Twelve 30-Day Challenges for 2020 [IDEAS]

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30-day challenges that help you build new habits and use as a willpower exercise.

Willpower is the foundation of most of your achievements.

If you want something, then you just need to work at it until you reach your goal. But, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master something, and that means real exercising to get better results.

Most of the year is over, how are your New Year’s resolutions going? There’s still time to make it a 30 or 90-day challenge.

For this you need willpower.

Fortunately, research has found that willpower is like a muscle. If you train it, it will get stronger. Another study shows that it takes on average 66 days to make a habit automatic, but you get really big increases in the first 30 days.

30-day challenges willpower

12 personal challenge examples

So I decided to put the two together and selected 12 habits I would like to have and are general enough for others to try.

Click on the challenge link to go directly to that section.

# Challenge Difficulty Minimum time (minutes)
1Become an early riser Medium 0
2Exercise daily Hard 20
3Meditate daily Medium 10
4No distractions Medium 0
5Write every day Hard 30
6Generate ideas Medium 10
7Talk to strangers Depends* 5
8Say thank you Medium 0
9No negative thoughts Hard 5
10No TV and news Depends* 0
11Be grateful Easy 5
12Teach someone Hard 60
13Photo-a-day challenge Easy 5


A year of challenges: every 30 days you will start a new willpower challenge. By the end of the 30 days, you will evaluate if you want to continue with the forming of this habit or you will drop it and treat it just as a willpower exercise.

I strongly suggest you select 30-day challenge ideas you want to keep. You will be more motivated by that. From the willpower exercise point of view, you could just try to avoid saying the word “and.”

The New Year’s resolutions season may be over, but take a look at the tactics that actually help you stick to what you promised to yourself. Read: New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep.

Twelve 30-Day Challenges

Here are the twelve 30 day challenge ideas for 2020.


1. Become an early riser

Difficulty: Easy to medium
Minimum time: 0 minutes

30-day challenges wake up earlyThis is really easy for most people. I thought that I was a night person for years but found out that if I go to bed early, I wake up early and have amazing energy in the first hours of the day. Read about 10 benefits of rising early from Zenhabits’ Leo Babauta.

What to do? Set your alarm 3 minutes earlier every day. By the end of the 30 days, you will be waking up 90 minutes earlier. However, you need 7-8 hours of sleep every day so adjust your bedtime accordingly.

It has huge benefits if you wake up early, but it takes some time to work your schedule and social life around 5 AM wake-up time.


2. Exercise daily

Difficulty: Hard
Minimum time: 20 to 60 minutes

In all the 30-day challenges exercise ranks probably at the top, and you can do that with just daily walking.

If you can walk, this should be easy for you. If you haven’t moved a muscle in 10 years, start with 10-minute walks. Add just one minute every day, and you will get to 40-minute walks by the end of the challenge. If you don’t have any grandiose fitness goal, this habit should keep you healthy for years to come.

If you have other fitness goals and you are training regularly, add the 40-minute walk to the rest days. Walking for 40 minutes during your rest day will not mess up your training plan and helps to maintain momentum.

Walking for 40 minutes every day is the best thing you can do for your health. Watch a video about the benefits of daily walking.


3. Meditate daily

30-day challenges meditate

Difficulty: Medium
Minimum time: 10 to 30 minutes

Meditate 5-10 minutes every day. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. In the beginning, you will find it helpful to repeat in your mind in-out-in-out… Your mind will wander off, and you must force yourself back to concentrating on the breathing. And again, off you go. Notice and focus on breathing again. The constant mental effort is the weight that strengthens your willpower. Don’t worry about drifting off just get back.

Start with the 5-minute sessions and bring them up to 10 or 15 minutes by the end of the 30-day challenge. After you have mastered the 30-day meditation challenge, you can dig into more advanced forms of meditation. How to meditate in 10 easy steps.


4. No distractions

Difficulty: Medium
Minimum time: 0 minutes

Statistics show that it’s a good day at work if you get 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to think about the problems at hand. There are the old emails in your inbox constantly nagging in your subconscious mind; the phone is ringing, IM is demanding attention, you’ve got mail notification, text messages. Shut it all off for 30 days and see what happens.

Put the phone in silent mode. Silent mode means that you will answer the phone only if you don’t have any other important business at hand. Don’t answer a phone when you are talking with someone in person. Disable email notifications, set two or three times in a day that you will work with email, empty email every day, turn off instant messaging or put it in do not disturb mode.

It seems almost impossible, but by the end of the 30-day challenge, you will be more relaxed and get to do the things that really matter to you.

Read next:  Stop Your Negative Self-Talk [in 4 Easy Steps]

distractions quote petty

Distractions make strong arguments less persuasive and weak arguments more persuasive. ~ Petty, Wells & Brock, 1976

As part of no distractions challenge, you may want to try various methods of avoiding distractions. For example, do not multitask and take on a 30-day challenge to simplify your day to make distractions less likely to derail you.


