Category Archives: 30 day challenge

June Challenge update: Spring Cleaning

May’s Challenge: Get to grips with Electronics

Well, May’s challenge turned out to be a bit of a failure to be honest.  Turns out that when you set yourself a goal for the month you have to dedicate time to actually sitting down and getting it done.  In this case, it was a little hard to set enough time aside during my evenings to really focus on this, then at weekends I ended up getting sidetracked with other chores.  I did finish reading through my soldering guide, which was short, to the point, and really good at getting the essential points and techniques across.  Without actually doing any electronics though, it ended up being a tad useless.

What I really need to set an hour or so aside each evening to really focus on whatever side-project I’m working on at the time, but with the number of things “to do” on my plate, it seems like an insurmountable task right now.  Which gave me an idea for June’s challenge.

June Challenge: Spring Cleaning

With how bogged down I got with various things last month, I’ve decided to make this month all about clearing as many things off this list as possible.  Some of them are things which have come up recently that need to be dealt with, but the majority are things which have been an annoyance lurking around for months that I’ve just never gotten around to sorting out.

All them are tasks which will take more than a few minutes to do, but none are big enough to justify spending a whole month trying to get it done.  I’ve listed out every single task I can think of (around 24 so far), with the intention to complete at least 1 of these every 2 days.  Ideally I’ll finish do better than that, but every item done is another thing crossed off my to-do list and finally off my mind.  Unsurprisingly I’ve started lagging behind a bit, but as quite a few of the tasks I’ve got involve ringing people and waiting a few more days for things to get sorted out I’m confident I’ll catch up.


Challenge update: A whole bunch of updates

Writing several blog posts at the same time of the month on the same general topic seems a bit pointless, so instead I’ll be combining them into a single post at the start of each new month.  I’ve also been pretty lax about posting these regularly, so there’s a bit of a backlog to go through as well.

February – Exercising (complete)

My challenge for February was to do some basic exercises every day.  Nothing back-breaking or crazy hardcore though, my goal wasn’t to turn myself into the Hulk, just improve my general level of fitness so that every time I tried to move the sofa I wouldn’t spend the next week with sore back and arms.  My plan was to start with some basic press-ups and slowly build up throughout the month to a slightly more rigorous regime, but in the end I didn’t really progress from press-ups, aside from doing more of them.  I also ended up missing the occasional day here and there in the rush for work and didn’t realise until I was just about to head out the door.  In the end though it turned out this was enough as the times when I did have to actually exert myself and start moving around heavy objects I felt completely fine afterwards.  I also found it a lot easier to lug my fold-up bike around while walking around train stations.  As this has worked well for me so far I’m going to try to keep this up as a regular habit of mine.  I’m not sure when or if I’ll move on from the sort of level of exercise I’ve done, but for now I don’t really see a reason to try to change it up much more than I already have done.

March – Sugar free (complete)

As mentioned before, I wanted to try to give up sugar for a month to see how much it would change how I taste food.  In theory I would start enjoying and tasting food more without needing any extra sweetness.  This challenge wasn’t so bad at first, but as time went by it got more and more difficult.  While it was easy to avoid the temptation of a slice of cheesecake or block of fudge to begin with, it become pretty hard to do after the first couple of weeks.  I knew that a lot more foods contained sugar than you’d think, but the number of things I wasn’t able to east was staggering.  By the end of the month I’d started having dreams where I’d secretly buy Haribo from the local shop and gorge myself on them.

The biggest disappointment was that after all of this it didn’t actually make much of a difference to the food I was tasting.  Even when I started eating sugary sweets again after March there wasn’t much of a change from the way they tasted before.  The challenge was interesting as a test of willpower, but it’s not something I’d like to relive again any time soon.

April – Doing some woodworking (complete)

April’s challenge wasn’t even spoken about before it was over.  Originally I was going to learn to sew so that I could repair most of my torn trousers and shirts myself.  But then I noticed that the local DIY shop was closing down in a few weeks time and was having a “25% off everything” sale.  So I decided that instead of keep planning to buy a long table to support our guinea pig cage and give a little extra storage, I’d just go ahead and build one.  So I measured everything up, figured out how large the table should be, then picked up the supplies.  Unfortunately we were then treated to several wet weekends so I couldn’t take everything outside to do the drilling (don’t have anything close to a workshop so the messy stuff must be done outside).  Long story short, I didn’t get to start actually building the tables until the 28th.  It almost destroyed my palms, but in the end I managed to get it done in the 2 days I had left, and now it’s far easier to clean around the guinea pig cage, and we’ve got enough storage space to finally make some room in the study.



