Life is basically like a video game. Except there are consequences to your actions. And debt. Boredom. Depression. Disease. Crime. Okay, maybe life isn’t totally like a video game.
But you certainly can “level-up” and make things more interesting by taking a 30-day challenge.
30-day challenges are a great way to break out of a rut, pick up some new skills, and, you know, have fun. So here are nineteen 30-day challenges you can take to bring some change to your life. I’ve tried a bunch myself and others are just cool ideas I’ll get round to one day.
30-DAY READING CHALLENGES
The Bradbury Trio! Named after Ray Bradbury because he gave this reading advice to budding writers: “I’ll give you a programme to follow every night. Very simple programme. For the next thousand nights, before you go to bed every night, read one poem a night, one short story a night, one essay a night, for the next 1,000 nights.” The reason? Because you’ll stuff your head with tons and tons of ideas. You’ll be full to bursting with creativity from such a wide array of writings. You don’t have to be as hardcore as Bradbury (or me) but you can at least give this “challenge” a test-run for the next 30 days. See how you like it. It only takes 20-40 minutes each day and you’ll find your creative thinking cranked up to 11. For short story, essay, and poem suggestions, check out this post.
Pick a work from a Nobel Prize winning laureate. Find out how many pages it has. Divide that by 30. There’s your 30-day challenge. I’ve read a laureate’s work every month since the beginning of the year and it’s been a blast. If you go for this one, you can check out the list of winners over on the Nobel Prize website to find a book. Or, if you want my suggestion, I recommend you pick up a copy of one of Svetlana Alexievich’s books. Here are the two I’ve read so far:
Zinky Boys has 195 pages. Read 6-7 pages a day and you’ll finish it in a month. If 6-7 pages a day is too much for you, how about Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea? That classic has 127 pages. That means you only have to read ~4 pages a day to finish it. Bonus points if you get this classic illustrated version: Why do this challenge? Two words: bragging rights. At the end of the month, you can be one of those people who mentions the one and only esteemed book they’ve ever read at every single get-together. And if your get-togethers are anything like mine, there are gonna be a lot of confused stares over half-empty cans of Special Brew. For more reading challenges, check out this post:
30-DAY WRITING CHALLENGES
I’m currently enrolled in Aaron Sorkin’s Screenwriting Masterclass. I’m going to do a little bit every day for the next 30 days to get my screenwriting literacy up. If you haven’t heard about Masterclass yet, they’re are a great company that give you access to many classes led by (extremely famous) people at the top of their game. Here are some of the classes they offer:
- Kevin Spacey Teaches Acting
- Dustin Hoffman Teaches Acting
- Serena Williams Teaches Tennis
- James Patterson Teaches Writing
- Christina Aguilera Teaches Singing
- Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting
- Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking
- Usher Teaches The Art Of Performance
Look at that line-up. I think I need a new pair of pants. Pick your poison and commit to 30 minutes every day for 30 days. You’ll have a great time and learn something from someone at the top of their game for just $90. That’s $3 a day for 30 days (yes, I can do simple division).
WRITE A NOVEL IN A MONTH
I can hear your cries already. “What?!? I can’t write a novel in a month! A novel takes years!” Go cry somewhere else, snailman. People write novels in just 30 days all the time. ESPECIALLY in November. Why November? Well, aside from November helping men everywhere to check their prostate due to a dramatic rise in moustaches across the world, November is also National Novel Writing Month. There’s a whole community of novel-in-a-month-writers over at NaNoWriMo.org. But, hey, you don’t have to wait for November to do this. You can have your own novel writing month starting today. If you want to write 60,000 words in 30 days, that’s just 2,000 words a day! Come on, I know you’ve got a novel in you. Everybody does. Now is time to push it out. Take some artistic laxatives and puuuuusssssssshhhhhhhh!
KEEP A JOURNAL
Once only the domain of angsty teenage girls and pensive Victorian drunks, keeping a journal is now in vogue for one and all. If you’ve never kept a journal before, you’ll be amazed at some of the benefits it will have. Benefits like:
- Providing therapy. Getting your thoughts out on paper really calms the mind.
- Making you more creative. You’ll see connections between events in your life.
