This article originally appeared on Jason’s blog.
This article could stop there, but I’d like to give you a few more parameters and share a few 30-day challenge ideas you can do if you don’t have any ideas of your own.
F**k it, we'll do it live!
Our biggest ever edition of TNW Conference is fast approaching! Join 10,000 tech leaders this May in Amsterdam.
*If you don’t need to read any further, but you want to share your 30-day challenge publicly, jump to the bottom of this article for more information on that.
What I’ve learned about 30-day challenges
What I’ve learned from doing multiple 30-day challenges is that it’s rarely about the daily task and more about what comes from a month of doing something consistently.
Last year I did a 30-day social media detox challenge. My only intention with that challenge was to stop my obsessive use of Facebook and Twitter.
But during those 30 days something unintended happened: I came up with an idea to monetize the podcast I co-hosted, which resulted in over $40,000 in revenue. Talk about an awesome by-product of a 30-day challenge (pun intended if you bought the Bundle of Awesome).
I’ve also learned that I can make profound changes in my life in just 30 days.
A few years ago I set out track my sleep better by committing to wearing and checking a Jawbone UP for 30 days. For 10 days I went to bed at 11pm. Then for 10 days I went to bed at midnight. And for the last 10 days I went to bed at 1am.
Not an outrageous 30-day challenge right? What I found during that experience was that I got my best night’s sleep if I went to bed at 11pm or 1pm. However, if I went to bed at midnight, I had a terrible night of sleep and woke up feeling groggy. We all know how important sleep is, so to be able to learn more about my own sleep cycles in just 30 days was huge.
The key to a successful 30-day challenge is choosing something achievable
We all want to lose weight (well, 99 percent of us). We all want to get better at some skill (writing, reading, exotic carpentry, etc). We all have something we want to improve, but it likely never gets improved because we swing for the fences.
Focus on doing something small each day.
Ideally your 30-day challenge task should take less than an hour each day. In fact, I’d recommend picking something you can do in 10-15 minutes per day, especially if you’ve never done something consistently for 30 days before.
Example: If you want to exercise more and get in shape during a 30-day challenge, don’t try an entirely new crazy workout plan. It requires too much will power and you’ll never stick with it (sorry, that’s real talk). Instead, aim for doing 10-15 minutes of exercise at the same time each day for 30 days. Don’t do P90x, Insanity, or any of those things. Do some pushups, chair dips, air squats, climb some stairs, or go for a moderate jog. But keep it at 10-15 minutes per day and use your will power to do it consistently for 30 days straight.
It’s human nature to go to extremes. But extremes are rarely where progress is actually made. Getting better, honing a skill, or losing weight (in this case), comes with consistency and repetitive effort.
If you’re going to remove something, you must fill the void.
30-day challenges are great for creating new habits, but if you plan on trying to quit something, you must replace the thing you’re quitting with something else.
Example: Let’s say you want to improve your diet and lose weight over the next 30 days. Because you know we need to focus on small achievable tasks, you’re only going to cut soda out of your diet. You aren’t going to start eating paleo, bulletproof, the zone, or any other huge diet changes. Instead, you’re going to quit doing one thing that contributes to weight gain (drinking soda) and leave everything else in your diet exactly the way it is for 30 days.
Now, you’re probably used to drinking soda during meals or with snacks throughout the day. Don’t just quit soda and go straight to water, replace soda with something like Lacroix, Perrier, or coffee/tea (not sweetened tea or sugary coffee drinks, sorry). By creating a replacement for soda, your chances of sticking with quitting it will become exponentially higher in 30 days.
’d be willing to bet the imaginary farm I don’t own that if you drink soda right now and quit it over the next 30 days, you will lose weight and you will feel better.
No matter what you are trying to quit in 30 days, there has to be something to replace the thing you’re removing or you’ll fall back into your old habits. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can create new habits and get rid of (bad) old ones if you use the remove/replace method.
Some type of measurement is good, but not necessary.
I’ve found that my most successful 30-day challenges don’t involve strict measurement. The more things I add to my plate while trying to do something consistently for 30 days, the less likely it is that I’m actually going to stick with it.
Example: Let’s say you want to commit to doing a 30-day writing challenge. Well, you may want to write 1,000+ words per day, but in all likelihood measuring how much you write each day will sap all your will power and become a point of difficultly when you sit down and try to write each day. Instead, create a minimum for yourself, something like 200 words (which should only take you 10-15 minutes to write – ah ha, see what I did there?).
Sit down at the same time each day for 30 days, and write a minimum of 200 words on a pre-determined topic of your choosing (or no topic at all, just vomit your thoughts via the keyboard). What will happen is that you’ll find yourself writing 750 words, 1,000 words, maybe even 2,000 words on some days. But because you don’t have the pressure of a bigger daily number staring you in the face that you need to keep measuring against, you can actually get your daily challenge accomplished.
We live in a measurement society. To actually accomplish things, it’s important to ignore these metrics at times. Plus, you can always start to analyze and measure things during your second 30-day challenge after your first one.
30-day challenge ideas you can steal
Maybe you have your own idea of what you want to challenge yourself to do? If so, great, go ahead and skip this section. If you don’t, or just want some inspiration, here are a few ideas:
- Take a social media detox
- Create a 200-word minimum daily writing challenge
- Quit drinking soda
- Run 1 mile per day
- Read 20 pages of a book (in 30 days, that’s 2-3 full books)
- Whiten your teeth
- Email 3 customers per day, thank them, ask how you can help them
- Take a 15 minute walk without technology
- Replace coffee with tea
- Buy a sleep tracker and try three different bed times
- Go vegan
- Get rid of one item in your closet per day
These are just a few ideas. It’s likely you already have something in mind you’d like to do during a 30-day challenge. Just remember: Do something achievable!
My next 30-day challenge
I’ll be taking another break from social media. For 30 days I will not be using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. All of these apps will be removed from my phone (all but Instagram currently are) and I will consciously replace the time I’d spend on these social networks reading books, writing, working on my various projects, or doodling in my journals.
I highly believe in the process of taking breaks and I also believe that social media is the next big addiction.
Make your 30-day challenge public!
I’d love to share YOUR 30-day challenge right here in this article! Simply send me an email through the contact page with what 30-day challenge you’re going to embark on. Please note these three simple things if you want your challenge shared here:
- Include your first and last name
- Try to keep your challenge description to 140 characters (length of a tweet)
- Acknowledge that I will use your first name and last initial if I share your challenge
By sharing your 30-day challenge publicly, you’ll be taking a huge step in being accountable to yourself and sticking with your challenge. That’s a great motivator and why I share my own 30-day challenges publicly!
Here are folks who’ve opted to share their challenges:
“I have a 30 day challenge, I’m leaving Facebook. I have done this in the past but it has always sucked me back in. I’m starting today and hopefully it will never end. At least for now it’s 30 days.” – Dave E.
“My 30 Day Challenge is to set aside 2 hours a day – 1 hour for exercise and 1 hour for reading – the goal is to lose at least 7lbs and read 4 books.” – Paul S.
“You’ve inspired me to do another 30-day quest. This time it’s a fitness goal. I’m a dancer, so at 60, I still feel and look pretty good, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure so I am planning to workout. I already walk everyday, so I’m going to add this additional activity. 20 minutes daily for the next 30 days.” – Samela
“For the next 30 days I’m going to read an hour daily.” – Joel A
“Sometimes the chaos of the day catches up to my family and we run out of time to read at bedtime. My 30-day challenge will be to read with my kids every single night, without fail, for 30 days.” – Diandra A
What will you try for the next 30 days?
Read next: How to find the best VPN for your needs