New year’s resolutions get all the hype but you can commit to goals any time of the year.
In fact, we here at Ink+Volt are big fans of the 30-day challenge where you pursue a new goal for each new month.
Here’s why 30-day challenges can transform your life
Monthly goals are easy to visualize
We’ve all been asked “where do you see yourself in five years?” or “what’s your ten year plan?” But those big picture questions can be, well, big. If this is your first time doing a big picture exercise, it can all seem so overwhelming and high stakes. Meanwhile, 30-day goals are much easier to identify. Where do you want to be at the end of the month? What do you want to improve? Once you can visualize it, you can pursue it.
Monthly goals can create progress
Big, massive goals are so worthwhile. But you won’t see success happen overnight. The very nature of a big goal is that it’s a slow and steady march to the finish line. That’s why you need to break down big goals into easy, micro goals.
For instance, writing a novel is overwhelming. But breaking it down and committing to writing 1000 words a day is more attainable. And if you write 1000 words every day for a month, you’ll have 30,000 words by the end of it, and more than a third of your novel completed. When you start to see progress, you’re more excited to stick with it.
Monthly goals are low risk, high reward
If we set a year-long goal, we run the risk of being disappointed with our results at the end of the year. We’ll also put a lot more pressure on ourselves and our goal because we’d be investing a year’s worth of effort into achieving it.
But a monthly goal takes the pressure off. It’s less about putting all our eggs into one basket and more about doing a fun challenge or experiment for a month. When’s the last time you did something just for the sake of trying something new? You can see if you want to learn French or take up an instrument or cook fun, new recipes. If you don’t like your challenge, you won’t have wasted a year doing it. But at least you tried and did something out of your comfort zone.
And if you do enjoy your monthly goal, then you’ll have an easier time sticking with it after committing for a month.
Monthly goals challenge our self-perception
As human beings, we have a tendency to underestimate our abilities and our potential for success. It’s not our fault—we’re practically hardwired to play it safe and stay in our comfort zone. Our brains are telling us to stick with what we know instead of putting our neck out and taking a risk.
Luckily, it’s also possible to implement change, as long as we make a consistent effort to do it. And pursuing a new goal a month can go a long way towards challenging our beliefs. Whether it’s cooking a challenging recipe or taking a new class or signing up to speak at work, we are testing ourselves, and seeing that we are capable of so much more than we thought possible.
Action plan for new monthly goals
Up ahead, we’ve listed some ideas for 30-day challenges. But first, let’s take a look at how to create a solid action plan for your new monthly goals.
1. Review the previous month
Take out your planner and look back on last month’s progress. Take note of what worked and what didn’t. If you didn’t implement a new goal last month, you can use this exercise to reflect on what you enjoyed doing or to see if there’s an area you’d like to improve or strengthen. This will help you formulate a new goal for the month. Not sure what you’d like to commit to? I think journaling is always helpful in terms of identifying what we’d like to pursue or bring into our life. Break out your favorite notebook and see what you uncover about yourself, and what direction you’d like your life to move in.
2. Incorporate lessons learned
After this reflection exercise, apply your lessons learned. Maybe you realized that you’re always spending your mornings feeling frazzled and stressed and that you’d like to develop a calm morning routine. This can be your new goal for a new month.
3. Schedule it
Schedule your new goal or habit into your planner or deskpad. Not sure when to schedule it? You can piggyback off an existing habit, like meditating after you brush your teeth or reading a book while drinking your morning cup of coffee.
Author of Atomic Habits James Clear refers to this as “habit stacking.” He writes:
“When it comes to building new habits, you can use the connectedness of behavior to your advantage. One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top. This is called habit stacking.”
Here are more examples of integrating a new habit or activity into your routine:
- Doing morning stretches after brushing your teeth
- Meditating while the coffee is brewing
- Writing in your journal before bed
- Reading a book or listening to an audiobook while commuting to work
4. Give yourself regular rewards
If you want to ensure the success of your monthly goal, give yourself regular rewards. People love treats and rewards—so why should we deny ourselves when we’re trying to achieve a goal? If you’re working hard towards your monthly goal, make sure to give yourself an instant treat. This can mean putting on soothing, fragrant lotion before you meditate. Or wearing new workout clothes while you exercise. Or treating yourself to a fancy latte after writing.
Ideas for monthly challenges
You can pursue a new area of your life every month. This can help create a life that is “well-rounded” and one where you’re not feeling fatigued or getting tunnel vision on one particular goal.
Here are some ideas for new monthly goals for different areas of your life:
- Walk 10,000 steps a day
- Run a 5K
- Do stretches every morning
- Meal prep nutritious meals for the week
- Plan a trip with your family
- Host a weekly Sunday dinner with friends
- Go for a walk with a different friend a week
- Join a new club or take a class to meet new people
- Engage in conversation with a neighbor
- Develop a morning routine
- Try the pomodoro time management method
- Organize office space
- Create a paper filing system
- Organize your home
- Attend a conference
- Take a class that will complement your career, like a class in public speaking or photoshop or writing
- Have lunch with a coworker
- Schedule regular 1:1 meetings with your manager or team
- Meditate every day for 5 minutes
- Decompress after work with a coloring book
- Step away from work and take a 10 minute walk outside
If you’re looking for more ideas for 30-day challenges, check out our guide here.