course of a week, those points really add up, and all it takes is a point here and there to make some serious progress on the path toward a healthy, fit life.

Now, just like in Starcraft, not ALL actions you take are going to be perfect, correct, or even move you in the right direction. But the more times you take action, the more you’ll learn how things change as a result, and the more likely you’ll be in the future to learn and take more informed action. BUT ACTION IS THE KEY!

Remember, we need to get you out of your head and out in the real world DOING stuff.

I want you to start by promising to do just one action per day toward your health and fitness goal. It can be anything – but you have to start somewhere. If you’ve accumulated even just a few total actions by the end of the first week, then you’ve already taken those precious first steps on your journey.

Helpful hint: After coming up with your APD strategy, schedule those actions. If you them on your calendar, you’re more likely to follow through and get your actions counted.

An Example Week of APD

juggle

Here you are reading this article. I know what you might be thinking. “How the heck is this going to get me healthy?”

Having tried to get healthy once, twice, or more than a few times, tomorrow you’re going to do at least ONE thing (you’re not just going to try). Then, apply the APD strategy, and focus just on a single action per day, or a total of 7 total actions for your first week.

Here’s an example of what a full week looks like.

Remember, every day that you do an action that improves your health – or deliberately avoid an action that hurts it – you can count each of those actions as an APD! 

Day 1: For your first new health habit, you decide to ditch one of your afternoon sodas at work – one of the ones you use to get through the afternoon slump. That’s 1 APD you can count on your first day.

Day 2: You stick to the new habit and avoid a soda, but you find yourself lacking energy and want a boost, so you snack on some nuts and fruit at 3 pm. A healthy snack and no soda counts as 2 APD for your second day. Nice! You’re already at 3 actions total for the week.

Day 3: Still no soda, plus a healthy afternoon snack, and you’re feeling pretty good. Pumped about your progress, you decide to go for a quick walk around the neighborhood after work. Nothing too big, but you feel good about it. You pick up 3 APD on your third day, bringing your total for the week to 6 actions so far!

Day 4: These new habits are sticking, and you think 7 total actions by the end of the week was too easy (just one per day, pssh!). Way to crush it! You start brainstorming how to get your total actions up to 14 by the end of the week (maintaining an APD of 2). Should you focus on moving more? Or eating better? Well, you know you eat too much sugar with dessert after dinner, so that’s your next goal: cutting your dessert calories in half. It’s a step in the right direction, so with the skipped soda, healthy snack, and walk after work for at least 15 minutes, you clock a whopping 4 APD today, which makes 10 actions for the week.

Day 5: Uh oh. Your day is stressful today, and you slip up and have a soda instead of your healthy snack. With no more motivation, you skip your walk and have a big dessert after dinner too. Just when you want to throw in the towel, you remember you committed to a daily goal of just 1 APD, so you look for something… and do these four yoga movements before bed. You may not be converted into a yogi, but it just took a few minutes and felt good to do something for the day and try something new. That’s 1 APD for Day 5 and 11 APD for the week.

Day 6: Even though yesterday wasn’t your proudest day, you realize you’re still sitting at 11 actions that improved your health so far this week. “Holy crap, I did 11 things this week? Yesterday is just a blip on the radar” you think. With renewed confidence, you stick to your habitual actions of skipping the soda, walking after work, and cutting dessert altogether to make up for yesterday. That’s 3 APD and you’re back on track with 14 actions total this week. (You also research some gyms in your area, which is wonderful, but doesn’t count towards your APD until you actually take action and join one.)

Day 7: It’s the end of your first week, and you really want to boost your APD for the final day. In addition to the other four new habits you’ve been keeping up with, you take the plunge and sign up for a gym membership. Hey, signing up may be a one-time action, but it counts too! That makes 5 APD for Day 7, a total of 19 actions in just one week, and a whole lot of progress toward your health. Isn’t it amazing how quickly these actions add up when you stop focusing on any single thing?

