Ready to make a change in your life? Want to kick start that change with a 30-day challenge? Congrats! This will be great!
Here’s my advice for how to create (and stick to!) your 30-day challenge:
Get In Touch With Your Intention
Choose The Daily Challenge
Set Clear & Detailed Rules
It’s a good idea to start with some self-reflection as to why you’re challenging yourself in the first place. Are you looking to lose weight? Fill your time? Reach a fitness goal? Spend time with family? Prioritize your priorities? Improve your self-discipline? Break out of a rut? Just to see if you can?
There’s no right or wrong answer here, just check in and set your intention before you get too far.
Based on your intention, what will your daily activity be?
Make sure it’s something you can do every day – that it’s not prohibitively expensive or so restrictive that you’re setting yourself up to fail. If a 90-minute hot yoga class at a studio 30-minutes from your house isn’t feasible, consider designing the challenge instead to do 15 minutes of yoga every day at home.
But don’t make it too easy. It’s a challenge after all, so find the right level for you.
Even if you’re just doing this for yourself, by yourself, the rules have to be clear and detailed before you start. While it may seem a bit overkill, pre-defined rules are a safeguard to keep you from letting yourself off the hook when things get hard.
For example, you’ll want to determine:
- Are you committing to a daily practice? Or to complete 30 sessions in 30 days? (can you skip a day and double up another day?)
- Is there a duration or distance requirement? (run everyday vs. run 5 km everyday, meditate everyday vs. meditate for 15 minutes every day)
- Is there an intensity level requirement? (ie. hot yoga vs. any kind of yoga)
Track Your Progress
You’ll need a way to record your progress throughout the 30 days. I recommend a progress board of some kind. It can be simple or elaborate, private or on display, it’s totally up to you. The purpose is to help you build momentum, have accountability and give you the satisfaction of getting one step closer to your goal every day.
Consider one of the following for your progress board:
- A wall calendar – super simple & easy, just check off each day once your daily challenge is completed
- Stickers – Who doesn’t love stickers?! Using a calendar, some Bristol board, a whiteboard, or your journal add a sticker each day to mark your progress
- iPhone Apps – There are tons of awesome “habit tracking” apps available for your smartphone, like Productive Habit Tracker and Balanced
Tell Somebody (Or Not)
There are two camps here – one saying if you share your goals with the people around you, then you’ll feel more accountable and supported in achieving your goals, the other saying that your goals are private and sharing them with other people invites in their notions of who you are and what you are able to do, potentially derailing you from breaking new ground.
I think both could be right. Choose what’s best for you. What will help you on your journey over the next 30 days? Do you need a cheerleader? Someone to encourage you? Or will the people around you enable you to maintain the status quo?
Plan An Incentive
For some, the satisfaction of achievement is enough incentive to work through a 30-day challenge. For others (myself included), a special “carrot” at the end of the tunnel can be really motivating.
Consider celebrating your challenge completion with something you really want – new gym clothes, a photo shoot, a nice dinner out, a trip, etc. Whatever it is, be sure to include it in your rules (step 3) and on your progress board (step 4).
Be mindful that the incentive doesn’t undermine your progress. If you’re embarking on a sugar free 30-day challenge, rewarding yourself with an ice cream sundae is probably not the best idea. You don’t want to counteract all the habit-forming efforts you’ve been building. Instead, think of a way you can honour the work you’ve done. Maybe you get a new swimsuit or your partner makes you a beautiful (sugar free) meal.
Have A Transition Plan
30-day challenges have become so popular because they are designed to form new habits. You’ll be building momentum, a rhythm, and a routine that works. In the beginning it may feel impossible, but as you stay the course things get easier, and then start to feel normal.
Once you’ve completed your 30-day challenge you’re likely in a really good spot. You’ll be feeling accomplished and likely experiencing the benefits of including your activity in your daily life. You’ve lost weight, saved money, written your novel. You’re feeling great, sleeping well, and look refreshed. Now how do you maintain this success?
It can be easy, dangerously easy, to pat yourself on the back and then go back to your old ways. So re-connect with your intention (step 1). Why did you start with this challenge in the first place? If this challenge was designed to kick start a real change in your lifestyle, then be sure to have a transition plan. You need a clear set of next steps for how to incorporate your new habits into daily life on day 31 and beyond.
I love these kinds of challenges. They help me move forward when I’m feeling stuck and prioritize my goals when I feel other aspects of my life pushing me off course. I’ll be sharing more information about my own 30-day challenges on the blog this year and I’d love to hear any insight or feedback you have too!