What a Year of 30-Day Challenges Looked Like

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So, July 2019 was the final month of my year of 30-day challenges, focusing again on my book. Last month I listed three things to finish:

  1. Complete all scenes and self-edits post-critique
  2. Research and hire an editor
  3. Create a book cover

July turned out to be a bit of a crapshoot, to be honest. I encountered a lot of distraction and some “gut punches” that affected my concentration and focus on my goals. I’m still considering minor progress as a “win”, though.

I reached out to a friend who does editing and asked for her services. That takes care of #2.

The Write Publish Profit 2.0 “stack” of courses from last month includes half off book cover creation. That takes care of #3—when I actually do it.

And during the last week and a half of July, I focused on revising and incorporating comments from my beta team. It’s not complete yet, but that mostly takes care of #1.

The “Year of 30-Day Challenges”

Let’s go back to July 2018 for a moment. I didn’t post about it on here—I actually informed the world by writing a post on Medium.

August 2018: Write 1000 Words a Day

Self-explanatory. Writing 1000 words is the bare minimum for a chapter of Fanfiction, which I wrote semi-regularly between 2008 and 2015. I wanted to boost my daily output and jumpstart my creativity.

September 2018: Read 10+ Books

My Kindle helped with this one! Reading more didn’t feel like a challenge when I committed to it and chose the books ahead of time. I ended up reading 12 books and started a 13th during September. It also helped that August’s challenge put me ahead on writing blog posts, so I didn’t need to split my time between writing content and reading more.

October 2018: Hand-Copy the Book of Acts

Hand-copying Scripture is an idea I got from Sarah Ruszkowski, the blogger who inspired me to try for a year of 30-day challenges. Her first challenge was to hand-copy Scripture, and I realized that doing so myself would be spiritually nourishing. I also realized just how much the Apostle Paul was a certified badass.

Sadly, Sarah has shut down her blog to focus on different things in her life.

November 2018: NaNoWriMo

Ahh, NaNoWriMo. Writing 50,000 words for a book in 30 days. This challenge kickstarted my book and made it possible for me to commit to having it published by November 2019. While we’re still a few months away, I’m closer than I’ve ever been before to publishing a book. This is huge for me, because I’ve wanted to be published since I was 12.

December 2018: Decluttering

For many preceding months to this challenge, I’d been getting more and more frustrated by the sheer amount of stuff we had lying around. To be fair, most of it was mine, since the husband is frugal and has little attachment to “things”. Decluttering the office was the biggest win during December.

January 2019: NaNoEdMo

After writing your book during NaNoWriMo, you need to edit it. The original idea behind using January as my editing month really turned into just working on more of the story. My final NaNo count was around 52,000 words, but the finished first draft clocked in at 103,304 words. I did more writing than editing during January.

February 2019: Interviewing My Grandma

I actually started the project to interview my Grandma in 2015. I bought a USB microphone and visited my Grandma a few times when she still owned her house, and have the audio from those interviews on my laptop. But I wanted to do more—so I came up with a list of questions and had her over to our apartment, recording her again with a better setup. She’s still mentally sharp, but has forgotten a lot of early memories. I’m grateful I recorded what I did, and that I have good content to turn into a book or something later for the rest of the family.

March 2019: Catching Up

The pace and complexity of my 30-day challenges by this point became overwhelming, so I used March to catch up on a lot, especially decluttering and writing my book.

April & May 2019: Couch-to-5K

I’ve classically hated running, but decided that I was tired of hating it. I made April and May my mission to run a Couch-to-5K program. The one thing that made all the difference was a good sports bra. Seriously. I learned that I can run without dying! My father-in-law signed us up for a race at the beginning of June… And I ended up getting 3rd in my age group.

Fall City Day Run 3rd Place Medal for 5K

June 2019: Daily Fit & Digital Detox

I combined two things in June and it worked out pretty well. I did something active every day (daily fit) and stayed 100% off all social media. (No Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest). I did still schedule posts with Tailwind, but did not access or interact those platforms for 30 days.

