30 Days to My Best Me Challenge, week 1

It’s the end of the first week in the Day Designer “30 Days To Your Best You” Challenge, and I thought I’d check in with some notes on how I’ve been doing.

First of all, let me just say that I wasn’t entirely sure what this challenge was going to be about, aside from trying to make some new habits. So I’ve been a little surprised by some of the habits they are encouraging people to take up each day. Some of them are kind of “Duh, why aren’t you already doing this?” while others have given me some food for thought. And, being a Rebel, still others meet with my usual sense of “Why would I ever want to do that?!”

So, here are the first week’s suggested habits, along with my notes about how they struck me on the day the habit was first introduced:

Day 1: Drink water first thing

“splash_2” (photo credit: Kurt:S)

Well, okay. But why? This habit was more given as a command, without any explanation as to what it might do for you, if you adopt it. I guess it’s just one of those things you should do without thinking, and without questioning much. We all need to drink more water, right? So, fine, drink a glass of water. I need to take some pills anyway, why not?

Day 2: Make your bed

“big yawn” (photo credit: Louisa Billeter)

Again, why? If you’ve read Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin points out that this is more of a psychological tool to make yourself feel ready to tackle stuff on your To Do List, because it’s a) an easy task to accomplish quickly and b) clearly divides your time between waking and sleeping. So I’m thinking more about Gretchen’s book now than this particular habit suggestion, which is funny.

I’ll admit that this is not something I normally do, because I really don’t give a damn about whether my bed is made or not. (And, as some of my friends have pointed out, there are some studies that show that not making your bed is actually healthier, since it’s not trapping moisture and mites in your bedding. Ew!) That being said, my husband usually makes the bed most days – provided there isn’t already a cat setting up a nest in the blankets, anyway. It’s something that seems more important to him than it does to me, so he does it and I leave him to it.

But today I did actually make the bed, wondering if my husband would be surprised. (He didn’t notice.)

Day 3: Read something inspirational

“Morning-with-coffee-and-book” (photo credit: Magda K)

Finally, a habit I can support with enthusiasm!

There is nothing I like better than feeling I have “permission” to do lazy things like read and relax in the morning, since that’s how I’d like to start my mornings anyway. Cup of coffee, good book, not feeling rushed… hell, I work from home, so why shouldn’t I be able to start my day off any way that I like?

Reading, in general, is a great habit, and reading first thing in the morning is something I’ve been meaning to shift into. I’d like to get away from reading nonsense on the internet or checking my emails first thing, so I’ll try to incorporate this one into my daily routines.

Day 4: Prep for dinner earlier in the day

“Preparing breakfast” (photo credit: dietertimmerman)

This is actually something that my husband and I have recently discussed. He is the one with the car, so this means he’s usually the one who buys any necessary groceries for dinner. And he hates grocery shopping. So he asked if I could help him out and take a peek in the refrigerator or freezer each day to figure out what we will have, instead of simply assuming he will buy something that we will both enjoy.

Luckily, today’s meal planning was easy, since we’d already discussed it last night, noting that we were missing some key ingredients. If he buys some mushrooms today, we can have turkey burgers tonight!

That being said, I am a little miffed that none of these tips have yet advised EAT BREAKFAST FIRST THING. As my husband points out, if you eat 30 grams of protein within the first 30 minutes of waking up, you will lose weight without any additional effort. I don’t know if the weight-loss thing is true, since I normally just groggily make coffee and start checking my emails, and don’t eat until about 8 or 9, but yeah, you should eat breakfast in the morning. And not sugary starches like donuts or cereal, but something with protein, like eggs. Not that I am telling you what to do, but doesn’t it seem odd that we are talking about prepping for dinner and haven’t even eaten breakfast?

Day 5: Empty the dishwasher and start a load of laundry

“2016 – China – Yangtze River – Shibaozhai – Washday”> (photo credit: Ted McGrath)

Nope! Sorry, Day Designer, but today’s tip is both sexist and classist.

I do not own a dishwasher, nor a washer/dryer. I wash my dishes by hand, and my husband and I have to go to the communal laundry in our apartment complex where we pay per machine, as I suspect many people in the U.S. do. So telling me to “empty the dishwasher and start a load of laundry” is utter BS, not only because it assumes (wrongly) that this is “women’s work,” but also because it assumes that people are both willing and able to wash their clothing on a daily basis.

Not to mention the fact that I almost deleted the email, which came with the subject line “The key to staying on top of the mom mess!” Seriously? Why are you assuming that a) we’re all moms and b) moms are the ones who need to “stay on top of” all of the household chores? What about dad?

That is quite a load of presumptions.

I’m following this challenge for the formation of good daily habits, even if they’re not necessarily things that I want to do, but today’s “tip” is a hot mess of privilege that needs to be checked.

Day 6: Practice smiling

Even this kid is like “Cut it out!” (“KiDS” photo credit: Israel Gutier)

Okay… after yesterday’s tip, I am already feeling more cynical about these “tips,” and this one isn’t helping.

