So the books that I’ve finished so far this month all have had one thing in common: they focus on creating new habits or breaking bad habits. I’ve recently reviewed the two volumes of the 30-Day Productivity Plan by Damon Zahariades. Here I’m going to focus on the one of the books that focused on creating new habits.

The first book is “The Big book of 30-Day Challenges: 60 Habit Forming Programs to live an Infinitely Better Life” by Rosanna Casper.

The book contained seven different chapters that basically had seven to ten different 30-day challenges within them. If someone really is ambitious they could do all sixty challenges—it would take at least five years to do the entire book.

The seven chapters include: Fitness, Food, Self-Care, Mindfulness, Organization & Productivity, Networking & Relationships, & finally Creativity and Learning.

Reading through the book, I’ve realized that there are some challenges that I’m already doing, for example the step challenge.  The American Heart Association has a recommendation that you try to get at least 10,000 steps a day, which depending on your stride length should be somewhere around 4 to 5 miles of walking a day. My current challenge for myself is trying to get to 14,000 steps a day. The reason for that number is that if I manage it all year—I would end up with a little over 5 million steps for the year. This year, I’ve already had several days where I’ve been below 10K. This is usually because I haven’t had the greatest night sleep, it’s the weekend/holiday/snow day and I just don’t feel like getting the steps in. I am trying to break myself of that bad habit this year.

But out of all the exercise challenges, there are two that I know I probably won’t be doing—the run every day (I have never enjoyed running, and while at times I picture myself running a 5K—I don’t actually see that happening any time soon), and the stairs workout. With the stair workout, the only time that I would have access to stairs would be at work currently, and I’m not going to go in even earlier just to make use of the stairs for this challenge. I do try to take the stairs when I remember (but I will admit that I’m lazy and I usually head towards the elevator).

But the three challenges that I am going to be putting on a list include: the 30 days of exercise, 30 days of yoga (for me this could mean actually doing the PiYo workouts from Beachbody which combine yoga & Pilates), and 10 minutes of stretching.

While I read through the different food challenges, the only two that I’m currently doing include: drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, and eat a healthy breakfast every morning. There were other challenges that included fasting, eliminating sugar, and keeping a food journal. Since I’m trying to re-establish a good relationship with food, I’m only going to focus on the types of challenges that would work with that major goal. Those would be the two challenges I mention above, plus trying to eat more fruits and vegetables.

The third chapter dealt with self-care. I am trying to get better sleep (the fitbit alta does track sleep somewhat—it tells me how often I’m tossing and turning, or having to get up to go to the bathroom; but doesn’t tell me if I’ve reached REM sleep). I really don’t like cold showers (unless it’s a really hot and humid day or I’m slightly overheated & I need to cool off). Currently I don’t “dress up” daily—mainly because I work in the lab, and I don’t want to be having to put on a lab coat to ensure that nothing is spilt on my clothes (though technically I should be wearing a lab coat anyway—I just sweat way to much and therefore only put on the lab coat when it is absolutely necessary). I’m not sure how well I would do on a no complaining challenge (mainly because of the state of the world and everything in it)—though I do try to make it through the day without complaining, gossiping, or judging other people. I also try to spend some time outdoors (though it may not be a half hour, but I do try for at least a total of 20-30 minutes if not more a day). Also at times I find it difficult to think of things that make me laugh (so this is something that I could work on improving as well).

The fourth chapter dealt with mindfulness. This is something that I have been trying to get better at over the past year or so. When I was initially laid off from my job last fall, I realized that I really need to do a lot of self reflection, and I realized that one thing that I didn’t do nearly enough of was taking care of my mental health. So the goals that are included in this chapter include: meditating for 10 minutes, writing down affirmations, 10 minutes of visualization, seeking daily awe, higher power challenge, daily journaling, keeping a gratitude journal, keeping a dream journal, and practicing lucid dreaming.

Out of those challenges, I do try to meditate nightly (though it may only be for two to five minutes; sometimes I can get closer to 10). In addition I do try to journal daily, though sometimes I’m so tired at the end of the day that I forget to do it—so this is something that I know that I need to work on. I haven’t tried keeping a gratitude journal or a dream journal, nor have I tried lucid dreaming. So if I were to pick two challenges, I think I’d stick with the ones that I’m currently trying to do: the daily meditation & journaling. At some point I will work in the gratitude & dream journaling and even writing down the daily affirmations—but baby steps first.

The fifth chapter dealt with organization and productivity. So these challenges have more to do with doing digital “detoxes”, cleaning out the email in-boxes (if you have more than one account), tracking your spending, and just general things to help make your life a little more streamlined.

I am in the slow process of trying to get rid of clutter in both my room and storage unit (this is slow because I don’t have a lot of time to focus on the storage unit right now & at the same time I’m not sure of what I would need that I have packed away in there). I have been trying to track my expenses and aiming for no spend days to expand into no spend weeks and then expand into a no spend month (so far I’ve managed to almost have a no spend week this year so far). Making my bed daily is something that I manage about 10% of the time, and getting up at 5am is difficult when you have a poor night sleep anyway. But there are challenges that I am working on.

Chapter six has to deal with networking & relationships. Challenges include: 30 minutes of family time, love through everyday interactions, reach out to friends, have lunch with someone new, create daily delight for others & the rejection challenge.

            I have been trying to reach out to friends that I haven’t talked to in years via social media. I also spend time with both my parents and younger brother (when he comes to town), in terms of spending time with other family members, that will require planning a trip out to visit people (since other than my parents & younger brother—no other relative lives in the state). Having lunch with someone new will probably be a challenge for me once I move—since I take my lunch to work daily, there is seldom a chance to sit down with someone new at lunch.

Chapter seven has to deal with creativity and learning. The challenges in this chapter include: learning or brushing up on a musical instrument, learning a foreign language, take a photo every day, learn a brand new skill, write down 10 ideas every day, cook one new recipe per day, read 20 pages a day, watch a TED talk every day, write a novel in 30 days, listen to audiobooks or podcasts, perfect your pitch: videotape yourself, and exercise your brain.

           At some point I may try to brush up on my skills in terms of playing the flute (that way I can banish the bad memories of playing it in school and build better memories of me learning for the fun of it). I am also going to be trying to refresh my memory of both my Spanish & German skills (I’ve figured that it would be a good thing to be able to speak at least one foreign language). I’m also in the middle of a photo challenge already. I’m also trying to keep up on my reading at least 10-20 pages of a non-fiction book (in addition to reading (or re-reading) fiction books as well). As much as I would love to cook more—this is something that I’ve fallen behind on and will pick up more on once I’m back on my own.

So there are literally five years worth of 30 day challenges presented in this book. I’ve realized that I’m currently working on a number of them already (trying to turn them into daily habits). But there are several others that I’m going to slowly start working in my daily routine as well:

Writing down 5 to 10 ideas a day (I know the original challenge was 10 ideas—but sometimes you need to work up to the challenge).

Watching a TED talk every day.

Listening to podcasts (I use to do this daily, but I’ve fallen out of the habit—so it’s something I’d like to get back into doing).

Working suduko puzzles (again this is something that I use to do daily, but have again fallen out habit on).

Getting better at keeping a daily journal (and start to incorporate gratitude & dream journaling as well).

Try to spend more time outdoors

Eat more fruits & veggies

Start practicing more yoga

Work on perfecting my plank

Spend more time stretching.

I do recommend this book if you’re looking for ideas on different 30 day challenges. It covers different areas of life, and with the number of challenges per area–you can pick and choose the ones that you think will be most beneficial to your life.