- Helping you solve problems. Every time I’ve solved a problem, I’ve had a pen in my hands.
- Improving your memory. My memory sucks but journaling makes it way less sucky and more sticky.
I recommend you buy an overpriced and over-commoditised Moleskine journal for this challenge.
Slothman, if you tell me you can’t possibly write a short story in just one day every day… *Sighs* “You’re gonna put your father in a mental home…” You totally can write a short story in just one day. I did this for a month last year. Short stories are…. drumroll…. SHORT. You’re not penning a magnum opus here. You’re just taking one theme or character or setting that amuses you and dramatising it for a few hundred or few thousand words. It doesn’t have to be good. You’re not sending these into Playboy are you? They’re just to get you writing, experimenting, and thinking. Plus I’m pretty sure Playboy doesn’t even have stories anymore. Tell me if I’m wrong, Grandpa. I wrote about this here:
Here’s the basic blueprint for writing a short story in a day:
- Get an idea. You might already be swimming in them. If not, jot down 10 ideas for stories right now. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Just get the ideas down. One of them is sure to appeal to you. If none of them appeal to you, jot down another 10.
- Complete a rough outline. Some authors prefer to dive straight in but I find having a sense of direction will allow your writing to flow more smoothly. My short stories usually have three arcs and the characters all want something. Find out what your characters want and how their desires conflict with the desires of the other characters.
- Nail the theme. Good short stories have a central metaphor than can be summed up in a sentence.
- Give yourself a block of time and commit to a word count. You can use Trollope’s method.
WRITE A POEM EVERY DAY
One of my favourite books of all time is The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry. That’s probably a strange choice for most people but I’ve read it so many times I wore out the cover and had to get a new one. If you wanna have some real fun, I suggest you grab the book, learn about poetry and then follow the homework at the end of each chapter. You can do a task each day and by the end of the month you will have a great knowledge of the breadth of Western poetry. You’ll also have a ton of material that you may, but probably won’t want to, show off.
30-DAY SPIRITUAL CHALLENGES
Did you know that there is no universal expression of gratitude? Anger, love, fear, jealousy, guilt, excitement all look the same the world over. But gratitude is unique. Gratitude is truly the gift that keeps on giving. But it’s in short supply for most people. A lot of people don’t even know how to express gratitude. Often that’s because they don’t see the thing they should be grateful for in the first place. But you can train gratitude. I’ll tell you two great methods for becoming a ninja in the art of gratitude. But first, why should you be more grateful? Well, when you become more grateful, express your gratitude, and appreciate more, cool things start happening…. Cool things like:
- Feeling luckier
- Feeling happier
- Making those around you feel happier
- Seeing the silver lining in bad situations
- Feeling healthier (no stress = no stupid stress-related illnesses)
In short, learning to express gratitude makes you realise how damn awesome your life is. You know how when you buy a new car, suddenly every other car on the road is YOUR car? It’s the same thing. Situational bias or some psych-crap like that. When you intentionally seek things to be grateful for, more good things will actually appear. They were there the whole time but now you can see and appreciate them. So how do you become more grateful? Here are my top two methods for becoming super grateful:
- Every day write down 3 things you are grateful for. Write them on a slip of paper and put them in a jar. At the end of the month, you can sit down and read through all of them. I got this tip from Tim Ferriss. I actually did this for a month. It was hard at first. I struggled to write 3 reasons but it got easier after a week and it was hard to write only three reasons. Your reasons can be as simple as, “I am grateful for the coffee I’m drinking” and “I’m grateful for the phone call I had with my mother”.
- Do the five minute journal. I also learned about this from Tim Ferriss. The Five Minute Journal asks you focusing questions at the beginning and end of the day. Questions like, “How could I have made this day better?” It’s super useful for decluttering the mind and getting a good night’s sleep. It’s also good for energising you and filling you with positivity when you start your day. I did it in conjunction with the method above.
Once you’ve learned to identify gratitude, you can really put your life on steroids by actually expressing it. The main reason I stopped writing down things I was grateful for in notebooks was because I decided to express them to real people. This resulted in me reaching out to many people I haven’t even spoken to in 10 years! But there are few things in this world that make you feel happier than reaching out to someone, showing how much you appreciate them, and making their day. Don’t believe me? Try it. It will feel weird at first but then you won’t be able to stop. And you’ll attract lots of happy people into your life and make the world a slightly better place.