From Zero (APD) to Hero

starcraft

“Got No Patience For Sitting Around!”
Starcraft Siege Tank Guy (1998)

After several false starts on my own fitness journey, the exercise habit finally stuck when I just started doing one simple bodyweight workout three times per week – no overthinking required. That really just added up to a goal of 3 actions the whole week, but it was doable enough, and it changed everything.

Soon I was off to bigger things, but it all started with zero actions per day. From zero, doing the beginner bodyweight workout three times a week was an epic win. 

This is the story of literally every person who is now in shape. They started with zero and went from there.

Remember: You’re a battle-hardened military commander, you don’t have the luxury of sitting around and thinking about any single decision. Instead, start making decisions NOW, and adapt as you go. 

Whenever you can, it’s smart to devote some attention to reconnaissance and scout what the enemy is up to – after all, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to execute a plan without any planning whatsoever. But without doing something, anything right now, you’re destined to be destroyed by the zerg swarm inaction and doubt.

Remember: Just take some sort of daily action – no matter what!

On the plus side, the stakes are rarely as high in real life as they are in a military space battle… you probably aren’t going to be blamed for the extermination of your entire civilization (probably).

So, if you have a million things you want to accomplish, just pick ONE goal, and get going now.

Why? Because that’s how you win this real-time strategy game we call “life”!

Tomorrow is a new day. Which action will you take first?

Let me know in the comments.

-Dan

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Photo: skeezeJuggling Balls

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  • Love this way of thinking about it Steve! I remember the first time I felt really good about fitness was when I realized I could achieve my goals by following the simple steps I had laid out for myself in the day. 1+1=fit, given enough time. Nerd-friendly and rockin’.

  • this is great because it allows you to have a progressive measure to follow and adjust as the day goes on. First action is to get a nice notebook from Staples to use for my bullet journal.

  • Dan,

    Thanks for the cool new post. I enjoyed reading about the APD mindset. I believe that taking action is the hardest part of accomplishing any goal and this approach breaks it up nicely.

    I find myself in an airport today in Canada (First time here, and of course it was snowing like crazy) and I am doing my best to take action by walking around as much as I can, avoiding the fast food counters, and staying hydrated.

    Tomorrow I am going to wake up and work out in the hotels gym and then spend a bit writing my next book.

  • April Harrison

    Been fighting a cold and am not feeling it, but my first action is to take a shower. I already made myself some semi-homemade soup before reading the article, so that is already one before I knew of the concept. ^_^ Go me.
    Thank you for sharing this, what a great article!

  • Josh Levitan

    Awesome, this really clicked with me. I’m going to design a weekly points system with a few actions and set a target total score, say, 22/42 possible points for starters. The initial list is going to look like this, one point each except workout, which is 1.25 points since I want to do that 4x/week and the others 7x/week:

    Work out
    Meditate
    No snooze in morning
    Cold shower 60+ seconds
    5 minute walk
    Elbow rehab exercises

  • Nicholas Kerpan

    A very good mindset for keeping motivated! Def helps me when I break a new routine to refocus on just “doing” rather than bemoaning my error.

  • Moon Rain

    During my winter/spring/summer breaks, I always end up procrastinating on exercising with the excuse, I have to go get out of my pjs and into my sports bra/gym clothes. But once I DO that, I instantly feel more inclined to workout or do yoga. So I’m going to count that as an action per day and if I do that every day, I’ll probably also workout. That’ll add up to two per day. 🙂 (Seriously, I don’t know why, but it’s this weird psychological hangup where if I don’t actively change into it, I don’t do the exercise. I have tried going to sleep in my gym clothes but it then counts as “pjs” in my head even though I can get out and STRAIGHT into the workout.)

  • Jotei

    I have some fitness Groupons sitting around about to expire because you have to call and register for the first class. Like many people my age, making phone calls is the new public speaking- it inspires total dread. I will make those calls today. One time actions that open up some recurring actions as I take part in the classes several times a week!

