30-day challenge: journey toward self-improvement

Photo+from+Envato+Elements

Photo from Envato Elements

Katie Whaley

As an organized person, I’d like to think I have my life completely together.
My room is spotless; there’s no clutter of clothes on the floor or sock missing its pairing, and I refuse to keep a stack of used cups lying around. I have not lost a single pencil since eighth grade and find comfort in knowing there’s always a colored Post-It note on my desk with a scribbled list of things to do on it. And, like the items in my room, every paper from school has a particular place in its corresponding binder, and many, specified folders lade my google drive, all containing smaller, even more, distinguished folders.
To some, this level of organization may be unfathomable, but to me, this is how I stay sane.
My general management of mess, however, is not an impenetrable fortress that protects me from academic failure or chronic procrastination, but an excuse for why those things shouldn’t affect me. I always know what I need to do every day because I make lists of all my work; I have a strong capability of understanding priority and all my work is in an easily accessible place. But, I still suffer from the continuous postponement of beginning projects (which is a fancy way of saying I am plagued with senioritis) and forgetfulness. If I don’t write something down on a sticky note or move an object out of place on my desk, I may forget about it.
 

How using a planner can save me

Part of my issue is that I don’t use a daily planner. As an elementary student, I remember rejecting the neon yellow journals with passionate hatred and a sassy eye-roll. I did not want to take the time to write down my homework for the day in some janky, three dollar notebook when I could just remember that I had to do seven addition questions that night.
To this day, I still don’t use a planner, and I’ve paid the price for it. Sure, I make my little lists on Post-It notes, and I have never failed to remember an important date. But there’s an immeasurable amount of Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics quizzes I have forgotten about and did not score so hot on. There are tests I could have done better on if I didn’t wait until the night before to cram.
I could benefit so much from using my planner and using it effectively.
This issue is the root as to why I wanted to start a 30-day challenge. Though it seems late in my public school career to finally conquer my stubbornness of not using a planner, I want to have this skill for college. When everything in my life changes, and I have to find a new order of things and figure out my new daily routine, keeping simple things the same like how I use a planner will help me through all the chaos.
For the next 30 days, I want to use my planner in an effective and efficient way. I want to write down all the dates of important things, such as quizzes, tests, draft dates, doctors appointments, volunteering days and anything else significant relative to my dog’s birthday. I also want to stop using Post-It notes for lists, instead, writing daily assignments in one place where I always know I will be able to find. I can color code it, make little symbols to stand for things and kind of just use it however I want, as long as I stop using sticky notes and take the planner job seriously. I will write things down in class at school so that I don’t have to waste time at home every night thinking of every class I have and work that I must do for them. That way, I can organize myself even better.
 

Bringing back childhood enjoyment

Straying from organization, there are other positive actions I want to practice for the next 30 days to optimize my daily life and to hopefully make a habit.
In my room, there are two shelves packed with books. Looking at the title now, I remember a general time period for when I had read each. Though I can remember the detailed plotlines and the eccentric characters from most of them, I read a majority of them a while ago. Out of the sixty or so books in my room, I have only read five within the past year. Five. There’s a journal lying somewhere in my closet from fifth grade, and on the first page, I tracked the books I had read that year. I read thirty books that school year. At age ten. Though those books were smaller and less dense than novels I read now, it’s absolutely crazy how I have read only 16 percent of the number of books I read in fifth grade this year.
It’s not like I can’t read anymore or that I cannot find books that interest me (as I can see a stack of seven untouched books I swear I will get to one day) or I am “too cool” for reading now that I can drive. But I have reasoned with myself that I simply do not have time to read anymore. With hours of homework, extracurriculars and so many tantalizing distractions, it’s easy for me to make excuses as to why I haven’t read those seven books.
Which is why, in addition to utilizing a planner for 30 days, I am going to spend at least 20 minutes a day reading. There is definitely 20 minutes each day I spend doing something unproductive and trivial. I want to bring fantasy and storytelling back into my life, as I do have this fluttering dream of one day becoming an author to my own novel. Reading can provide me entertainment and relief from stress and it’s something that I want to make important to my life. I’m going to start this process by reading the last 70 pages of “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas. Then, I’ll see what dent I can put into the rest of the stack.
 

Terminating a toxic habit

I don’t want to emphasize these positive actions and use those as excuses as to why it’s okay that I continue bad habits. Though it would be amazing if life was a balancing scale, that adding positivity could somehow lift the weight of all the negativity, that’s not how it works. As I use a planner, read and put on rose-colored glasses, I also want to wean myself off of social media. There’s nothing harmful about what I view on social media and I don’t feel insecure about myself because of anything online. I only worry about how much time I spend on it and how that time consumption has harmed other areas of my life.
When I wake up in the morning, I go on my phone, mainly on Instagram. I do this in order to “stimulate my mind” and to “wake up,” but really I know I’m just delaying the inevitable when I have to leave the warmth of my sheets. I don’t check my phone often at school, and if I do, it’s most likely to quickly send something on Snapchat so I don’t lose any streaks. In the evening, I like to watch a little bit of YouTube and scroll through Instagram some more. All of this seems reasonable.
Thanks to Apple’s latest update, however, I can actually see how long I use my phone for each day, what apps I’m using while I’m on it and how long I spend on each app. When I checked now just to write here how long I’ve spent on my phone, I legitimately gasped out loud, as this is the first time I am checking it.
I have spent nine hours of the last seven days on Instagram. Not on all of my phone, but just on Instagram. If that alone isn’t a sign that I need to put some sort of limitation on my screen use, I don’t know what is.
For the next 30 days, I am going to decrease the amount of time I spend on my phone. There’s a way on settings to set time limits on certain apps and I will place a limitation on social media apps, such as Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, and another limitation on YouTube. Right now, my average time I spend each day on my phone is three hours. I’m going to cut that time in half. It doesn’t matter which apps I use for that time, but I do not want to exceed that time limit.
The hardest habit to break will be getting out of bed without going on my phone. I’ve ingrained grabbing my phone first thing in the morning as a part of my routine, as a necessity to my day. But, I don’t think it is healthy to start the day with mindless scrolling. I want the first interaction with another person to be a conversation, not alike.
 

My final goal, what I hope to accomplish

By incorporating two positive actions and eliminating one very harmful one, I can better myself as a student, as an emerging adult and as a human being. I hope to do well these next 30 days, and break my bad habits and begin new good ones.
I will update in 15 days, at the halfway point, how it’s going and then update again at the very end of the challenge.
 
What would you do if you did a 30-day challenge? Comment below!