How to Get Good at Anything: The 30 Day Challenge

Everyone has a hobby that they loved when they were kids but stopped doing when they grew up, or always wanted to learn but never made time. For me, that hobby was drawing. As a kid, I loved to draw characters from books I read or from my own imagination. Since I couldn’t gain coolness points in middle school for anything besides sports or being on people’s Top 8 on MySpace, I stopped drawing and didn’t get back into it until I was in college. A few years ago, my dad suggested that we do a family challenge where we each sketch every day for a month and have a prize at the end. We decided to do this challenge again two years later, and now drawing after dinner is one of my favorite parts of the day.

Here’s what I’ve learned from the 30 day challenge model:

  • You will suck at first, but that’s okay. If you keep working on the skill every day for a month, just by continuously putting in effort over an extended period of time, you will improve, no matter what.

  • Pick a time of day that works best for you, when you know you have at least 10-25 minutes to focus on the skill you want to build. I usually spend a couple hours watching TV at night to wind down before bed, so I chose to draw while half-watching old episodes of Modern Family.

  • Setting up a system of accountability is key. Ask a friend or family members if they’re interested in joining you in your 30 day challenge, and show them it can be fun! When you have someone doing it with you, you’ll be more likely to stick to it because you won’t want to let them down and they won’t want to let you down either. If you can’t get anyone to participate, ask someone to let you check in with them daily, so that you’ll have someone to hold you accountable in case you feel like skipping a day.

  • Missing a day is fine, but try not to miss two days in a row because it’ll pile up on you and you could lose momentum. If you can’t practice the skill one day because you’re busy, just make up for it the next day.

  • Set your daily goal so low that you can’t not do it. When you’re starting out, just the idea of having to work on the skill can seem daunting. I’m at the beginning of my writing challenge month and getting back into the habit of writing is a difficult task in itself. So I set my daily goal to write for at least half an hour, and hope that by starting, I’ll end up getting into the writing mood and end up with a longer session anyway.

  • Treat yo self. Decide at the beginning of the month what your reward will be for completing the challenge. It can be as simple or extravagant as you want—just as long as it’ll motivate you beyond gaining the skill as a reward. For my family, our prize was to get some delicious cinnamon rolls in Berkeley at Cinnaholic.

  • After the month is over, see if you can continue refining your skill. I was so happy at the end of the drawing challenge month that I wanted to keep going on my own. Seeing how much you improve after a few weeks can be enough of a reward to keep you going even when the challenge is over. If you can keep working on it at least 10 minutes a day, you’ll build your skill even more.