November 2012 - Writing
The aim of November was to write 500 words a day on any subject. It could be blogging, journalling, writing stories - anything really. Apart from one day, where I fell asleep early, I completed it. I really enjoyed it as writing is my thing and it gave me a wonderful buzz. This month I found that writing regularly really perked up my spirits.
December 2012 - Life in Northern Towns Blog
I've been writing my travel blog , Life in Northern Towns, since April 2009 and really enjoy doing it. In November 2012 I had an invite to a blogging event in Manchester at Carat, a media company. It was an inspiring event and I learnt more things about blogging in those couple of hours than I had done in three years of blogging. So December became blogging month. By the end of the month I manage to triple my traffic, I SEO'd my blog and generally smartened up my blog with photos and links. This month managed to rejuvenated my passion for my blog.
January 2013 - Exercise
A New Year often brings health resolutions and I was no different to the rest of the world. Like the rest of the world I fell of the rails half way through the month. I chose this challenge for the wrong reason - I thought I 'should' get healthy rather than I 'really want' to get healthy. That mindset set me up for failure, however it was a great lesson to me to go with the 'wants' rather than the 'shoulds'.
February 2013 - Craft
In order to make up for the failure of January's challenge, I chose to do craft month. I love crafts. There is nothing more satisfying than making something beautiful out of some scraps of wool and fabric. I did some embroidery. I made a pin board with the aid of an old canvas, scrap fabric, ribbons and a trusty staple gun. However most importantly I finished my mammoth knitted blanket made from chunky wool, 10mm needles and lots of determination. I love the blanket, it's big, colourful and really warm. On the downside I did give myself I hand injury and I've been unable to knit since. In fact it's led to a series of medical tests to get to the bottom of the problem. I learnt from this month that you don't half feel ridiculous to admit to a Consultant that you caused a hand injury due by having a bad knitting technique.
March 2013 - The Novel
Everyone is supposed to have a novel within them and I've been toying with an idea for years. So I thought this month I would have a crack at it. I had a dedicated notebook for the purpose and each day I noted ideas down for the grand novel. I didn't get as far as I thought I would. Part of me thinks I'm not quite ready for it. On the plus point I did get lots of ideas for it. I can't say I succeeded with this month's challenge, but it gave me food for thought.
April 2013 - Reading
I've always loved reading, but recently I've had a problem finishing books. This month I promised to complete four books. I actually finished seven. This month reminded me how books are an important part of my life and how much joy I get from them. A very successful month indeed.
May 2013 - Money & the Internet
I've always been a bit crap with money and stuff. This month I decided to get a bit better about it. I read a book called "Ausperity" by Lucy Tobin about how to be more savvy about money. I signed up to Quidco to get cashback on purchases (I did get some cash back - not much but it's better in my pocket than somebody else). I did on line surveys for cash or prizes (too time consuming for what you get). My blog is now on Kindle (no takers though). Got a bit more sorted with vouchers for shopping trips (it does actually save money). Sorted out Adsense on my blog (not sure that works really). In fact I signed up for a start up course with Enterprise Nation (very interesting). Middling success.
June to August 2013 - Coursera
Someone on Facebook mentioned you could do free on line courses with top universities. I love learning so I ended up browsing the Coursera course list and signed up for a few courses. Unfortunately these courses don't cover convenient month length blocks, so this challenge stretched over 3 months instead.
The first course was an Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques by Penn State. I chose art because I really enjoy it and get real kick out of it. The course I really liked although I didn't end up doing as much art as I wanted to. There was a lot of collage within the course, but the videos were really well made and I learnt more about art. I got a Distinction with 91%.
The second course was Nutrition and Physical Activity for Health. I did it as I thought it would be useful for work. Unfortunately I found this course rather boring. How I got a Distinction and 95.5% is a miracle. My dogged determination came to the fore on this course to get through it. This was a definite 'should' challenge.
I've signed up to three more courses to the end of the year. I heartly recommend them if you want to find out about stuff in an interactive fashion.
What I have learnt?
Here are the five things I learnt doing these month challenges:
- Do challenges you want to do, rather than what you think you should do. You will stick to the challenge by going with your interests.
- Creative challenges rock my world.
- I love learning - I swear it's part of my DNA.
- These challenges help to embed new habits, give different perspectives on life and open your eyes to new ideas.
- Most importantly, having a monthly challenge is good for the soul.