30 days of ideas – 05: Numberless Calendar

30 day calendar
Some of my 30 day calendars

When Derek Sivers started this particular snowball rolling, he gave away an idea of his that could be formulated into a book, or perhaps a series of seminars.

When I said I’d be his First Follower in that respect and give away some ideas of my own, it didn’t occur to me that what I could give away might also be a book or a series of seminars.

But in the process of doing these 30 days of ideas, I’ve realised that a very simple technique I’ve developed could actually be useful and applicable to other people as well. Something that would help people achieve their goals, form good new habits – or just do something interesting.

It’s the numberless 30-day calendar.

Why 30 days?
I’ve spoken a fair bit on this blog already about the idea of 30-day missions. For me, it’s a replacement for the idea of New Years Resolutions – which never last because a year is too long, and the changes we commit ourselves to are too great.

But 30 days seems achievable – and not all of the 30-day projects need be worthy or life-changing. Sending out 30 mixtapes was one of mine, and that was just a bit of fun, really. Same with my ‘watch 30 must-see movies that I’ve never got around to seeing’ project that I’m saving up for later in the year.

And 12 lots of 30 days is 360 days, which is a year, with a few days off along the way. It means instead of one New Year’s Resolution you definitely won’t achieve, you’ll come up with a dozen that you probably will.

Morgan Spurlock’s TV series, in which people do something utterly life-changing for 30 days was a bit of an inspiration here, but my focus is much more modest.

The irregular calendar problem
But there’s one problem with a 30-day calendar. It’s not the same as a regular calendar. Or rather – it’s too regular for the calendar that we use.

My ’30 days of Ideas’ project (that this forms part of) started on March 3rd. It’s not complicated to work out where each consecutive project will end up, but it’s not altogether intuitive either. And besides, I’ve started doing other non-blogged 30 day projects. It’s easy to start them, because they usually involve just doing little things once a day.

For instance, at the moment, I’ve decided to listen to Bach’s Goldberg Variations performed by Glenn Gould – one a day for 30 days (there are, as it happens, 30 of them). Most of them are less than a minute long, but they are lovely piano pieces to start my day off in a really nice way.

But I didn’t start doing that on a particular significant date, and nor did I start the one where I went for a bike ride each day for 30 days at a meaningful or memorable position on the calendar. I just started doing it as I thought of it.

In fact – at present, I’m doing six different 30-day projects – most of which started at different times of the month.

The numberless calendar
So I came up with a numberless calendar. All it is, is a piece of paper with “30 days of _____________” written up the top, then 30 boxes underneath (6 rows of 5) on a piece of A4. It’s fairly self-explanatory.

I made a PDF, which you can download here and looks like this:

You write the thing you want to do for 30 days up the top, and put an X in the box as you do it. Simple as that.

Numbers rather than Xs
If that process is too simple for you, you could move up to the Advanced Numberless Calendar User strategy… which is to put a number in each box so you can track your progress, rather than simply the fact that you’ve done today’s instalment.

To try that theory out, I thought I’d have a go at doing as many press-ups as I could do without stopping, and repeat the exercise each day for 30 days.

I started on an embarrassingly low number on the first day, and now – two weeks later, the number is somewhat less embarrassingly low (in fact it’s more than double the number on day 1) – though still not at all impressive.

If you’re the sort of person that responds well to tracking incremental change, that could be a good way to do that.

I’m also doing daily blocks of writing on my book project and noting down how many 25-minute “pomodoros” I’m fitting into each day, and noting them down on my 30-day calendar. The number goes up and down, but the fact that I’m getting something done is the key to it.

Most of my projects are X rather than Number projects.

For me, it’s just a really simple way to keep track of interesting and useful projects that have a daily aspect to them. You may want to do all sorts of things: life changing things, mundane things, entertaining things or odd things. That decision is entirely up to you.

But I just want to leave you with the thing that makes the idea quite a powerful one.

Habit-forming in 30 days
Apparently, it takes about 3 weeks, give or take, to embed any new habit. You have to do it consistently for that length of time, and then you’ve nailed it. 30 days is just that little bit extra that makes sure.

You can break lots of big tasks down to bite-sized pieces too. You have something major due in a month’s time? Just half an hour of attention on it after dinner every night could get it done virtually without effort.

1500 words a day will get you a decent sized novel.

You can choose whatever you want to do, whether you just want to mark the box with a big X or assign a value. The key to making this work is just the fact that the calendar is completely blind to days, numbers or months.

You can start one at any time, and they can happily overlap. Just mark one off each day, and in 30 days, file it away as a little reminder of a successful project done well.

What can you do with this?
As far as I’m concerned, this is a manifesto waiting to happen. The numberless calendar, and the 30-day resolution could make major changes in the quality and effectiveness of people’s lives and their businesses.

If you want the idea – to do with whatever you will – it’s all yours. Write a book, do workshops and consultancies, make an online community of 30-dayers who can encourage, support and inspire each other – or just start using it yourself.

You may even wish to make an online or software version of the calendar – but for me, paper and pen works brilliantly. I’m considering getting some pads printed up so I can start a new 30 day project any time I feel like it.

But it’s entirely up to you.

I’ve found the system incredibly useful, and it’s something I’ll continue to use. The version of the calendar I’ve created (the PDF above) is, as far as I’m concerned, a Public Domain work, as is the idea as I’ve expressed it here.

