Like all great inventions, the idea to start a 30-day personal development project was born out of a problem. In this case, that problem was a lack of focus and too many ongoing “work-in-progress”. A scattered approach to creativity and personal development, in general, made me feel like I was feeling behind.
Seeing all the great things others were doing on social media I felt like a failure. Despite my best intentions, I wasn’t accomplishing very much. This method has started to change that for me, and I hope it helps you out if you are feeling discouraged too.
Part of being human means want to improve and be the best we can be. But we need to be realistic. It isn’t possible to do everything all at once and doing things that are worthwhile takes time. The 30-day self-development project will help you to focus and improve without feeling like you are being pulled in a thousand directions. Using this method will also help you to actually finish something and get results!
What is a 30-day Personal Development Project?
The main idea of a 30-day personal development project is to choose an area of life, a skill to improve, or a project to complete and to work on it every day for a 30 day period for 5 to 60 minutes. This is a really simple process, but somehow reading articles like this can motivate us to get going.
The first step is to choose a project you’ve wanted to do, but haven’t got around to or something you want to get better at. What you want to achieve as a project will probably pop into your mind right away, but I’ve given some examples below in case you would like to try this out, but need some ideas.
The amount of time you spend on this each day is dependent on the scope of the project and the time you have available.
Completion of a 30-day personal development project can have a feeling of true accomplishment with a result you can be proud of. The best measurement of progress is when we measure ourselves against our own past selves. We all have our own timing in life and we need to trust that.
Why 30 Days?
I’m not sure if I’ve always had a short attention span or if this is a gift that social media has given me. Regardless, I don’t like to be stuck to one thing for too long which makes it difficult for me to complete the type of bigger more substantial projects that I would like to.
30 days is long enough to allow a complex project to be broken down into smaller, digestible bits. It is a long enough period to achieve something great while still being short enough to stick with it.
Some projects, for instance, an entire comic, or starting a company, maybe too big to do in one month. However, you could certainly finish the first chapter or write a business plan.
The 30-day Personal Development Plan Process
The process is very simple and can be started and repeated as many times as you like. I prefer to start on the first of a month because it makes it easier to track 30 days.
Recording your plan and your progress is important. You can do this by writing notes in a notebook, on the computer, or documenting with photos. Whether or not you want to share your progress on social media is up to you.
Here is the process:
- Choose a personal development project;
- Set a start and end date (I like to use the first of the month it is easier to track);
- Plan the scope of the project (what is the desired result and how will you get there);
- Set at what time and for how long you will work on your project each day;
- What materials or support do you need;
- Set up a place to work, or a place to keep work-in-progress;
- Do the project; and
Step 1 – Choose a Project
My first 30-day project was very simple. I set up an ideal morning routine and followed it. At the end of the 30-days, I felt healthier and more balanced. I felt like I had built a foundation to do more.
Setting up this website was also a 30-day project. Your life is unique just to you. What you need, or want to work on is up to you too. This method is just a tool to help you focus, get where you want to be, and to achieve actual results in your life.
The next project I’ve scheduled for myself is more of a fun one. I am going to work on improving my embroidery. It is something I enjoyed in the past and have been meaning to revisit for years.
Personal Development Project Ideas
You may already have an idea in mind for your project. Anything goes but here are 20 ideas if you want to try this method out, but aren’t sure what to do.
- Sketch every day – narrow further by choosing a specific thing or theme, for example, landscapes, people, or animals. (For a future 30-day project I plan to do 30 credit card sized sketches of a past trip to Japan.);
- Journalling – write every day, this can be made more specific if you choose a topic, your thoughts on current events, your state-of-mind, things you are thankful for. Or, you can keep it simple like I do and write whatever you feel like that day.
- Start a Side-Hustle – self-explanatory.
- Plan out and plant a garden – I live in an apartment, but I still have herbs and plants inside and out on my balcony. I’m jealous of those who have space for a big veggie garden. Don’t let the season stop you, a winter garden can be great too;
- Woodworking project – maybe there is a piece of furniture you have always wanted to refinish, or maybe you just want to learn how to build things. This is a great area for a 30-day project;
- Painting – you could take this in a similar direction as the sketch everyday idea. You could also go big and paint a mural;
- Build a model – get that model kit and go for it;
- Write a novel – That may be too big a goal for one month. If so, instead make a plan to write the outline, first chapter, or 100 – 500 words a day. You will be surprised how far you get.
- Origami – fold a different origami animal each day, or work towards making a thousand cranes.
- Establish a new routine – As I said above, adding a healthy morning routine to my day was a simple beginner 30-day project. This routine has continued past the 30 initial days. Now it is automatic to stretch, clean the kitchen, journal, and learn my language lesson each morning. You may decide to extend a 30-day project too; if it is working for you. However, the main idea behind the 30-day project is to get a real result;
- Meal Planning – 30 days of planned meals; or work on becoming better in the kitchen;
- Set up a website or blog – I’ve done this as a 30-day project and the result is the blog you are reading now. Why wait for someday, when you can achieve something you have thought about for years a little bit at a time;
- Put together a memory scrapbook or organize your photos – This can be done digitally or in a more traditional book format. This is also a great thing to do for a friend or loved one as a gift;
- Write a poem a day – you could challenge yourself further by writing a specific style of poem, such as a Haiku. You could also narrow the theme to a poem about something that happened that day;
- Budgeting – Get a handle on your finances;
- Sewing Project, or just learn to sew – I often feel overwhelmed taking on sewing projects as they seem like a lot of work. Spread over a month, a little bit each day the idea becomes much more appealing;
- Cartography – make a map of your surrounding neighborhood, a favorite vacation spot, or a fantasy world;
- Photography – challenge yourself to take a photo daily based on a specific theme, such as people or the sky;
- Exercise – if you want to get better at or learn to be better at a certain sport or activity, what better way then to challenge yourself to practice each day for 30 days;
- Research – if you want to go back to school, or move to a new city, these can be projects too, take 30 days to research your options carefully;
These are just some ideas, but the possibilities are endless.