  • Michelle Aderhold

    I love this, it’s like you get to give yourself little gold stars for everything good you do in a day! I was planning to do a HIIT workout when I got home today, but instead slipped on the ice and banged up my knee pretty badly, but I made myself 2 healthy meals already today, weighed myself (lost 0.6 pounds since my last weigh in!) And will now have the time tonight to go grocery shopping for some new healthy recipes I want to try later this week. So that’s 4 actions today, even though I didn’t get to do the workout as planned. I call that winning!

  • Celeste

    This is a rewording of the similar ‘no zero-day’ philosophy and I really enjoy it. perfectionism isnt necessary. just take small steps at a time.

  • Tony Langdon

    Great post. One can’t overstate the importance of taking action (and where possible, making positive action habitual). This is a simple and neat format for making yourself accountable for your actions (or lack of).

  • Kristina Mooney

    This is a great idea! I really like how it changes the “perfect” or “not Perfect” mindset. Total paradigm shift.

  • April Patrick

    Love this idea. Tomorrow will start with a healthy breakfast. Next day back at the gym ( away on vacay for week and half). The next a healthy lunch. The weekend no alcohol. Love the one day something new idea!

  • shivaloca

    I’m applying this to both getting in shape and getting back to playing guitar. Guitar was easy – instead of going for tons of hours a day, I resolved to just play 15 minutes. Which is easy to do and turns into 20-30 minutes before you know it, because it is fun. I just forgot how fun it is!
    Now with getting back into daily fitness – I’m going to do 1 little quest from NF Academy app every day for a week: 2 down 5 to go!

  • Loui

    For my action(s) I have resolved to do a 30 Days Yoga challenge. I just finished day 4 and I’ve already realised that yoga is so much cooler than I initially thought!

  • Lisa Livingston

    Two practical things — walk the dog in the morning before work (23° outside now) and hit the grocery store after work to fix myself a healthy dinner (no fast food). I can’t wait until these simple steps become habits! Thanks for permission to start small.

  • Cledbo

    This is a really cool way of thinking about how to take action and keep taking it until it feels easy (because it’s all about momentum, baby). That video is unreal too, my RSI fired up just watching that…
    My first action from tomorrow is going to be having a healthy breakfast – eggs instead of cereal. After that, probably throwing out the biscuits in my pantry. Or at least eating only one of them instead of five!

  • Bryan Ewbank

    My first action was reading this article. I really love the way y’all can squint and see life as a video game (or FRP, for us older folk :-). Off to eat vegetables. I’ve sworn off of french fries and carbs in general. They are my cocaine.

  • Goran Dimic

    cool stuff!
    so: if I choose 3 a.p.d. ( say… 1 for work, 1 for workout, 1 for grub), and 1 action = 1 point – than: that’s 21 pts a week. Anything above is bonus, anything below is minus. And it’s a cool way to track leveling up! So, to progress to the next level beyond first, say, one should collect more than 90 points ( one month / 30 days amount of points). Using “D&D” as a reference, second level should be either a longer period of time:

    lvl 1 – 21 pts per 1 week
    lvl 2 – 42 pts per 2 weeks
    lvl 3 – 84 pts per 4 weeks
    etc…

    , or a more demanding structure:

    lvl 1 – 20 pts in a week
    lvl 2 – 25 pts in a week
    lvl 3 – 30 pts in a week
    lvl 4 – 35 pts in a week
    etc….

    which one would be better?
    p.s. sorry for the long nerdy-rant
    p.p.s. my action is 30 min walks a day. got 3 down already 🙂

  • Carl

    I love this approach and have been applying it lately with taking the stairs as much as I can and stretching out my lunch time walks.

  • This is hard because I still struggle with overeating/undereating cycles, but I think my first most important Action will be to focus on a protein-laden solid breakfast. Too carby or liquidy, and I’m “hungry” again in an hour; even a huge protein shake sends me back to the fridge in short order.

  • Jane

    Reminded me of the proverb ‘facta, non verba’
    My first action would be to do the cycling routine, that I skipped today morning, in the evening. And then competing my personal art project.
    Good luck to all who have finally decided to break a habit!