You can use it, sell it, market it – do whatever you like with it. You don’t have to ask me, or credit me. It’s just an idea – and I’ll no doubt have another one tomorrow.

And when I do, I’ll put a little X in the box.

Table of contents for 30 Days of Ideas

  1. The other way of following first
  2. Now we’re up and dancing
  3. 30 days of ideas – 01: Keymash
  4. 30 days of ideas – 02: Radio Alerts
  5. 30 days of ideas – 03: Only Famous (a romantic comedy)
  6. 30 days of ideas – 04: Modcasts
  7. 30 days of ideas – 05: Numberless Calendar
  8. 30 days of ideas – 06: SpringCleanr
  9. 30 days of ideas – 07: Street Gallery
  10. 30 days of ideas – 08: Smart Business Cards
  11. 30 days of ideas – 09: Recordings in Concert
  12. 30 days of ideas – 10: Vinyl scanner
  13. 30 days of ideas – 11: Photo Stack-and-Scan
  14. 30 days of ideas – 12: A Box of Cool
  15. 30 days of ideas – 13: Karaoke-Tube Celebstar Idol
  16. 30 days of ideas – 14: I Made You A Tape
  17. 30 days of ideas – 15: Newspaper download codes
  18. 30 days of ideas – 16: Pebble Splash
  19. 30 days of ideas – 17: Digital radio, somewhere useful
  20. 30 days of ideas – 18: Public domain music collection
  21. 30 days of ideas – 19: Blog cast-list automator
  22. 30 days of ideas – 20: The Retirement Pile
  23. 30 days of ideas – 21: Nationalise EMI
  24. 30 days of ideas – 22: The Stainless Steel Rat (the movie)
  25. 30 days of ideas – 23: WordPress Bandcampify template
  26. 30 days of ideas – 24: Rollercoasters as public transport
  27. 30 days of ideas – 25: Next-gen personalised music radio
  28. 30 days of ideas – 26: New Music Trust
  29. 30 days of ideas – 27: Tamagotchi Gardening
  30. 30 days of ideas – 28: Charity shop clothing subscription
  31. 30 days of ideas – 29: ‘Now Playing’ social music app
  32. 30 days of ideas – 30: House of Spare Ideas
  33. Mixtape for You by Ray Kuyvenhoven
  34. What can you do in 30 days?

14 Responses to “30 days of ideas – 05: Numberless Calendar”

  1. Jessie says:

    I like it!

  2. Neil says:

    I respond well to incremental change and have long been putting crosses and circles and other symbols on my calendar whenever I get something different done on that day (go for a run is a cross, listening to a new song is a quaver, etc.). I’ve found that to be a good motivator to keep me going because the calendar is displayed prominently on the wall. The only problem with this is if I start something in the last week of a month, then I lose the visual motivator of a week’s worth of crosses when I flick the page to the next month.
    Your idea has the potential to fix that.
    Cheers!

  3. Great one, Dubber! As soon as I get my printer back online (I’m mid-move at the moment) I’m printing out a few of these and giving it a whirl.

    I spend too much time spinning my wheels (preparing to commence to begin to start… ad nauseum). Breaking down some of my projects into these kind of chunks may just be the ticket.

    Also, never heard of the Pomodoro Technique. So this was like two great ideas for the “price” of one.

  4. Jon says:

    This is a great idea. Hopefully this help me keep my focus on the projects that are really important to me. Thanks!

    Jon

  5. Andrew-
    I love this idea. So simple, but so powerful. And, so many ways it could be interpreted. Brilliant!

    Staying non-committal…….but this one touches me in some of the right places. :)

  6. Jeff McLeod says:

    Wow… that’s a great idea. I like the fact that it has you focus on one thing for a short amount of time to knock it out. There’s been studies that show the more things you are doing in parallel the less efficient and/or effective you are. With this concept you can focus on your 30 day assignment knock it out quickly, put it on life support, and then move on to the next project.

  7. Deb Walsh says:

    Would be a handy iphone app!

  8. BarkingFrogFarm says:

    I love the friendly, not threatening rounded boxes. Just makes me want to fill them in. I even printed it on bright yellow paper. Achievement and completion here I come. Thanks!

  9. Robert Myers says:

    I like this idea. I printed out a dozen copies and the first one is marked “Bass Practice.” And just to make sure I remember, I slipped the page between the bass strings so I’ll see it and be reminded each day.

  10. Simon Barber says:

    This also reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld’s ‘chain of X’s’ concept that he uses for productivity:
    http://lifehacker.com/281626/jerry-seinfelds-productivity-secret

  11. J.B. Dazen says:

    Very nice idea. The only disadvantage that I immediately thought of is that you can easily ‘cheat’. You can skip a day and still continue the next, which I don’t think is the idea. If you’ve got a calendar with dates there would be a gap staring at you for the day you didn’t do your task.

  12. I was just off to the local cafe to plan my next 4 weeks of work and was looking for a printable calendar so I didn’t have to take my bulky wall calendar with me.

    Perfect. Thanks.
    Gillian

  13. Elina says:

    This is great. I discovered it just over a month ago, and I’m using it to teach myself to wash up every day. I make it interesting for myself by drawing a little picture in each box instead of just ticking them one by one.

    But I’m finding the A4 size way too big. You can fit 4 of these on one A4 size sheet of paper. Maybe you could make a new pdf for us to download? (As I couldn’t work out how to print 4 copies on a single sheet…)

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