Prasanna Natarajan

How to execute a 30 day challenge?

Well, I’m running out of interrogative words.

The 30 day challenge is just an idea. It can be implemented in any number of ways.

The worst way to execute it, is usually the first way you come up with. And that’d most probably be something like this: “Ok, starting today, I’ll jog for 30 days.” And then after some day you’ll wake up and realise “wait, what happened to that trial that we started? Aaargh, I forgot. I forget. Let me restart it from tomorrow”. And the cycle spins.

You need to commit to it in some form. Some physical activity that makes you pause and reflect on the adventure you are about to start. Either write it down in a notebook in your desk, or in a file in your computer or in a board in your home office.

You then need to spend a few minutes thinking how you’ll manage to complete the trial. The “don’t do” goals don’t need this (maybe). But the “do this” goals require you to plan the execution. You might want to schedule some time to it. For example, for this 30 day blogging trial, I decided to jot down the full first draft in the morning as soon as I wake up. And in the evening, after my work, I publish it (don’t have time to edit it), and publicize it. If I didn’t decide this first hand, I might tend to skip the morning and would have to burn myself trying to write in the night when I’m all exhausted from trying to get rid of the day.

Because I didn’t do this planning step, I failed quite a few trials. For example, this is the 3rd time in a row I’m failing the simple “5-min meditation” challenge. I didn’t decide when I’ll do that and so it got pushed out continuously throughout the day by other items that wanted my attention.

Just pausing a few seconds to decide how you’ll go about doing this, is more than enough usually. This is called Implementation Intention, a technique to assert some stuff to ourself by… just asserting that stuff in some way to ourself, like via speaking it or writing it or committing to it in public.

And you need to calculate the end date and see it. Put it in writing, or even set a calendar event to ping you then, saying you completed it.

I get panic attacks if I try to count the days in calendar. I jump to terminal and use ruby to calculate it like so:

irb(main):005:0> require 'date'
=> true
irb(main):006:0> st =
=> #<Date: 2018-07-28 ((2458328j,0s,0n),+0s,2299161j)>
irb(main):007:0> st + 29
=> #<Date: 2018-08-26 ((2458357j,0s,0n),+0s,2299161j)>

Steve Pavlina blogs on a day to day basis for some of his challenges. You can find many such posts here by searching for ‘Day’. Usually his challenges are very novel (at least to me), so there’s value in reading his day to day revelations.

But I don’t have much epiphany on a day to basis doing a 30 day no sugar trial. So I won’t blog about a trial while it’s running. And so far nothing even after finishing a trial.

But I think it’s important to keep your goals in front of you. Steve had said so.

And Brian Tracy used to say something like this: “99% of people who write their goals daily, achieve them. 99% people who hear this advice won’t write their goals.” Damn it’s true. I don’t write them down. But at least I refer daily to the files I keep my trials in.

The way that works for me currently is to keep all my challenges in some files that are cloud-backed.

I have 2 files, one having the list of all current challenges, and one having the list of all past challenges - both successfully completed and failed.

After 60 seconds of contemplation, I’ve decided to not share the files here. It makes me cringe. But here’s how it looks like.

“Experiments - In Progress”.txt - the running tally of all my current experiments, sorted by date. An example:

Total - 3

Jul 22 2018 (Sun) - Aug 20 2018 (Mon) | 30 days | BLOG PUBLICLY

After publishing it, tweet it, instagram it, linkedin it. whatsapp it (and finally medium it).

Jul 22 2018 (Sun) - Aug 20 2018 (Mon) | 30 days | NO SITES (youtube, reddit, hn, twitter)


Jul 22 2018 (Sun) - Aug 20 2018 (Mon) | 30 days | NO SUGAR


(I’m anal about the format having a pattern.)

“Experiments - Past”.txt - the list of all the trials I’ve completed. Includes both the successfully completed and failed list. This is the lifeline of the whole method. It’s a joy to watch this list grow. It makes me want to do more trials.

## Finished

1. Apr 01 2018 (Sun) - Apr 30 2018 (Mon) | 30 days | 30-MIN CARDIO
5. May 30 2018 (Wed) - Jun 28 2018 (Thu) | 30 days | 30-MINS OF ELM
6. Jun 29 2018 (Fri) - Jul 03 2018 (Tue) | 05 days | READ METARUBY 
7. Jun 18 2018 (Mon) - Jul 17 2018 (Tue) | 30 days | NO SUGAR
8. Jun 19 2018 (Tue) - Jul 18 2018 (Wed) | 30 days | NO SITES (youtube, reddit, hn, twitter)


## Failed

1. Jun 24 2018 (Sun) | 03/30 | METTA MEDITATION
2. Jun 14 2018 (Thu) | 03/30 | No Sugar
5. Jul 15 2018 (Sun) | 05/30 | 1-hr METARUBY

Once a trial is completed, I move it from that file to this one.

I also have another file where I list down all the trials I want to do. But I find that I never pick new trials from this file yet. What I start is just the thing that’s inspiring me at the moment.

So, it doesn’t matter how you implement a 30 day challenge, as long as you have a proper method to do it. My method is basically these 3: