I’ve been trying to bring more thirty-day challenges into my life.
A month is a substantial chunk of time for developing a habit without being overwhelmed at the idea of doing something forever. I aim to make it fun, but a stretch.
Over February of 2019, I embarked on a challenge to write a self-development article every day for thirty days.
Here’s what happened, and the best of what I learned:
- I passed the challenge of hitting thirty articles, though I did not submit an article online every day.
Some days I had to write two pieces to make up for it.
But I found that by committing to the challenge, I was able to stay within its parameters and get more published writing done inside of a month than I’d ever managed before.
- Just because I love writing doesn’t mean I love doing it every day. A lot of this craft is still unpleasant — awful even.
Despite not always loving it, this challenge showed me that it is possible to put out a lot of quality content, even when I didn’t feel like it.
The critical lesson here is that production or creative output must be about routine rather than the mood I’m in.
- Daily publishing is one of the best discipline exercises you can do.
It is a push, but the creativity does come, and you will surprise yourself as I surprised myself. Do it. Write something. A poem. No matter the skill level. You might find you don’t want to stop.
- Avoiding carbohydrates, sugar, and caffeine and exercising — especially just before writing — made me write more creative, more humorous, uplifting and exciting material.
- Writing something short and simple is the most effective way to motivate me to write anything.
This can follow a period of writing anything that comes to mind to establish some good ideas to work with.
Start a piece with a premise. Then expand it to a short outline. It is much easier to write a longer piece when you can see a coherent overview in front of you.
- Don’t leave it late in the day to hit your daily deadline.
Sometimes an idea needs more time. The ideal for me would have been to sleep on all my articles, but I didn’t give enough space for this. This resulted in several rushed pieces.
- You will find, through writing a lot in a shorter time frame, what kinds of articles or approaches work better for you.
The more technical and specific my articles, the less popular they seem to have been.
But that’s my individual case. It will be interesting for people to find out their sweet spot by writing and publishing a lot, day-in, day-out, even when the spark is not there. For me, it’s the more ‘forest for the trees’ stuff that does better.
I’ve seen the more conceptual stuff do better, because, deep down, that’s what interests me more. The writing that brings me to life and gets me emotional always does better. Writing and publishing consistently will reveal this to you.
- The process taught me that discipline is about 95% courage, as opposed to having particular genes that make you robotically disciplined.
You need the courage to overcome the negative feelings you have when embarking on a new piece of writing, at a set time, when you don’t want to.
If you can find your courage, you will have discipline.
- The middle section of the thirty days was hard, psychologically. This is what Scott Belsky terms ‘The Messy Middle.’
The excitement and novelty of starting have worn off, and the end seems miles away.
It can be hardest on your motivation at this point. But realising this helped me a lot: the more I stretch into the pain, the more I am rewarded with creativity, insight, growth and skill.
- Finishing is everything.
Starting is one thing, but the real skill is wrapping things up in time, and being ok with imperfection in the work.
Finishing is what instils the most concrete sense of confidence that stays with me after the challenge is over.
Finishing, of course, also means that the world gets to see your work, even if it isn’t perfect. It means that traction and engagement start to build.
- Approach the challenge with the attitude of working for the day, in the best way that I can.
This helped me tremendously.
I tried to push out thoughts of yesterday’s article, or the work yet to come. It was all about today — this one article — and putting all my energy into making the best article I could write that moment. One thing. Today.
- Showing up repeatedly, regardless of the conditions, and how you feel, will feed you with creativity.
You are training the muscle of being creative when it matters the most. It might feel like a mountain to climb initially, but if you stay with the work, and just move — just get writing — you will be rewarded with ideas that you can get passionate about.
Showing up will show the world you mean business, but it — more importantly — will show yourself what you are capable of. This is the ultimate self-growth in action.
- If you feel rushed, and time is running out, this creates panic, and you cannot be creative when you panic.
This is why slowing down your body and mind is vital, no matter how much time you have left.
It works because your brain has time to process what it needs. So breathe, relax, and write what bubbles up through the gaps of thought.
Once you get a foot in this way, you can write with more rigour, passion and urgency to finish the article in record time.
- Putting out consistent articles is excellent for building traction, improving your visibility, making more sales, improve your skills, building confidence, showing your readers that you mean business, and it will boost your business.
- The process showed me how terrible at discipline I am. I needed to push hard and often left writing too late. I still have a lot to learn and improve.
I still managed to write thirty articles in thirty days, but I didn’t get a whole lot else done in that time. This challenge has shown me how much is possible when I learn to control time.
I am excited, however, because I can see how much is possible. Especially when I make time my bitch.
- I found I was happier than I have been for a while during this month.
I firmly believe productivity is closely tied to a sense of happiness and fulfilment.
Even if I wasn’t happy with the quality of all my articles, I found that doing the challenge and finishing so many pieces boosted my sense of confidence, pride and self-belief. This made me happy.
- One of the greatest strengths I developed over this challenge was dealing with rejection, albeit to a less intense degree (than face to face).
But I found I got better at accepting fewer likes and engagement for articles, which is one of the main reasons a lot of people fail to publish enough content in the first place.
We must be ok with the idea that some of our work will be ignored or disliked. This also applies to life in general.
We need to be comfortable with not only being uncomfortable but in being disliked. There is power there because it means you are free to do things — to take action. Action is the only thing that will get you what you want in life.
My next challenge is daily meditation of ten minutes. I failed yesterday. Back to square one…
If you have other ideas on this, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
What makes you come alive?
If you could use a deeper sense of self-awareness and direction in your life, you might be interested in my free course of questions that I guarantee will help your focus and give you are clearer sense of purpose.