Why 30-Day Challenges Work

30-day challenges work for a lot of people because they’re short enough to keep your attention and long enough for some to start building a habit. Anyone can do something for 30 days, right? It just takes focus and commitment and for some, accountability.

For a 30-day challenge to turn into a habit, though, the real work begins on day 31. Thirty-day challenges run the risk of stopping after you finish on day 30. This happened to me with running. After I finished the 5K race, I ran a few more times but then just… Stopped. I’m picking it up again with the goal of feeling better and becoming healthier, not for the carrot of running a race.

Similarly, NaNoWriMo pumps out more words than during any other month of the year, but the real work happens after November ends, when people have unfinished manuscripts but no national accountability program to keep them writing every day. After all, 1,667 words a day is a lot to write.

I spent August 2018 through July 2019 working through self-imposed 30-day challenges. Find out what I did, my top lessons, and what's happening next.

My Favorite Challenge

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my favorite challenge from this year of 30-day challenges was NaNoWriMo. That challenge was responsible for writing half my book in 30 days and putting me so much closer to the reality of publication.

I’m so excited to be on this path after almost 15 years wanting to be published but not putting the work in.

NaNoWriMo is probably the only challenge I’ll repeat regularly!

Top Lessons

I learned a lot this past year, including some truths about myself and my personality.

Writing & Reading

I am, was, and always will be a writer. Sometimes the words flow, and sometimes they don’t, but in the end, in some capacity, I live to write.

Reading is a “flow” activity for me. When I get into a book, the time flies by. As my mother always says, “So many books, so little time.”

Reading the Bible and copying the Bible evoke different lessons. In reading, it’s easy to skim over difficult passages. In copying, you have to think about each word that God inspired the authors to write, and how it relates to us now.

Clutter & Minimalism

I hate clutter. I dislike having a lot of things in the apartment that don’t serve a specific purpose. Even though Gretchen Rubin would call me an “overbuyer”, I prefer having a place and a purpose for everything we own.

Put the phone away. Turn off notifications, delete the games, and avoid spending hours in email and social media. Cal Newport has it right in his book Digital Minimalism—certain technologies are designed to distract us, and when it has our attention we lose track of time and end up frustrated with everything.

What’s Really Important

Cherish your family. When interviewing Grandma about her life, I realized I should have done it earlier. Her favorite stories are about the Great Depression, and that era has stuck with her the longest—driving some of her behaviors even today, over 80 years later. But she’s forgotten a lot of early and mid-life memories that my family would have loved to listen to.

If you have living grandparents, interview them now before it’s too late.

And Everything Else

I need to take time to plan out my projects and estimate how long it will take to do them. I have the unfortunate tendency to overfill my schedule.

I enjoy exercise that gets me outside. Walking, running, hiking, biking, skiing… All those are great. I also highly enjoy indoor rock climbing. Finding the right kind of exercise and the time for them is non-negotiable.

It’s okay to take breaks. Breaks are important in the long run for preventing burnout and apathy. When it feels like I’m running on fumes, that’s the point where I need to stop and recharge.

What’s Next?

Despite the lessons and fun I’ve had with committing to something new each month, I really need to focus on reaching my top 3 goals for 2019:

  1. Achieve a healthy weight
  2. Earn $12,000 in side income
  3. Publish my book

For the rest of 2019, I’ll be focusing on these goals. I’m not opposed to doing more 30-day challenges in the future, but I doubt I’ll attempt another straight year of them.

But here’s a preview for the rest of 2019.

August, September, and October—all games deleted from my phone, including Pokémon Go. The phone stays in the car during work unless I’m at a conference or on a business trip.

October—final gearing up for launching and publishing my book.

November—NaNoWriMo ’19, when I start writing book 2!

December—Planning for 2020!

This year has been awesome. I’m excited for what’s coming next!

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