If, like me, you sometimes are stuck in the”decision fatigue” stage and can’t decide which personal development project to do, or if you want to do ten projects but don’t know which to do first, just pick something randomly. Doing something is almost always better than doing nothing!
Step 2 – Set a start date
In a similar way to smart goals used in business, we also need to measure our self-development goals. A little structure helps keep us on track.
As Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you don’t stop”. By imposing timelines we can keep ourselves moving in the right direction.
I like to start a new 30-day project on the first day of a month because it makes it easier to track. Not starting right away also builds anticipation. I then have something to look forward to at the start of a new month. It also gives time to gather materials and to think through any obstacles.
Remember to set a start date that is far enough ahead in order to have time to gather any needed materials and resources you may need.
Step 3 – Set the Scope of the Project
Knowing what you want to achieve is important. You’ve chosen an area or project to work on but what exactly is your end goal? What would success look like to you?
Write it down in a notebook or start a 30-day project word or google doc. Wherever you are most likely to pay attention to it.
If you don’t know what you are trying to achieve, it will be hard to figure out how much time to allot each day to complete your project in 30 days.
Step 4 – Time management
Set a length of time to work each day
We tend to overestimate what we can get done in a day, and underestimate what we can get done in a longer time period. I’ve chosen an hour a day as a suitable amount of time for most of my projects.
Don’t automatically assign an hour a day to work on your project if the time you really have is 15 minutes. Take your energy level into account too. If you are working a 35-40 hour week and spending 3 hours a day commuting like I used to, you are not going to have the energy to spend an hour a day on an extra project every single day.
If you have five minutes a day to work on your project, five minutes is still better than nothing. In my old job as a paralegal, I had to track my time in 6-minute increments for billing purposes (yes, I agree that is ridiculous, but I did learn time management!). You will be surprised how much you can get done in five or six minutes a day over time. This is also a bit of a trick. Once you start working, (having told yourself you “it is only five minutes, I can do this!”) you will often have the energy to keep going past the five minutes.
Set a Time of Day
Okay, so now, you have decided how long you are going to spend on your project each day. You are set. Wrong! I don’t know how many times I have planned to work on a project for an hour a day and failed to do so, but there have been many times.
You need to give yourself a trigger that will remind you to work and keep you consistent. When I did my morning routine project, it was easy because I started as soon as I was dressed for the day. I made the project part of my already established routine.
Setting a start time is also a good idea, such as 7 p.m., but I find this doesn’t always work as sometimes our days are unpredictable and get away from us. Making the project part of your routine, such as, “right after dinner I will work on this for one hour”, or, “as soon as I get home from work I will start right away” tends, in my experience, to be more effective than setting an exact time.
Step 5 – Materials and Resources
It is important to think about and gather your materials before you get started. Brainstorming this in the same place you set out the scope of your project is a great way to figure out what you need.
You don’t want to have to waste time on this step during the 30-days but sometimes it is unavoidable. If that is the case you can include the time it takes you to gather materials in the first few days of the self-development project.
Step 6 – Workspace
I live in a small space. I really don’t mind as it is relatively inexpensive and allows me to live a lifestyle I enjoy. However, sometimes it becomes an excuse. “I can’t do that project, there is no space for me to put it.” or, “I’d really like to paint but it is a pain to have to set up my workspace every time.”
By thinking about where you are going to do your 30-day project you are eliminating an excuse. It is a simple thing, but the more we can make things easier to do, the more likely we are to do them.
If you don’t have room for a workspace, set up a box, basket or tray to hold your project materials so it is easy to set up quickly.
If your project is more physical, like exercise, figure out where you are going to do it. Eliminate any obstacles that may stand in the way of achieving the result you want.
Step 7 – Action!
Carry out your self-development plan. You can do it.
I’ll take a moment here to tell you to be kind to yourself. If you miss a day or two, don’t give up. Just continue on where you left off. You haven’t failed, you just needed a little break and that is okay!
Step 8 – Reflection
When the 30-day personal development project is over, do some reflection.
Did you enjoy the project? Is it something you want to delve into further?
If you were successful give yourself a reward or some credit. Good job!
If you weren’t successful also give yourself a bit of a pat on the back. Think about why it didn’t work. Maybe you just didn’t really want to do the project as much as you thought. Maybe life circumstances got in the way. This happens. Failure can be looked at as preparation for future success.
In both cases what did you learn from the experience?
I don’t think there is one right way to do things. As we ourselves and our situations change constantly, the routines and methods that serve us change as well.
This is meant to be a simple system that you can tweak to fit your own personal goals and development. We all know what we need to do. It is focusing and getting it done that is the hard part!
I’d really like to hear from you if this has helped you, or if you have any advice to improve the process.