  • Susan Lewinski

    My first APD is going to be taking the stairs up to my desk instead of the elevator – around 56 steps…not much, but more than usual!

  • Heather Marie Muir

    I found a great app to use the APD method. It’s called “Balanced – Habits tracker & life goals motivation.” You can create different “actions,’ how often you want to complete them (every day, twice per week, etc.) and it has a nifty little graph to show how you’re doing overall. I’ve only been using it for 2 days but I think others might find it helpful.

  • Daniel Thrasher

    Hey Goran,
    You should track your APDs in whatever way gets you motivated!

    But if it helps, here’s the way I think of it: APDs only apply to the habits or goals you’re currently working on. Once you’ve got a new habit on automatic, you keep doing it forever, and you don’t have to track it anymore. This frees you up to focus on just one or two changes at a time, if that makes sense.

    For example, you’re doing a 30 min walk every day, which counts as 1 APD. If you can make that habit permanent after a few weeks or so, you can keep doing it without it counting towards your APD count and start consciously working on another goal to improve your health and fitness.

    And in a sense, you ARE leveling up if you can maintain a bunch of positive new habits while continuing to tackle new ones!

    I hope that clarifies it for you. Best of luck on your progress!

  • Erin Howse

    Just did my workout and sitting here chilling and reading your article. I think my action for tomorrow will be to drink enough water.

    It’s getting hot here in new zealand and if I dont have enough water I start thinking junk food is a good idea.

    As I have a very challenging goal in place right now I dont really want to indulge and delay my reward (sky diving when I get under the cut off Weight).

  • Dad

    Great way to track? I use Todoist to track a lot of my daily activities. I’ve heard Habitica is good too, but I’m not too much into gamifying at the moment.

    http://www.gladtobesahd.com

  • Pretty interesting concept of APD, I’ve never heard of that before. Interesting to think of all the different areas of life to use this – working out, reaching goals, doing projects. Definitely something I’ll be using to build my own blog…

  • I strongly believe in the Primal Blueprint approach – lots of walking and low impact cardio, occasional sprinting, and lifting heavy things. (mainly myself!)

    Ever find yourself attending or even working a festival, and discover via your Fitbit that you’ve walked 20,000 steps that day? Ever notice you’re wiped out when you get home? It’s common sense, but we often forget the simple things that are part of our day contribute to our fitness.

    It’s comprehensive, baby!

  • Shan

    I think I stumbled upon this on my own, and it’s neen working for me and my chaotic schedule. Instead of focusing on doing something at a certain time or for a certain period, I focus more on just doing SOMETHING.

    When I do that, I end up doing more since there’s no constraints that make the action a success. Just doing it is success. Did five pushups randomly? Success! Practiced guitar? Success! Cleaned a few dishes? Success! Everything I do to help myself is a tiny win, and that adds up.

    No single action is huge, but every small step is infinitely better than nothing.

  • Scott Elder

    The APD concept is great. Having recently broken a couple of ribs, the weights have been gathering dust while I ease back into things so this way of thinking has allowed me to focus on more than just the exercise. It’s even flowed through into other aspects of my life. I find it much easier to get things done when I focus on one small thing and see that through to completion. I’ve ended up tidying up the clutter in the house, organising the garage, managing the garden etc. I’ve even increased my APD to include things outside of the fitness/nutrition areas to help with every day life, even things like taking care of those niggling financial things like paying a bill ahead of time. This along with cutting out small things in the diet each day/week is a good road to success.

  • Stefan Thyron

    This is a great new spin on a solid idea that has been around forever. Our habits determine whether we are successful or not. Doing the little things right over and over again start to add up over time. I enjoyed reading!

  • Connor

    Great read! A lot of people make fitness very complicated, today and it just does not have to be. I’ve been trying to encourage people to have fun while you train! I’ve actually been trying to relate my viewers workouts to superhero workouts just to make them lighter and more fun! Would love for you to check them out and give me some feedback as I begin this journey of teaching people the simplicity (but hard work and dedication) of training…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RUFSqWUb-w

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