There’s still a few more things I’d like to change before this is completely finished though, I’d like to add a couple of cage doors in the side to make it easier to feed the guinea pigs without having to loom over the cage so much, and shorten the legs by about 5cm as it’s slightly too tall to see into from the chair next to the cage.  Also need to put something in to stop all the hay falling from out of the hay rack…  Well, at least I won’t run out of projects to work on.

A slight realisation

By this point I’d done 4 monthly challenges, not a huge number granted, but enough to realise a few things.  While it was certainly an interesting test of willpower to give up sugar or gaming for a month, it didn’t really give me much satisfaction to complete them.  Building a table on the other hand, something which took far less time and was much less hassle was a much more enriching experience.  With that in mind the challenges I’m going to set myself for the rest of this year are going to be more about doing things and making stuff, rather than NOT doing things.  Taking up a few new hobbies is certainly be more enjoyable than giving up old ones unwillingly.

May – Electronics (In progress)

This month I’d like to finally get to grips with working with electronics.  I’ve dabbled very, very briefly with things over the past few years, but I’d like to make a point of understanding exactly how to set up build up simple circuits, how transistors and resistors work, and how to use a soldering iron without turning everything into a giant goopy mess.  So far the things I have to work with are an electronics set and guide (including soldering iron) that I’ve had since christmas,


A Maplin’s Lie Detector Kit I got for my birthday last year


And a Minty Geek Electronics Lab I picked up from a Maker Faire a couple of years back.


The plan is to finish working through these before the end of the month, and do enough reading on the side to understand out the more complicated electronic components.  That way I should know enough to be able to get by when/if I decide to take up another project in the future involving electronics, like maybe build a TV-be-gone, the most useless machine ever, or try to do something fancy with my Raspberry Pi.


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March Challenge: Sugar-free

A bit late writing about this one up, but I started on the 1st March so I’m still good, just a tad lazy.

For March I’ve decided to give up sugar.  That pretty much says it all, but a little explanation and clarification is probably needed.  Some years ago when I was trying to figure out what was causing my stomach so much pain I decided to have an allergy test, which was soon followed by an elimination diet after being told I was allergic to nearly everything under the sun.  I found out a few months later that the test I’d taken was utter baloney and I’d just become massively intolerant to caffeine, but in the meantime I’d noticed that ordinary food had started tasting far better than it used to.  One of the things I’d given up was sugar, and after a few weeks of having porridge and cereal without several buckets of sugar I found that even a regular bowl of Weetabix was suddenly delicious.  When I finally did start having sugar again I went into sugar shock after my first bite of fruit crumble.  Food was much more enjoyable during that time and I’d like to try getting back to that point again for a little while at least.  I guess trying to be healthy also plays a small part in it too but that’s not my main reason for doing this, otherwise I’d be going the whole hog and skipping out on things like Pizza, chips, and other delicious junk food.

To clarify, I’m not giving up any and all food & drink that contain sugar as that’s next to impossible these days.  Things that contain a negligible amount of sugar such as bread and some cereals I’ll still have, while anything loaded with the stuff is out.  I’m also going to avoid most sauces as they tend to come loaded with a hefty amount of sugar too, although I don’t think I can always help this when going out for a meal.  Same thing for fruit juice, there’s just too much in there for me to not count it, although I’ll still be eating regular fresh fruit.  Since I’m doing this to get rid of my sweet tooth, then all artificial sweeteners are out too.  No point doing this unless I’m going to do it properly.


Posted by on March 5, 2013 in 30 day challenge, Food



February challenge: Oh yeah, the challenge…

Well, turns out I’ll be starting this one a little late.  I let myself relax a little too much post-wedding, and I’m only now just starting to get back into a routine that’s not filled with late-night gaming, X-Men cartoons and copious amounts of fudge.  Waiting until nearly halfway through the month before starting a monthly challenge is cutting it a bit fine, but I think it’s better to get things started now and overrun an extra 10 days into March instead of let it go and do nothing for a month.

I was originally planning on running through some of the BSM practice exams for my driving theory test, and after dedicating some time to starting this a few days ago I sat down with my laptop, opened the DVD case and…  noticed the disc was missing.  Not having the resources handy through me off a little and didn’t make the best start to this challenge, and then I discovered that the exam format’s changed dramatically since my wife passed her test, so her DVDs are a bit less useful.  Plus I’ve got my C# exam coming up in early March, and studying flat-out for 2 different exams doesn’t seem like the best idea either.  So I’m going to forget about my theory test for now and focus on something a little more doable that won’t distract me too much from my revision.  I could make the focus of this challenge my exam, but as Richard Wiseman discovered when researching new year’s resolutions you’re more likely to just make yourself frustrated if you just keep repeating the same resolution (or challenge) over and over.  Obviously I’ll still be studying for my exam, but I’m going to make something else the focus of this month’s challenge and not just retread old ground.

