30 Days to My Best Me Challenge: Top 10 Takeaways

Today is the last day in the Day Designer “30 Days To Your Best You” Challenge. I’ve been checking in with notes on how I’ve been doing, each week, and now it’s time to explore what I’ve learned.

Here are my Top 10 Takeaways from this challenge!

But first… the full 30 days’ worth of tips:

10 – Water water everywhere

“splash_2” (photo credit: Kurt:S)

Many people seem to be very concerned with their water intake.

Indeed, have used this exact same water image THREE TIMES during this challenge, to emphasize the point.

Personally, water intake is not something I track. But I do carry a water bottle with me most everywhere, particularly when I’m exercising. So… yay me?

9 – Prioritize reading

Me, reading Aprilynne Pike’s Glitter during a 24-hour read-a-thon challenge (I was challenged to post on the subject of “blanket fort”)

My favorite suggestion throughout this challenge was Day 3’s tip: “Read something inspiring.”

As a result of this challenge, I’ve started setting aside morning reading time, where I allow myself to read one chapter from a book I’m currently enjoying. That may not seem like much, but it definitely makes my mornings happier and less stressful.

I’ve also been making more of an effort to record what I’ve been reading each day, in one of my planners. That way I can look back on my year in books and reminisce about the good ones. I also jot down relevant quotes, so I can re-read them later on.

A recent favorite:

“Giving positive reviews requires humility […] A willingness to be pleased requires modesty and even innocence – easy to deride as mawkish and sentimental.” –The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (p. 269)

8 – Little things make a big difference

Dinner of champions: wine and pork rinds! (also from the 24-hour read-a-thon challenge, this time the subject was “meal break”)

One of the other tips from week 1 has also made a big difference in my life: “Prep for dinner.”

I had always noticed the sections of different planners that urge their (female) users to meal plan in a certain space. And it always rubbed me the wrong way. I’m not a homemaker; I have a job, and other shit to do!

But once my husband mentioned that he was having a hard time always having to buy the groceries (we only have one car, and he uses it to get to work), and not enjoying the task of having to meal plan himself, we discussed how to more evenly divide this task between the two of us.

So, although I don’t go to great lengths to meal plan each day, I do take a peek into the refrigerator or freezer to see what’s still there, ponder what might make a good meal, and jot something down in that little square on my planner. If my husband texts me to ask what we need on his way home, I can tell him right away.

It’s a little thing, but it makes a big difference. He’s less stressed, I know what’s actually in the fridge, and we can both enjoy our evenings together.

Tonight we’re having pasta!

7 – Not all tips are created equal

Just as “one size fits all” typically doesn’t, not all of these tips worked for me.

I’m not a home-owner, don’t have any kids, and don’t have certain major appliances that a few of these tips take for granted (i.e. a dishwasher or washer/dryer combo). I’m not a mommy nor a Suzie Homemaker. I’m more focused on how to get my businesses, my finances, and my creative projects in order, rather than scheduling everybody’s soccer practices or haircuts.

So, not all of these tips applied to me. And that’s totally fine. Keep what works, chuck what doesn’t.

6 – Tidying is huge

A space in need of a 10-minute tidy (i.e. my coffee table) + sleepy cats

I’m not the world’s neatest person. Some studies suggest this is an inherent part of the creative process – making messes is, in fact, a form of creativity. So the idea of tidying my house is usually something I avoid.

However, I also don’t want to live in a pigsty.

My husband is awesome about doing a weekly vacuuming of our place. I typically tend to the dishes. He takes out the trash. We both share the most hated chore of scooping the kitty litter.

But tidying up usually doesn’t happen unless we are going to have visitors, which is extremely rare.

So I’ve decided to add some specific tidying times to my weekly calendar, in order to keep things tending towards neatness, even if they don’t always stay that way.

I cleaned up my side of the closet and my “half” of the bedroom. Next up: tackling the living room coffee table, which is currently overflowing with books.

5 – Planning takes time

My previous bloom planner + homemade To Do list + paper word tracker (replaced this month with my Day Designer)

Although I’ve been trying to commit more to actually planning my days ahead of time, rather than being a slave to whatever work gets thrown at me, adjusting to this routine takes time.

I still find myself rushing to complete work, or realizing at the last minute that I forgot to plan for something important (like mailing cards for my mom’s birthday and Mother’s Day, yikes!).

With reminders from this challenge to actually sit down in the morning and evening with my planner, to ponder the day ahead and make sense of the one that’s just ended, I’ve been devoting more time to this kind of mindfulness.

It’s not always easy to stick to a schedule, but I can definitely see the results when I manage to break down my projects into small enough chunks that I can make a little bit of progress on them, daily.

4 – Health and fitness, wtf?

