At the end of last year Ms. SE and I decided we would experiment with several life hacking challenges throughout the course of 2014. We laid out a single challenge for each month involving everything from eating, drinking, biking, sleeping, social media, to trash. We’ve kept the reader participants updated but we wanted to give all of our readers feedback and let you in on several of the struggles and victories we have experienced thus far. I’ll begin by saying we have already learned a lot about ourselves and it has been an entertaining (and sometimes difficult) set of challenges!
Our original post outlined the monthly challenges and publicly announced the things we would try. We had several readers join us (you can too) for various months and we have had good feedback already. The first five months of the year included the following five challenges: Food, Exercise, Social Media, Reading, and Screen Time. If you want to know the full specifics of each post feel free to read up on the original. Some have been much more difficult than others, but we always learn something new by the end of the month.
January – Food
Eat Real Food – Fail (But some nice progress)
So, January was the month to start afresh and begin with a whole new diet plan. I think we did a relatively good job of eating when we were at home but failed miserably outside of the house. About halfway through we sort of adjusted and began to eat more 100 Days at home and then become more lenient when we were out. Since we had tried it before in the past, we were pretty familiar with the whole foods diet and that wasn’t as big of a change as expected. It did require more planning and prep but we’ll probably keep most of that around. No sugar was the hardest part due to the fact that we tend to eat a small amount of something sweet after each meal. I did learn it is possible to eat better and enjoy it. Although we didn’t pass, I still feel like some of the habits we’ve learned from eating real food will stick permanently.
Ms. SE – I was really looking forward to this month! Trying different styles of eating and finding ways to be healthier are always goals for me. I think Mr. SE is right in the fact that it was much easier to follow at home. We seemed to have many times where we were invited to a friends’ house or out to dinner and the options were not in favor of our diet plan. However, I do think adapting our home meals to 100 days style is something we will do forever, and it made me think ‘outside the box’ for home cooked meals. Plus it really made us think about what we are putting in our bodies on a daily basis.
February – Exercise
Exercise 30 Minutes a day six days a week – Pass
I actually enjoyed this one most of the time but still had a few struggles here and there. I like working out and typically do it most days. Ironically, when I was doing the challenge it actually seemed a bit harder than usual. There were several days were I was tired but it helped to have a little extra motivation. I was also able to bike to work at least 4 days a week so that part was nice as well. Strangely, the idea that I had to workout seemed to make me dread it on occasion. Normally I don’t really mind exercise and I feel better afterwards but there were several occasions that I just wanted to be lazy. I typically defaulted to running for exercise but that got a little boring. I’m currently weight training three days a week and running the other three. In addition, I try to bike and walk a little everyday to keep me loose. I think this will be a nice plan moving forward as well. I like exercising but I’m not opposed to taking days off whenever I feel drained or my schedule makes it difficult.
March – News and Social Media
No News, Social Media, or Blog Stats – Pass
I thought this one would be really hard. But it wasn’t near as bad as I expected. I was also pleasantly surprised that the world moves along without me reading about it. My friends still exist without twitter and FB, and people still read Simple Economist even if I don’t check the stats everyday. Who knew? This might be one of my favorite challenges due to the fact that it was an exercise in simply consciously breaking some subliminal habits. I tend to mindlessly check my sources in the morning and it was nice to break the habit. It also kept me focused even when I had little bits of time I normally use to get updates. I’ve kept in place some of the habits I started in March and the first of which was simply to remove several of my browser favorites and installed apps. This means I can still check stats and media but I have to log in first. This simple step keeps me from mindless checking without thinking. I will continue to go information light on the news but I’ll probably sneak in a tweet or status update occasionally.
April – Reading
Read 30 Minutes a Day – Pass
This one was probably the easiest challenge on the board. I tend to do lots of reading as is, so this one comes pretty naturally. I read a few great non-fiction books including Notes from a Blue Bike, Andy Stanley’s new one and Clutterfree with Kids. I also ended up reading about a gazillion pages for school stuff and wrote 100+ pages of text so in that respect it was a pretty crazy month. We chose to mix up our schedule a little bit and do the reading challenge in April and screen time in May due to the process of finishing up school in April. I’ll continue to read daily for the rest of my life.
May – TV & Screen Time
No Screen Time (TV, Phone, Computer) after 5:00 – Fail
This has certainly been the hardest. I never realized how dependent I was on the television and laptop for entertainment. Since I’ve been getting up early in the mornings to work out, I tend to have quite a bit of free time in the evenings after we put the munchkin down and eat dinner. Ms. SE has been going to bed early so I’ve been able to read a lot. I’m sure this challenge will end up getting its own post but some of the things I’ve learned so far are: Mindless TV watching can be distracting and relaxing, I should probably be more intentional with my screen time, and getting a new TV toy (Amazon FireTV) at the beginning of the month was a tease! I’ve also learned that I have way more free time than I expected and I can finish most of my productive work before 5:00 if I have to. Evenings have certainly been relaxing this month, and if we were to do this long term I would want to schedule more evening activities.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the challenges so far. I’m sure I will continue to experiment with them for the rest of my life. It is entertaining for me to flex my self-control muscle and I always enjoy learning something new. Are there any things you want to try in the next few months?