When I started this project back in June, I imagined that I’d be able to have two challenges on the go at the same time – one would be a small habit change that I would try our for 30 days and the second one would be something more substantial that I would think about over 30 days and see how I could incorporate some new ideas into my life. I imagined that at the end of each challenge I’d launch into the next one the next day.
It’s not working out this way and I’ve been feeling very frustrated about it.
The 30 day habit changes are working well – I was pleased with how the 30 days of no alcohol, the 30 days of facing fear and the 30 days of evening routines panned out. But the less defined challenges have been, well, a challenge. Not a complete failure, but not progressing in the way I thought they might.
I think there are at least two reasons for this. First, I haven’t really been clear on what I want to achieve out of the challenge and what I’m actually going to do and second I haven’t set aside time to do the undefined things I’m going to do, so I’m fumbling round in the dark a bit (a lot) and not making much progress. What I need to be doing is setting myself a SMART goal (we all know about them right? – Specific/Measurable/Actionable/Realistic/Time-bound – or something like that), working out that actions I need to take, and booking time in my schedule to do them, instead of thinking “oh I haven’t worked on the blog for a while, I’d better go and do something” and not knowing what I actually need to be doing, and ending up getting distracted by squirrels and other shiny things.
The second reason isn’t one that I’d thought about much, but a couple of things I read recently reminded me of a key thing I’d left out of my project plan (in so far as there is a plan) – Down time. In short, I was expecting myself to be able to swing from branch to branch to branch, encounter new things and take as much on board as I could without ever stopping to consolidate or to rest. (Thanks Kendra!)
A good analogy I came across recently was that life isn’t a marathon, it’s a series of sprints – more like interval training if you like. Google that and you’ll get many varieties of it (and people who don’t agree), but the idea is that your body and mind need periods of down time after a period of intense activity. This is true on a daily level (you can’t work flat out all day long), a weekly level (why we have weekends) and a yearly level (why we have annual leave). But it’s also true, and this is the bit I was missing, on a project level.
I can remember one particularly intense project at work a few years back that I worked flat out on over several months. I really enjoyed it, I loved the pressure and the intensity of the work and the feeling I was doing something worthwhile. It was one of the high points of my recent career history. But when it was done, I completely crashed. I went back to my normal work, but I wasn’t able to get my focus back and in some ways I wonder if I’ve really recovered from it.
It’s the same for these “undefined” projects. Trying to bounce from one 30-day project to another without stopping is completely unsustainable. What’s happened is because I haven’t factored in any down time or time to process anything for the last two challenges I’ve tried to do, I’ve basically done nothing in those challenges. First because I haven’t panned and secondly because I haven’t really processed, closed off and recovered from the previous challenges.
So I’m doing a total rethink of the project to slow things down and focus on one thing for as long as I need to, and then to take some more time to process it before moving on. I hope that by doing this I’ll achieve something lasting. Some of the things I want to do will take longer than 30 days, and some might take less. (Example: my drawing lessons, which if you go by the title of the book should have taken me 30 days, but I’m still working though it – I’m up to Lesson 28 after almost four months.) And the 30-day theme will continue with ongoing 30-day habit change challenges.
This means I’m not giving up on Challenge 6 (clarity and purpose) after 30 days. I’m going to keep working on this because I think it’s important. I’m making a firmer plan for what I want to do, and I’m trialing the Happiness Planner as a record keeping tool.
I feel a bit more optimistic now that I’ve figured out what’s going on and have made some more concrete plans. And I’ve decided to reward myself with a new yoga mat if I do 30 days of yoga in a row. 13 days to go! Yay!