Are challenging times a good time for a challenge?

I see a lot of people on Twitter getting bored at home, with too much time on their hands. They are very fortunate for many reasons.

Could the current situation be an opportunity to transmute time into (allegorical) gold? If so, what’s the key? My friend Angie said it best:

Time is on your side

There is indeed magic in repetition, and of course, repetition happens over time.

Repetition builds muscle.

Repetition builds muscle memory.

A way to reclaim some form of agency over time, these days, is to challenge oneself. There are hundreds of challenges out there that one can step up to depending on what feels inspiring now:

  • learn something new
  • sleep more
  • read more
  • go through one’s contacts to reconnect with friends
  • (re)start meditating
  • etc.

These work well when they have time boundaries. To keep the momentum going, celebrating small wins help: One more day! I didn’t break the chain!

Austin Kleon has a neat PDF template for a 30-day challenge. Putting a big X in those boxes feels amazing; my composition teacher was very passionate about this, too.

This is not about productivity

Challenges don’t have to be about building or adding. It would be fine to focus on not reading or not practicing one’s instrument for 30 days.

This is not about powering through the pandemic. This is about committing to something important, and repeating it until the magic happens.

Magic could be a new skill, a new appreciation for something, or discovering an aspect of one’s personality. Discovery through action.

The H word

You may have noticed that I have been focusing on repetition. I have not mentioned habits.

It takes more time and structure to form habits. In Atomic Habits, James Clear debunks a few myths about goals and the relationship between practices and identity.

I don’t see 30-day challenges as habit-forming. They may lead to habits if you discover something that you’d like to add to your routine, though.

Which challenge will you pick?

Did you remember this Udemy class you’ve meant to take? Is it time to pull your old DSLR and start taking pictures again? Let me know. I’m curious.

About Thomas Deneuville

Originally from France, Thomas lives in Central NY, with his family and a couple of bagpipes.


  1. Kate on September 23, 2020 at 10:39 am

    Thanks for the reminder of April and (perhaps) how far we’ve come (or not) since the early days of the pandemic. Looking back, I realize that the “something important” I committed to since April, training for a fall 2020 marathon, grew out of wanting to do the work daily, not intending to or making myself. I appreciate your connecting repetition and magic. It can be true!

  2. Thomas Deneuville on September 23, 2020 at 11:30 am

    Thanks, Kate! I find it fascinating how some of us have experienced this crisis as a wake-up call and gravitated towards things that were brewing at the back of our minds. Sending good vibes for a successful Fall 2020 Marathon!

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