My husband blows fitness some raspberries, whilst chillaxing! (Not really, but it seemed a fitting caption – this was actually taken for the “companions” prompt in the read-a-thon)

I’ve also been trying to schedule in more exercise, and a lot of the time I feel defeated. Even on days when I have blocked out time to go for a walk, I find myself chained to my computer, finishing up work… which then snowballs into MORE work, and never getting a chance to leave the house.

I really, really hate that feeling of being trapped. Those are the times when I need to go for a walk. Yet I can’t!

So, I’ve been experimenting with different strategies, still trying to find what works. I’ve been timing my usual walks, so I can tell myself “Hey, you’ve got 20 minutes. Just walk to the post office and back.”

I’ve also gotten a new cell phone, which means I have more apps that can help keep me motivated, too.

It’s still a struggle, but I’m working on it.

3 – Gratitude is hokey, but it works

A recent “photo of the day” from one of my walks

Something about gratitude journaling still strikes me as cheesy and New Agey, which makes me not want to do it at all. But I know that it works, so I have been prodding myself to do it in my own way.

Instead of writing “#blessed” on my Instagram posts, I’ve been trying to take a photo each day. Making time to find something that makes me happy or intrigued enough to photograph it is my way of expressing gratitude. So if you see the “#photooftheday” hashtag in my feed, that’s what it’s for.

I also have a few other ideas, which I’m keeping to myself, because I find part of the reason I dislike the concept of gratitude journaling is the boastful nature of it. Sharing this stuff on social media isn’t necessary. Some things are meant to be kept private, and others only need to be shared between the relevant parties. It’s not a competition to see who can be the most grateful.

2 – Repetition is important

A great message: DO SOMETHING REMARKABLE! (posted for the “planning supplies” prompt from the #PlanWithMeChallenge)

As I’ve seen in various things I’ve been reading throughout the month, it’s not what you do SOME days, but what you do EVERY day. The most important thing is not will, but habit.

Habits may seem slightly boring, because they require a routine, but that doesn’t mean you need to complete the same routine every single day.

I remember when I first started working out at a gym, and a fitness instructor designed some workouts for me. She made two different routines, which focused on the same types of exercises, but made it easy to switch things up whenever I got bored with one or the other.

I think having different routines is the key to harnessing my own strengths as a Rebel, because although I crave change and excitement, I also need those routines and schedules to keep myself from getting off track.

So repetition, while seemingly mundane, is actually important in conquering any goals. It’s not a matter of doing something once, but doing it every other day, or every day, until you create the habit.

1 – Disconnecting is the new connecting

Paper planning is still my favorite – an image from one of the #PlanWithMeChallenge prompts for May

Cell phones, tablets, laptops, and wifi-enabled whatsits are great. But so is NOT having any of that stuff around, and enjoying the silence.

Several of the tips in this challenge focus on unplugging, and for good reason. Being such a “connected” society, where everyone is accessible all the time, is not terribly healthy. Feeling like Pavlov’s dog, responding to each “ding” or “tweet” or email that arrives your box is allowing technology to rule you, instead of it being a tool that serves you.

Personally, I like being inaccessible. It plays to my introverted nature. So even if I have my phone with me, I may not answer it. I will probably be using it to take a photo, instead.

Part of the reason I enjoy going for walks is because it helps put me into that creative, disconnected space. I’m exercising and thinking at the same time. I’m getting away from my desk, where there are so many distractions, and sometimes I am even in a place with no cell phone service.

Disconnecting is extremely important for writers, so I am trying to do much more of it, little by little, day by day.

Weekly scorecard

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  • New habits to incorporate: 6
  • New habits to ignore: 2
  • New habits where “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”: 1
  • Overall: This “week” is actually 9 days of tips, since I’m including all of week 4 plus the two tips from this week (hence the weird math).


Overall thoughts on the challenge

With 21 out of 30 habits to incorporate into my daily routines, this was a challenge, and will continue to be so in the coming weeks.

I liked most of the tips mentioned, and did actually try to work them into my day.

It’s always fun to try something new, and this got me thinking more about my daily routines (or lack thereof), planning more, and working smarter to keep myself on task.

I would’ve liked a few more tips that related to goal-setting and breaking down bigger projects into more easily manageable chunks, or maybe some tips on how to work exercise into a busy schedule, but overall I thought these were some pretty solid tips. They are already making me feel happier, more relaxed, and generally positive – although part of that I would also credit to reading Gretchen Rubin’s books (Better Than Before and The Happiness Project), and to having a relatively (knock on wood) comfortable existence to begin with.

As we head into June, I’m thinking about all of my different projects and how to devote more time to each of them, in order to wrap each one up on time. Maybe, ultimately, the challenge is to not take on any more challenges, and just focus on the project in front of me?

What about you?

Did you take the Day Designer “30 Days to My Best Me” Challenge? How was your month?

If you didn’t take the challenge, what kinds of habits do you engage in on a daily basis, and how do they help you?