30 day challenge – Lessons Learned

Random Observation/Comment #264: There are so many consumers in this world. I would rather be a producer. Not the literal producer, but actually a literal one.

I thought my first impression of this 30 day challenge thing was profound, but I had only scratched the surface of many little nuances that taught me a lot about life.  My first impression basically claimed that the challenges don’t matter and it’s actually about paying attention to your life and realizing how much gets done on a daily basis that can be considered an achievement.  These activities are essentially short-term test runs for routines. If they deem beneficial to your health or productivity, you can include them in your life.  If you suffered through the whole challenge and found it useless, then it’s probably good to just leave it as “I tried it once.”

After 26 days of consistently paying attention to my everyday tasks, it seems I had been practicing my personal form of project management.  If I see my life as a project, not only have I taken complete ownership of it, but I’ve built my own timelines and dependencies in order to meet my goals.  After planning and staying flexible and carefully re-evaluating, I’ve come up with the following advice for those who’d like to take up these challenges.

Choosing a Challenge:

Picking the challenge is actually the most important part because you don’t want something too easy or something ridiculous.  If this is your first challenge, don’t over-do it.  Make sure the challenge is interesting, actually challenging, and has a measurable result.

I personally don’t think the purpose of this whole thing is to test willpower.  A challenge like “no coffee for 30 days” sounds more like a sacrifice instead of a practical plan of action to change something in your life.  These cold-turkey solutions, while effective for some people, may make others revert back to the bad habit by day 31.  Instead, I would logistically make the challenge focus on the underlying goal (in this case, “reduce the intake of coffee by the 30th day to a cup every 2 days”).  With this goal in mind, you will then feel less bad when you slip that one day (which you will). Remember – everything in moderation, including moderation.

I would start by taking your existing New Year’s Resolution and breaking it down into twelve (12) 30-day challenges. For example, if your resolution is to lose 30 pounds by the end of the year, you should probably have some 30 day challenges to include certain work-out routines, going outside more often, taking on interesting outdoor hobbies, reducing intake of sweets, and eating healthier food.  For New Year’s resolutions, we tend to lose track of the goal because it’s so far away and we can keep convincing ourselves there’s more time to do it instead of planning and taking it seriously.  However, if you create measurable breakpoints in between to reach the large goal, each segment and subsequent challenge becomes easier and more rewarding.

Staying on Track:

The most dangerous thing for a side project is the loss of motivation. You start to wonder “Why am I doing this? This is stupid. I’m too busy.”  The consequences are actually quite minimal if you don’t follow the routine because you’re not really proving it to anyone.  No one is checking your homework or looking over your shoulder.  But wait – isn’t this what everyone complains about – Managers breathing down their necks and micromanaging?  If you have the ability to set your own pace, shouldn’t you meet your own goal?  I’d say that if you’ve read this far and you’ve committed to something, at least try your best and see it through.

For each of my challenges, I kept a diary.  This Sept 15th to Oct 15th time period had 2 main challenges that I had strategically reworded:

1) Contact at least 20 friends I haven’t contacted in the past 6 months by Day 30.

2) Do 60 push-ups in a row by Day 30.

In my diary, I kept track of who I actively contacted and met, and then tested myself every other day on the push-ups.  The plan was rather simple and these activities literally took 10 minutes out of my day.  So far, I am on my personal schedule and I expect to successfully complete my challenges.

Final Thoughts

So I’ve figured it out. To be happy, you must not only enjoy the journey, but also understand the destination.  So many times have I thought the goal doesn’t matter, and I guess this is all still true, however, it’s even more important that you know where you want to go in order to keep motivation high. To generalize, success roots from 1) motivation/inspiration, 2) clear vision of the goal, and 3) feedback loop of evaluation on the necessary steps.

I like the feeling of solving a problem and overcoming an obstacle. I think the illusion of breaking down large goals into these small segments makes the bigger goals easier to reach and the reward in between revitalize inspiration.

~See Lemons Take on the Next Ones