When it comes to self-improvement, two of the biggest stumbling blocks I see people encounter in my therapy office are a lack of motivation to get started and a fear that a goal will be too overwhelming.
I often prescribe 30 day challenges as a way to help people tackle both of those issues. But I don’t tell them what to do for 30 days. Instead, I help them design their own challenge.
Thirty day challenges feel doable–you can do almost anything for 30 days. You can also use a 30 day challenge as an experiment. If it enhances your life, you’ll create momentum that motivates you to create more positive change.
If, however, you decide your challenge isn’t helpful–perhaps waking up 30 minutes earlier reduces your productivity–you’ll at least know you gave it your best effort for one month.
There are many online groups, courses, and books that tout 30 day challenges for anything from diet changes to cleaning habits. And while many of them can be quite effective, you don’t necessarily need to join a pre-established challenge.
In fact, you may be better off designing your own challenge. Then you can ensure you’re working toward a goal that will really enhance your life.
30 Day Financial Improvement Challenges
Whether you want to make a big dent in your debt, or you want to start contributing more to your retirement, the right challenge could give you a big jumpstart toward a brighter financial future. Here are a few examples of ways you might spend less or save more in one month:
- Save $500 in the next 30 days
- Earn an extra $1000 in the next 30 days
- Pay off a certain bill
- Stop shopping online
- Stop dining out
Most people own too much stuff. And too much clutter means you’ll be distracted from your work, you’ll spend more time cleaning and looking for misplaced items, and you’ll struggle to stay productive. These 30 day challenges can help you clear the clutter one step at a time:
- Get rid of 30 trash bags full of items
- Keep your desk clean and clutter-free
- List five items for sale online every day
- Find three items to donate every day
- Identify one small area to clean each day (closet, junk drawer, cabinet, etc)
Whether you want to increase your face-to-face contact with your friends or you want to learn to speak up for yourself, improving your social interactions is important. Here are some challenges that you could do every day for one month to have more positive social interactions:
- Send a thank you note to someone
- Invite a co-worker or friend for coffee
- Speak to a stranger
- Compliment someone
- Practice saying no to things you don’t actually want to do
30 Day Health Improvement Challenges
From changing your diet to increasing your workout habits, to getting more sleep and taking your vitamins, there are many challenges that can address your health. Here are a few challenges that could help you reset your habits:
- Write down everything you eat every day
- Eliminate a certain food or ingredient (like sugar or caffeine)
- Exercise for 20 minutes
- Walk one mile
- Go to the gym every day
If you want to feel less stressed, reduce your negative thinking, and regulate your emotions better, create a mental strength challenge for yourself. Here are a few examples of ways you can build mental muscle in 30 days:
- Start a gratitude journal
- Practice using kind words with yourself
- Limit your contact with toxic people
- Do something that makes it impossible to feel sorry for yourself
- Schedule 30 minutes to worry each day (to reduce rumination)
30 Day Time Management Challenges
Whether you procrastinate too much, or you never have time to do the things you really want to do in life, create a challenge that will help you prioritize your activities and manage your time better. Here are a few ways you might eliminate time wasters or build in time to accomplish more:
- Limit social media to 10 minutes a day
- Give up TV
- Schedule your time every day in 15-minute increments
- Turn off electronics at 8 PM
- Schedule 30 minutes each day to tackle a specific skill you want to learn or a project you want to complete
Look at each month as an opportunity to start a new 30 day experiment. Whether you eliminate a bad habit or establish a healthier routine, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and the strategies that can help you live your best life.
Sometimes, one simple change is all it takes to make life better. So start experimenting and challenge yourself to try something new each month.
Originally published at www.inc.com.