Do you struggle to get started or stay motivated with your Self-Improvement? The answer might lie in today’s tip: the 30 Day Challenge!
This technique is simple but very powerful, so don’t dismiss it until you’ve tried it…
What is a 30 Day Challenge?
A 30 Day Challenge is another great tool for your Self-Improvement toolbox. The more you have of these tips, techniques and hacks, the more your Self-Improvement can thrive.
The principle is simple: you do (or avoid) a particular action every day for 30 days.
You can do the same every day, or you can build progressively, such as smoking one cigarette less or swimming an extra length of the pool each day. You can also plan some Failure Days: for example, aiming to write 1000 words every day for at least 27 out of 30 days.
Why 30 days?
You can set yourself a challenge of any length. But I think a 30 Day Challenge works well because:
- It’s short enough to feel achievable
- It’s long enough to feel a sense of accomplishment (“I did a whole month!”)
- The end is never too far away (“not long to go now…”)
- It lays good foundations for forming a habit. You can’t always build a new habit in just 30 days, but it’s a great start!
- A relatively quick win can spur you on to further achievement.
How to set up a good 30 Day Challenge
Once you have decided on a Challenge, get started as soon as you can, but make sure you prepare well:
- Make your Challenge specific. “Go cycling” is too general but “cycle for 20 minutes” or “cycle 2 miles and add 0.2 miles per day” would be a clearer objective.
- If it’s a progressive Challenge, choose a really easy start: this helps reduces any resistance during the first week.
- If you’re increasing the difficulty or intensity each day, choose wisely: you need an achievable ending. Running one mile and then adding an extra mile every day for 30 days is probably not realistic!
- Check your calendar for obstacles: is there anything coming up in the next 30 days that might get in the way? A camping holiday or business trip might interrupt your treadmill Challenge; a big birthday celebration could interfere with an alcohol-related objective.
- If there are too many hurdles, modify the Challenge, change your schedule, or…
- Allow some Failure Days if appropriate. A sensible contingency will allow you to make a few mistakes or take the odd day off and still complete your Challenge.
- Gather resources you need. Do you have the correct equipment? Have you blocked out time in your calendar? Do you need to research extra information? A new gym membership? Download some software or install a new app?
My 30 Day Challenge
Having lost some weight and gained some motivation to exercise, I recently set myself a 30 Day Running Challenge:
- Run every day
- Start low at 0.5 miles
- Add 0.05 miles each day
- Allow for 5 Failure Days
I chose to measure my running by distance rather than speed, so that if things became difficult I could ease off the pace. Although I’m still a slow, fat runner, I discovered that my pace naturally improved a little during the Challenge: very rewarding!
During the Challenge, I knew I had to drive across the country to take my mum to a hospital appointment, so I allowed a Failure Day for this. I added four more Failure Days because I planned to run in the early morning; I couldn’t guarantee to be up in time every day for 30 days.
My running shoes were in good order. I checked if my kit would still fit: it did (just!) I have a GPS running watch to measure distance, so I added an item to my Morning Ritual (details here) to remember to charge it each day. I created a Google spreadsheet to record my progress.
I used up all my Failure Days, but I made it! During the last two runs I encountered some difficulties with my knee, but with only two days to go I eased the pace right down and iced the knee well afterwards. My final run was 1.75 miles. I ran at least the required distance each day and sometimes longer: my longest run was 5km (3.1 miles.)
If I hadn’t picked up a minor injury I would have extended the Challenge: another 30 days would have taken me to a 3 mile daily run. However, my doctor has ruled out running for a few weeks until my knee has healed, so I have started a Walking Challenge instead:
- Walk every day for a specific number of minutes
- Start low at 15 minutes
- Add 2 extra minutes per day
- Allow for 5 Failure Days (in case my knee needs extra rest)
Our dog, Boco, is particularly enjoying this Challenge because he is getting extra walks…if I am successful we will eventually enjoy up to 73 minutes together! Walking has a much lower impact on my knees (I’ll get back to running when I can.)
Chaining Challenges together
I am considering making the 30 Day Challenge a continuous feature of my Self-Improvement. I have plenty of ideas:
- more running
- more walking
- learning a new skill (graphic design, podcasting)
- improving a skill (piano, ad copy writing, coding)
If I chain together my Challenges I can complete up to twelve every year. That’s some serious Self-Improvement!
Could YOU complete a 30 Day Challenge?
What area of your Self-Improvement could you target first?
What are the obstacles?
How might you get started today?
IMPORTANT: “Leave a Reply” at the bottom of this page and tell me about your Challenge. Even better, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the details and I’ll feature you in an upcoming issue of the Improvement! newsletter or a future blog post or web page!
To our continued Self-Improvement and success!
The Self-Improvement Guy