Building Habits: 30 Days of Drawing

And just like that, it’s August. July’s 30 day drawing challenge– finished. Here’s what happened.

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On the left: my first drawing, 3/07. On the right: my last drawing 31/7. Both are drawing the same photo.

The drawing skills have definitely improved. I was expecting it, but I’m still amazed at the difference. The final drawing actually resembles an animal!

Although the end product’s no Picasso, it shows what can be done in a month’s time.

Lessons Learned

Most important takeaway: Building habits is much, much easier using daily planning. Creating an attack plan the night before was a game-changer.

First half of the challenge? Pretty chaotic. Trying to fit in an hour of drawing into a commitment-laden life was a struggle. Making it an “after-work thing” – bad idea.

Leaving habits, or “big rocks”, till the last minute just doesn’t work. It saps your energy and turns your goal into a chore. Chances are, if you don’t plan it, you won’t do it. Especially if it’s something you don’t HAVE to do.

We’ve all been in the last-minute essay boat. Due the very next day, you HAVE to do it. Or there’s a teacher on your back the next day. The consequence – punishment – motivates you to do the essay.

With habits, i.e your own problems, there is no immediate consequence. It’s dangerously easy to skip a day, then two, then a week slides into a month, and before you know it, New Year’s rolled around and you’re in exactly the same place as the last. Making the same resolutions, but achieving the same result.

So yeah, daily planning folks. Really useful. I reckon it’s the key to this.

When should you do it? The night before. Half an hour or 15 minutes before bed.

Why? Your subconscious mind is more sensitive to information. It’s more… spongy, for lack of a better word. Spend 10 minutes outlining tomorrow’s day, and pencil in your biggest rock. Then fill in the rest of your schedule with whatever floats your boat.

The result? When you wake up in the morning, your attack plan will be at the forefront of your mind. You don’t need to waste precious will-power choosing to do your big rocks. Your brain’s already primed and ready. You just do it. Like Nike.

How to Daily Plan

Tools for the job: tiny notebook, standard issue pencil. Exploding-laser-pencil optional. Your call.

Method:  Before you go to bed, take out notebook. Take your biggest rock, and pencil it in for a certain time period. For example, drawing,  9:00 – 10:00.  Put in some other stuff, and you’re laughing.

Then sleep, wake-up, kick ass, repeat.

I find it easier to get the most important tasks done and dusted in the morning. There are no distractions. It’s just you, and you. Zen….

Benefits of the challenge

  • Learn to draw.
  • Develops discipline.
  • Lesson in daily planning.
  • Motivates you to take on greater things!

It’s said that you need discipline to form new habits. Bull, I say. Discipline is forged by the process of building new habits. Not the other way around.

The mind is a muscle. Discipline could be muscular endurance. You don’t start with muscular endurance. You have to develop muscular endurance by exercising. And what’s exercise for the mind? Making new habits.

Once you start on this journey, you get caught up in this awesome cycle:

Take action towards goals -> Achieve goal -> Inspires further action -> Take further action.

It just feeds on itself. Pretty neat. Basically, you feel like a boss.

Using it.

Tomorrow is a momentous day. The first day of the month. So how about giving a 30 day challenge a bash?

  1. Choose an area of your life you want to grow stronger in. E.g socialising
  2. Pick a habit to grow said area. E.g Talk to a stranger.
  3. Make an attack plan the night before. E.g At 6:00 pm, hit the supermarket, talk to a random.
  4. Buy a huge calendar to cross off your progress.
  5. If something goes wrong, awesome! Find out why, learn your lesson, then change things.

This is what worked for me. I hope it works for you too.

So that’s it. What’s your goals for August? What’s your technique to building new habits?