5. Write every day

Difficulty: Hard
Minimum time: 30 to 60 minutes

If you want to leave a mark, you will need to tell others about what you do. Give people advice on dog breeding, write a course on art history, write down your version of the grand unified theory, or that marketing strategy you promised last week. All this rests on your ability to write.

Every day set aside a specific amount of time to write. If you are a beginner set your goal at 1,000 characters per day, this should take you 20-45 minutes (includes time to think). If you have some writing experience, then your goal is to increase the volume and consistency. I have to admit that weekends are pretty hard in this case.

When I decided that I needed to develop my writing skills, I created a text document named 100-words.doc and made myself write at least 100 words every single day. The topics may vary, but by the end of the second week, you will have enough material for 1 or 2 blog posts.

writing quote Hemingway

I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket. ~ Ernest Hemingway

I completed a 30-day writing challenge. Writing daily is something that every knowledge worker should do. Do it even if you don’t plan to publish anything. You will get clearer thoughts and better ideas.

If you are really serious about writing, you should read about how I built my daily writing habit.

6. Generate ideas

Difficulty: Medium
Minimum time: 10 to 20 minutes

30-day challenges idea machineThis is probably one of the hardest challenges. Come up with 30 ideas on some topic every day. For the first day, it would be a good choice to come up with the topics for the entire challenge. It is a bit easier than the actual ideas themselves and will not make your brain explode, merely hurt.

When planning this challenge then consider that even on a good day it will take most of us 1 to 2 hours to come up with 30 ideas on any topic. For example, 30-day challenge ideas.

Brainstorm the ideas that matter to you. You will see that everyone knows the first dozen or so ideas, but you may find real gold in the last 5.

You can combine the idea generation with writing. In the 30 days writing challenge list the ideas as a writing exercise. Avoid the trap of doing too much too soon. Complete the writing challenge and then continue with the idea challenge.


7. Talk to strangers

Difficulty: Depends (easy for some very hard for others)
Minimum time: 5 to 30 minutes

The social challenge may not be for everyone. Rumor has it that there are people who can talk to anybody in any circumstance with ease. For the rest of us, this is a great challenge to get rid of that social awkwardness that sometimes holds you back.

To make the challenge easier, start with asking for directions or what time it is. But move on from there to more practical/personal stuff. Cashier in the store, a fellow commuter in the subway, someone you meet at the party or in school, ask attractive members of the opposite sex for phone numbers (from Timothy Ferriss, 4 Hour Work Week). Notice what people are doing and give a specific compliment. After 30 days your world will be much bigger and easier to live in.

If you want a reason to talk to strangers, then combine this challenge with random acts of kindness.


8. Say thank you

Difficulty: Medium
Minimum time: 0 minutes

Say specific thank you to 3 people every day. It doesn’t count if they open a door for you and you mumble thanks. Engage the person and then explain what are you thanking them for in a sentence or two. Thank people who are not directly responsible for your well being. If you direct that salvo of thank-yous at your bosses, they might get a wrong idea. Here’s a post from Psychology Today you should read: Giving thanks: The benefits of gratitude.

What makes the difficulty medium is that you must remember to do it all the time.

If you feel that you need help coming up with the ideas and people to thank, then take a look at how and why to write a thank you letter. It doesn’t have to be written, but you will get the idea.


9. No negative thoughts

Difficulty: Hard
Minimum time: 5 minutes

30-day challenges no negative thoughtsNo negative thoughts and complaining about anything. Yes, you will have the urge to swear and go all negative about things that do not turn out as you expected them to. Take a deep breath and find a positive angle. In almost all cases, barring death and illness, things either go your way, or you learn something. Turn every failure and mishap around and find the positive at all times.

Make a Pavlov’s dog out of yourself. Every time you catch yourself having a negative thought pinch yourself (hard) in some place you really don’t like it. 30 days should do the trick in this case.

Changing your self-talk is important!

If you would talk to other people like you talk with yourself, they might punch you in the face. Be polite with yourself and find out how to change negative self-talk.


10. No TV and news

Difficulty: Depends (easy for some very hard for others)
Minimum time: 0 minutes

Well, there has to be some easy stuff on this list, too. If you live alone just turn the TV against the wall, this should be deterrent enough. If you live with someone who is not too excited about your new media habits, then find other things to do. Read a book, write or fix a Wikipedia article, take an online course to learn a new skill, spend time with your loved ones other than on the couch watching TV.

Read next:  How Self-Affirmations Make You More Confident and Less Anxious?

wasting time media habits

Americans and Europeans watch about 3 to 4 hours of TV per day. So, this challenge may save you more than 100 hours. Do not replace the TV time with surfing time (no news sites, no checking Facebook every 5 minutes, no aimless surfing), use it for something constructive, and you will get the value from the hours and the willpower.