I get that this tip is about feeling personally happier, but it also strikes me as problematic. The full text of the email reads:

“This habit will make you happier. Your emotions involve more than just your brain. Your face plays a large part. A simple smile can trigger positive emotions and change the course of your day. Plus, it will brighten the day for others!”

It’s the “plus” part that is bugging me.

As I posted on Facebook: Although this doesn’t happen to me nearly as frequently, now that I don’t live in NYC or another large metropolis with a reliable public transit system, I still remember all the stupid shit men have done to try to get my attention, including telling me to smile. So today’s tip, “Practice Smiling,” is a little triggering.

It is being presented in the guise of “this will make you happier!” but come on now. If you are feeling upset, angry, depressed (clinically or simply down in the dumps), etc., forcing the smile is not going to make you feel better. In fact, I would wager it’ll actually make you feel worse, because you are masking your true feelings, and then it’ll make you wonder why no one can see through your facade to comment on how you’re really feeling.

I am not down with tips given solely to women (and, let’s face it, this particular brand of planners is aimed at women), even if the advice is being given by other women (the founder of Day Designer is Whitney English). NO ONE has the right to tell me to smile – including my husband, who knows that I will cut a bitch. I will smile because I genuinely feel happy. I don’t need anyone’s advice to “smile more” or “practice smiling,” as if this is a woman’s duty in life, to smile and placate and always be pleasant and eager to please.

Yes, we could all be nicer to one another and, yes, smiling may enter into that picture. But if your advice is only for women, then fuck you.

In short, I feel like this tip is pretty tone deaf, assuming that a) all women should be smiling at all times, and b) smiling is going to actually improve anyone’s day if they are feeling blue.

A better tip? How about listening to music first thing in the morning? My husband has been putting on his favorite classical radio station while getting ready for work, and he says this has made him feel much calmer and confident about where his day is going to go. He doesn’t have a daily planner, but he does have WQXR. (They even have an app, so you can listen from anywhere in the world!)

Practice smiling. Again, NOPE!

Day 7: Prepare for the week

“writing to do list” (photo credit: Informedmag)

After two bad tips in a row, I was prepared for this morning’s suggestion to be another brush-off. But guess what? This is actually a great idea.

In fact, this is a tip I already had in mind last Sunday, when I was wondering why on earth Day Designer would start a 30-day challenge on a Monday. Mondays are the worst for starting any new habit, in my experience, since everything tends to be in chaos. Isn’t that why we call it Manic Monday?

Anyway, I’ve already given this challenge plenty of critique, so here is some praise: prepping for the week is definitely a challenge, and something everyone should do, to the best of their abilities. It’s always hard for me to envision all the projects and tasks I have to do in a 7-day period, so trying to map that out certainly helps me feel more in charge, and gives me goals to shoot for.

And, as this tip also points out, overplanning is also a big mistake many people (myself included) make. We think we can take on way more than we actually have time for, and overschedule ourselves, which often leads to failure and burnout. Trying to narrow down your top 3 goals for the day, which I’ve been doing as a result of using Day Designer’s daily planning print-out, is certainly a helpful way to avoid overscheduling and really think about what you’re trying to accomplish each day.

Now, most of my days have the same top 3 on them (I’ve been writing “Walk; Write 1,000 words; Work” most days), but I like that box because it does get me thinking about what I’m using my time for every day. And if I am working on similar projects each day, then it makes sense for my top 3 to be the same. If I’m trying to work in new habits (like going for daily walks), I can include those in my list.

Weekly scorecard

[author_list style=”tick”]

  • New habits to incorporate: 4
  • New habits to ignore: 2
  • New habits where “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”: 1
  • Overall: Still curious to see what comes next


Giving a new planner a try

Even though the Day Designer approach doesn’t quite feel like it is the approach I would take if it were up to me to design a planner, I’ve decided to purchase one of their Blue Sky daily planners (which are slightly less expensive than their flagship designs and available from Amazon, so I could get my hands on it in 2 days). It’s supposed to arrive on Monday, so I will switch from planning out my days on these daily print-outs (which I would recommend if you want to give it a try before you buy), and see if using the bound planner makes any difference in my scheduling game.

Gold isn’t usually my color, but I liked the spotty design, so away we go!

I will say that my current planner only offers a weekly spread, which I’ve found isn’t nearly enough space for all of my To Do Lists and notes to myself (not to mention recording daily word counts, planning for dinner, etc.), so I think this will be a lot better than my current system of attaching a To Do list to the opposite page, obscuring part of the weekly spread. The Day Designer planner is also significantly bigger than my current planner (DD is 8″ x 10″ vs. 6″ x 8.25″), with full-page spreads for each day.

What about you?

Are you taking the Day Designer “30 Days to My Best Me” Challenge? How was your first week? If you’re not taking this challenge, what kinds of habits do you do on a daily basis, and how do they help you?