I’m going to scream it form the rooftops: The Wim Hof Method is the best course I’ve ever taken. Yes, even better than that 3-year degree I did at Oxford. I’ve already written about the Wim Hof Method twice so I won’t go into massive detail here. If you want my views on this course, check out these posts:
- Wim Hof Method Review (5 weeks in and life is great)
- How Writers Can Improve Their Writing With The Wim Hof Method (Review)
The Wim Hof Method is actually a 10-week course but give it 30 days and I swear you’ll be committed for good. It’s basically a breathing, cold water therapy, and stretching course that has had just some of the following benefits for me:
- No anxiety
- More creative
- More productive
- Reduced inflammation
- Happier basically all the time
- Massive boost in energy levels
- Better equipped to deal with stress and problems
- Can hold my breath for crazy amounts of time with ease
Check out the Vice documentary if you are interested:
I first got into a proper yoga routine about three years ago by following a 30-day challenge. I wanted to make yoga a habit. I had dabbled with it for years in the past but I wanted to commit to doing it every day to improve my mood, posture, energy, and reduce inflammation. Erin Motz’s Do You Yoga 30-Day Challenge is the one that helped me form the habit. I’ve actually followed this routine many times over. Some people would class yoga as just “exercise” but if you actually commit to doing it every day for a minimum of 30 days, you’ll see it’s much more than that.
30-DAY MENTAL CHALLENGES
WRITE 10 IDEAS EVERY DAY
I read this awesome post by James Altucher:
Go read it. It’s awesome. James tells you how writing 10 ideas every single day will change your life in 6 months. Give it a go for the next 30 days for a little flavour of what it can do. I do it. I’ve done it for a while now. What has it done for me? Well, people pay me for my ideas. Not James Altucher money of course (not yet at least). Not rubbing-your-backside-with-Benjamins money. But money nonetheless. Enough to keep me eating pancakes everyday in my sky-rise shoebox in Tokyo.
HAVE A MIRACLE MORNING EVERY DAY
Hal Elrod was hit by a drunk driver at age 20 and pronounced dead for 6 minutes. He woke up from a coma and found, in addition to a ton of broken bones, he had brain damage. Doctors said he would never walk again. But he did walk again. In fact, he ran marathons, built a success business, and became a #1 bestselling author. His most popular book is called The Miracle Morning in which he details the morning routine that sets him up for success. If you want to get up early and kick your butt into action, this book is your blueprint.
30-DAY LEARNING CHALLENGES
LEARN A LANGUAGE
Learning a language is one of the most challenging yet rewarding endeavours you will ever pursue. If you don’t already speak a second language, it’s even more awesome than you would imagine! Learning a new language isn’t just about memorising new words. It’s about adopting a whole different world view. When you learn a new language, you become a different person. Your personality changes. Tim Doner, a hyper-polyglot, puts it best when he says, ‘Each language is, in many ways, an expression of how one society or culture thinks.’ You could set aside 30 minutes a day for the next 30 days and learn a language using the following methods:
- Book a 30-minute lesson with a teacher on iTalki. Sign up by clicking this link and you’ll get $10 towards a lesson.
- Use Duolingo for 30 minutes each day.
- If you’re learning Japanese, Japanese Ammo has a fantastic beginner series on YouTube.
- Rocket Languages have some great options.
LEARN TO CODE
I’m currently enrolled in this Udemy course that teaches you to code by creating games. It’s early days at the moment but I’m having great fun (when I can find the time) and will soon have a little portfolio of games to show off. I actually didn’t have much inclination to learn to code. I’ve always thought my brain just isn’t wired that way. But that’s exactly what prompted me to learn some basics. It’s a great way to stretch yourself a little and it’s like active recovery. You can learn something but still keep the brain engaged.
30-DAY HEALTH CHALLENGES
If you want a 30-day challenge that will improve your focus and remove fat from your waistline, try intermittent fasting each morning. I’ve done this for a few years now and can’t see myself going back to eating breakfast. Here’s my routine:
- Wake up, drink water and coffee, then work without eating.