The news is entertainment. The news is negativity. The news is biased, even if the same way you are.

Quit TV and news!

You can still watch your favorite series and movies. But don’t waste time on mental chewing gum.


11. Be grateful

Difficulty: Easy
Minimum time: 5 to 10 minutes

Be grateful for 5 things that are in your life. Take 5 to 10 minutes before you go to sleep to write down 5 things that made you happy that day. Maybe you got a raise; you met an old friend, you suddenly remember how great your family is, this tech you are using to read this post is here for less than dozen years, anything that makes you feel good.

Write it down in a short sentence and then reflect on it for a minute or two. Research has shown that acknowledging the good things that happen to you and being grateful will increase your overall happiness and goal achievement. And, of course, this 30-day challenge will leave you with stronger willpower.

The attitude of gratitude is another challenge that you can combine with a writing challenge. Read about being grateful and how it improves your overall well-being.


12. Teach someone

Difficulty: Hard
Minimum time: 30 minutes and up

30-day challenges teachThis might be best combined with skipping TV. The 100 free hours you get from that is about the same as one university course. You can create a course and run through it in 30 days, or you can teach something new every day. You can teach your friends, kids, neighbors kids, co-workers, girlfriend. Teach seniors how to use a computer. You have something they don’t know and if you make an effort to share the knowledge all of you will be richer for that.

Make a list of your skills and thing who could benefit from them. It can be as simple as teaching children to count, or you might want to help your friend out with that quantum teleportation stuff he’s really not getting.

It may be a bit selfish to teach others because by doing it you will learn yourself. But learning something every day is a challenge that you can combine with the teaching.


13. [BONUS] Photo-a-day challenge

Difficulty: Easy
Minimum time: 5 minutes

And something easy at the end. Take a picture every day and upload it to a photo-sharing site like Instagram or Flickr. Research shows that this simple habit will increase your well-being and help you add meaning to your life

Habits for life

I skipped the eat less, drink less, lose weight, stop smoking goals as these are not willpower exercises but habits that you have to follow for life. Get your willpower in shape and then take on one of these.

There are a lot more challenges that you can try. You can find some of the habits that are worth building and will improve your life here: 30 Ways to Improve Your Life, Get Results, and Be Happier. Each of those can be a 30 or 100-day challenge. Or maybe you will have a habit for life.

A few rules

Start any time you like

Yes, the post is titled 12 challenges for one year, but it doesn’t mean that you have to start on the first day of every month. So, start whenever you like it and keep it up for at least 30 days. After 30 days you can consider dropping it or making it a one year challenge. The best time to start is… (wait for it)… NOW!

Less than 12 challenges

You don’t have to do them all, pick one or three. You may try the 66 day period that the research suggests and take 5 challenges.

Not only for the 30 days

Pick a challenge that you would really like to become your automatic habit. It will be much more rewarding this way. However, after the 30 days evaluate your progress and decide to keep on or move to a new challenge.

Don’t start two challenges at the same time

Doing many willpower exercises at once is going to set you up for failure. For example, research has shown that smokers who try to quit smoking and control their weight at the same time, fail much more frequently than the ones taking up only the quitting challenge. Try one challenge for 30 days and if it becomes automatic enough for you then start a new one.

Missing a day

Don’t beat yourself up. This might lead you to what some psychologists call the what-the-hell-effect.

You miss a day; you think “what the hell it’s ruined anyway” and drop the challenge.


One day doesn’t mean much (but don’t skip two days in a row and don’t skip every other day).

habit forming research

Missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process. With repetition of behavior in a consistent context, automaticity increases following an asymptotic curve which can be modeled at the individual level. ~How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Phillippa Lally et. al.


If you have health problems during the challenge, then put the challenge on hold. It seems that willpower and immune system compete for resources and that’s not something you would want to encourage. Stop the challenge and restart when you get better.

Now to you!

Let us know in the comments what great ideas for the best 30-day challenges you have.

The Road: image credit elBidule

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Priit Kallas

Founder of I created FixWillpower to help you reach your goals. I have struggled my entire life to be consistent and avoid procrastination. The goal is to have a good life, do the things you love and get your results with minimum effort. FixWillpower website is about how I create motivation and productivity in my life. I write about the tools and techniques, best books, scientific research, and everything else that helps you move faster and stay on track. Minimum effort doesn’t mean slacking off. Minimum effort is about effectiveness and productivity. If there is a way to reach a goal in a shorter time or with less exertion, then you should use that. I will help you be smarter and reach goals faster. About FixWillpower

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4 Responses

  1. Bob says:

    I would like to learn to play the guitar in 2019. It might be a good idea to start with the 30 day challenge.

    • Priit Kallas says:

      Great idea! You can make real progress in 30 days. Take a look at this post

  1. May 20, 2018

    […] 12 30-Day Challenges for one year […]

  2. January 4, 2019

    […] 12 30-Day Challenges for One Year […]

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