30 Days to Success – Postmortem

Today is the official wrap-up of the 30 Days to Success Challenge, where the goal was to adopt a positive new daily habit or discontinue a bad habit for 30 days straight.

A big congratulations to everyone who attempted this challenge. If you took it seriously, I’ll bet it proved to be an eye-opening experience for you. I’ve done this challenge many times, and each time I’m left with the thought, “It was hard, but it was worth it.”

I now invite all participants to share your results by posting a new comment, regardless of whether you consider this your greatest triumph or your greatest flop. In the words of the albino from The Princess Bride, “This is for posterity, so be honest.”

After completing the challenge, you have several options. Most likely it will be fairly easy to continue your new habit, even if it was difficult to start. I find that the effort required to keep going feels like 5-10% of the effort to build the habit in the first place. So you may decide to continue your new habit as-is, to reassess and refine it, or to drop it. Now is the time to review your results and make this decision consciously. If your new habit serves you well, by all means keep it in some form, but don’t allow yourself to backslide.

Here’s my own postmortem. Like many of you I opted to take on multiple challenges. My three goals were to:

  1. Run or bike at least 25 minutes or go for a 60-minute hike in the mountains every day.
  2. Get up at 5am every morning, including weekends.
  3. Write for at least 4 hours every single day, and don’t check email until I’ve done that.

Habit #1 was surprisingly difficult because of scheduling issues, but I did complete it without missing a day. I had to adapt the outdoor exercise to indoor aerobic exercise on some occasions, such as when my wife went out of town for 5 days and I was home with the baby. I wanted to do my writing (habit 3) first thing in the morning, so I ended up exercising in the evening. But I think this was a mistake — it would have been better to exercise first thing in the morning. I often had Toastmasters meetings in the evenings, or my wife had a meeting, so I had to go running at different times. I wanted to exercise at the same time every day. Also, it’s starting to warm up here in Vegas. It was about 90 degrees at 9pm last night, and some days it’s been very windy (25mph winds), so running in the heat and wind wasn’t much fun, although I still did it. As far as results are concerned, it’s the usual you’d expect from daily aerobic exercise: I feel more energetic and sleep more soundly. My plan going forward is to switch to AM exercise, drop it to 5-6 days per week, and combine the outdoor exercise with indoor exercise and weight training. Today I’m taking a day off from exercise, and this weekend I’ll map out a new routine.

Habit 2 was actually the easiest; I never missed a day. Even though my 30-day challenge ended yesterday, I still automatically got up at 5:00 this morning. I’ve gotten up early many times in the past, but this is the first time I’ve done it for 30 days straight including weekends. In the past I’d usually sleep in til around 7:00 AM on weekends — that’s considered sleeping in when you have a 5-year old who loves to pounce you. The habit of getting up at 5:00AM every day has done wonders for my productivity, and right now I plan to keep going with it indefinitely. I found that the key to this habit was simply to go to bed when I’m sleepy each night instead of at any particular set time. Most of the time I went to bed between 10-11PM.

Habit 3 was the hardest, but I made it. I plan to take this weekend off, and then reassess how to adapt this habit going forward. It was productive to be sure, but seven days a week of writing was draining, and I could definitely have used a day off now and then. But this habit kicked my writing into high gear, so I do consider it a success. The second part of this habit was not to check email until after I’d completed my four hours of writing. I found that to work very well. It was very productive to start the day by diving straight into my #1 project. By leaving the administrative and communication work until the end of the day, I finish that work in far less time because I know as soon as I’m done with it, I’m done with work for the day. This is especially effective when I’m hungry and want to have dinner. But if I do this kind of work at the start of the day, it tends to expand and take on a life of its own.

This weekend I plan to relax, spend time with the family, and celebrate.