- Fast all the way through to midday or even 2pm and then break the fast with a big meal.
- Have an eating window between 2pm and 8-9pm then stop again.
- Sleep around 11-12 and then repeat the cycle.
You’ll probably be super hungry the first few days but then you’ll get used to it and be shocked from how clear your head is.
After a boozy month in Arizona 3 years ago, I told myself I needed a break. I needed a detox. I pledged to myself that I’d stay away from the booze for the next 30 days. 3 years later and I still haven’t had a drink. I actually tried to have a couple of beers to celebrate finishing one of my novels last year. This was my celebration: I took one sip of that Belgium beer and spat it out (still ate the raw cookie dough though). I’d unlearned how to appreciate alcohol. And I didn’t care to learn again. I was feeling too vibrant and too happy to be bothered about some fermented hops. I’m not saying you should give it up forever. But if you’ve spent too much money sucking Bacchus’ teat of late, maybe try a month without it. You might find you like Sober-You a lot more than Drunk-You. Of course, if you discover Sober-You is an ass, promptly go straight back to quaffing Manhattans and slurping shots out of unwashed belly buttons.
TRY A NEW DIET
Even if you’re already super health, trying a new diet can be fun. If you’re a health geek like me, diets aren’t just for losing weight and looking good. Diets are for experimenting. Find out if there’s something you’re missing. I plan to “go alkaline” this month. If you haven’t heard of the alkaline diet, it basically means eating a ton of vegetables and not touching meat. Obviously there’s more to it than that but that’s the basics. This is in an effort to “alkalise” your body. You probably can’t influence your pH levels through diet but I’m intrigued to find out how my body reacts nonetheless. Other diets you might want to test-drive are:
- The Macrobiotic Diet (seriously, look this one up)
- The Okinawa Diet
- The 5:2 Diet
- The Atkins Diet
- The Cookies & Ice Cream Diet
Or, instead of adopting a completely new diet, you could just boycott junk food for the entire month.
30-DAY CREATIVE CHALLENGES
TAKE 30 PHOTOS A DAY
For the next 30 days, take out your phone or your camera and snap 30 photos each day. Why? I dunno. Because photos are cool. And if you’re anything like me, your memory sucks. I don’t have many regrets but heres my biggest regret ever… I went to Japan alone for the first time. I was in complete awe of the place and would walk the streets for hours just looking at crazy shit. For some reason, I made the conscious decision NOT to take any photos. What’s even crazier was I was using Snapchat at the time. So I actually WAS taking photos but just flinging them at people and having them dissolve into nothingness. I had a great time but I can’t even remember 90% of the stuff I did! If I had taken a few snaps and actually kept them, I’d be able to look back in fondness right now. This is one of the ONLY photos I have from many months spent exploring one of the most awesome places on earth: How lame. And you know what? I remember that damn sugary meal like it was freaking yesterday. But I can’t remember tons of other probably-cool-stuff I did at that time. I told myself that wouldn’t happen again. So I started snapping 30 photos every day. Some days I’m better at it than others. After all, some days it would just be 30 pictures of my desk, shower, and bed. But other days, it forces you to get out and see stuff! If you wanna see some examples of the pics I take, check out my Instagram. There’s cool pics like this:
START A BLOG
Starting a blog is a great creative outlet. If you have just 30 minutes a day and want a challenge for the next 30 days, see if you can get a blog up and running. The first week will be all about getting to grips with WordPress and basic design (tip: just buy a nice design). You’ll explore plugins and muck about with the appearance. From there, you can write each day and tinker with how it looks. By the end of the 30 days, you’ll have a good idea whether you’ll want to continue with your blog.
TAKE A THIRTY DAY CHALLENGE
Life is pretty amazing. But it’s also pretty boring a lot of the time. If you’re currently stuck on a boring level, it’s time to introduce some flavour into your life. The best way to do that is to set yourself a task for the next 30 days. You can choose one of the challenges I detailed above or you can choose your own. But make no mistake. You must choose. And you must choose now. Tick tock. Tick tock. The grave draws ever nearer.