In 2015, Elizabeth, a student from Stony Brook University, decided to consistently study for 100 days and blog about it on her Tumblr to document the experience. She tagged this challenge as her “100 days of productivity”. The challenge kept her on her toes; she was tackling one task a day and reporting her progress to an eager (online) audience.
Before long, others were asking her how they could join in, and she encouraged them to follow the same steps she used. Her Tumblr posts received over 11,000 notes (Tumblr’s like style endorsement), and the challenge generated a lot of social media buzz. Today, all sorts of people around the world, ranging from students to corporate staff, entrepreneurs, and freelancers, are still joining this challenge to boost their productivity.
The productivity challenge simply encourages you to choose at least one productive task to execute every day, for 100 days. Many people choose to share their progress on social media using the hashtag #100daysofproductivity, but it's not entirely necessary.
When you join this challenge, you are expected to tailor the challenge to suit your current needs and goals. There are also no routines to follow. You should create a routine around your day and work on your tasks during your best hours.
Everyone can, but there are a few specifications that speak to the struggles we encounter every day. This challenge is for you if:
Your tasks should be specific to your goals. Here are a few of my favourites that can guide you while creating your list. You can also add a few of these to your list too.
You can start whenever you want, but I'll encourage you to make it as soon as possible. According to research, there is a direct link between procrastination and goal-management failure1. Putting it off will only make the challenge look more daunting than it really is. If you truly want to complete the 100 days of productivity challenge, then the best time to start is now.
There are a few ways you can stay mindful of this challenge and motivate yourself daily. 100 days is a long time (over 3 months), so it is important that you don't resign this challenge to the back of your mind. Try and keep the challenge top of mind and maintain a positive attitude. It could help if you do a few things each day that remind you of your progress.
Journaling pushes you to remember everything you accomplished in a day. Even after a long day, it's expected to feel like you probably didn't achieve enough. Journaling can help you put things into perspective and appreciate your commitment to the challenge. Michigan State professor, Lisa Tams, also encourages students to clear out their minds and get rid of their negative thoughts by journaling.
Ever added a task to your to-do list (even after completing it) just to cross it out? There's a ‘rush’ that comes with marking a task as done. Personally, it makes me feel more productive and reminds me that I'm one step closer to completing my tasks for the day. Physically or digitally crossing out each day of your challenge on a calendar may give you the same buzz, and hopefully, the encouragement to keep going.
Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck, provides a way to test this accountability method in a blog post on self-discipline. He wrote:
“Call up your best friend and tell them to come over. Take out your checkbook. Write a check for $2,000 to them, sign it, and give it to them. Then tell them that if you ever *insert: break your productivity streak*, they can cash it.”
You may not have $2,000 to spare on this test of willpower, but you can still talk to a friend who is disciplined in their own life. They might be willing to put in the effort to remind you to stay on course and provide encouragement when you might need it. You can also choose to start the challenge together and work as accountability buddies to keep each other on your toes.
If you're like me, then you're probably always worried about the end game. The fear of going back to your lazy slump once the challenge is over might linger in your mind.
Thankfully, I have good news. The awesome thing about the 100 days of productivity challenge is that it builds you up for something bigger. Yes, if you follow through with it, you're going to finish up a lot of tasks and feel good about your effort. But you'll also be teaching your brain something new. This challenge will take you from trying to be productive every day, to be productive as a habit.
Health psychology researcher, Phillippa Lally, discovered that it takes humans an average of 66 days to form a habit3, she discovered that it took the subjects between 18-254 days to form a new habit, with an average of 66 days.
In 2016, a study conducted by a Duke University researcher showed that more than 40% of the actions we take every day are habits4, not conscious decisions. If you've ever wondered why you naturally reach for your phone when you wake up, walk into the bathroom to brush your teeth without thinking twice, or push open the blinds in the morning, it's because these acts are all habits. You've done them so many times that your brain doesn't have to contemplate those decisions.
But why are habits important? With enough practice and dedication, your most important tasks could also become habits for you. In Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals, he shows us how world-famous creators such as Thomas Wolfe, Jane Austen, Karl Marx, and more, created productive work habits by showing up and doing the work every day, each with their own little twist.
The 100 days productivity challenge will push you to identify your most important tasks and take the needed action to complete them, which are essential to building better habits. These habits will help you achieve your goals by showing up every day, doing the work, and slowly chipping away at the big things.
On your journey of 100 days of productivity, remember to pace yourself. Don't let the excitement of a productive day encourage you to force too many tasks into one day. Dr. Kelly Mc Gonigal, a Stanford professor, explains in her book, The Willpower Instinct, that the willpower we use to go through our daily tasks is like a muscle. If you get too excited and try to lift more weight than you can carry, you would get tired easily, or worse, rip it.
However, if you consistently exercise this ‘muscle’ and increase your weight as you go, then you can successfully grow it. You need to build your productivity slowly but steadily, so ensure that your daily tasks lists are realistic and achievable.
|Gustavson, Daniel & Miyake, Akira. (2017). Academic Procrastination and Goal Accomplishment: A Combined Experimental and Individual Differences Investigation. Learning and Individual Differences. 54. 160-172. 10.1016/j.lindif.2017.01.010.|
|Masicampo, E. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (2011, June 20). Consider It Done! Plan Making Can Eliminate the Cognitive Effects of Unfulfilled Goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024192|
|Lally, P. , van Jaarsveld, C. H., Potts, H. W. and Wardle, J. (2010), How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 998-1009. doi:10.1002/ejsp.674|
|Verplanken, B., & Wood, W. (2006). Interventions to Break and Create Consumer Habits. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 25(1), 90–103. https://doi.org/10.1509/jppm.25.1.90|
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.