I’m keeping it simple.  Each day I’ll be starting my morning with some exercise.  I don’t mean “burn off all the fat” type of exercise  and I don’t mean going to the gym until I’m rippling in muscles and covered in 6-packs either.  I already do enough bike reading to handle any fat-burning kind of exercise I need for now, but it would be nice if I could help someone carry a table without getting sore arms the next morning.  I’m not going to do anything too extreme either, I’m just planning simple quick exercises like push-ups and a number of stretching exercises à la Wii Fit to help wake me up.  I’ll add a few more exercises to the mix when I start to get bored in a week or so.

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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in 30 day challenge, Self-Improvement



January Challenge completed (sort of)

Well, that went surprisingly well.  I was going pretty stir crazy after the first two weeks, but somehow I managed to chug on through without (mostly) playing any games.  There was one moment of weakness/stupidity, when I followed a link in a forum topic somewhere and found myself playing a random adventure/RPG for 2 hours before I realised my mistake, but it was a little late to say it didn’t count…

One of the obvious results of not playing games is a massive abundance of free time.  There were a fair few moments when I just sat down after finishing something off and just ended up feeling a little lost.  Times when I’d normally start Steam, or boot up the Xbox, I just ended up sitting down not quite sure what to do next.  Can’t say it did too much for my productivity though, as I ended up spending a lot of time that I spent playing games just Cyberslacking instead.  Obviously I have some procrastination issues, but video games definitely aren’t the main problem there.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about the games I’d like to play, and apart from the random urge to go back and play a few rounds of Street Fighter 2 or remembering how much I liked certain sections of Bioshock, most of the games I felt like playing were ones which posed a challenge.  I touched on this a couple of years back when I noticed I was getting too caught up on earning achievements in games and less so on actually enjoying them.  Unfortunately I think I’ve gone too far in the opposite direction, and have stopped trying to go for anything too challenging, instead trying to get the most of the game in as short a time as possible so I can get on with something else.  I guess I need to find a balance of fun + challenging to really enjoy a game.  Right now, that game seems to be FTL, a roguelike (in spirit at least) with randomly generated sectors and enough different ships to make each playthrough different enough to be worth trying.  Since I was busy getting married I didn’t end up booting it until I got back home on the 5th Feb, but I managed to get my hours in and beat it for the first time yesterday morning (on easy anyway).  Another option is to just add more challenges into a game, such as the Nuzlocke challenge which sounds like it could make the Pokemon games fun to play again, and not just a chore for large parts of it.  I’m not sure whether I’d actually go back and replay the older ones, but if I pick up any of the newer games (or maybe check out Platinum which I missed before) I can’t think of any other way I’d like to play it.

The other half of my challenge, spending 1 hour learning and practicing the C# programming language, was a different matter entirely.  I managed to do alright for the first couple of days, getting in some time here and there to crack on and read all about Parallelism.  Then I became so swamped with wedding planning and other activities that I couldn’t fit a single programming session in edgeways.  I still need to do the exam so now that my wedding’s over I’ll be getting back to this, but it’s not going to be one of my challenges.


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January challenge: No more games

I’m probably doing things a little wrong by trying do 2 challenges at once in my very first month, but these 2 things compliment each other somewhat so I guess it makes it alright?

I won’t be doing: Gaming

For the month of January I’m not going to play any computer games.  I’ve had less time for gaming in general compared to when I was younger, but when I do have the time to play I keep falling into the habit of playing them to beat them, rather than because I’m enjoying them.  As a result I’m finding they’re eating up far too much of my free time and I’m not getting as much joy from them as I normally would.  So for January, no more games.

I will still be playing other sorts of games, such as board games, but that’s more for the social aspect and not “I must finish all these games in X amount of days!”.  If I pick up any of my side projects that involve making games then I wouldn’t consider that breaking this challenge either.  I have too many things to do with any of those before they’re in a state where playing them could be considered “fun”, and that’s not likely to change before the end of January.

I will be doing:  Programming.  Lots and lots of programming.

I have an exam that’ll be booked for the end of this month that I want to pass for work.  It’s the official Microsoft exam for the new C# spec, and while I already know a lot about the language there’s still a few gaps here and there, especially for features introduced in the new version released earlier this year.  My plan is to do at least 1 hour of research and coding every single day until I pass this exam.  Granted I could get away with the bare minimum, but since I want to make sure I also learn the language I’ll be putting as much time into it as I can manage.

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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in 30 day challenge


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