In 2007, I embarked on a 31-Day "Building a Better Blog" learning experiment where I pledged to go through Problogger Darren' Rowse's daily series of activities to build a better blog.Over the next month, about 40 other brave bloggers (including a class of 9 year-olds from Australia!) went through each of Darren's exercises, sharing our experiences along the way. All of us built a strong bond to one another. We also found that our blogs improved dramatically.
A year later, I worked with bloggers I'd met through that experiment to run the 31-Day Comment Challenge, where we explored how to both invite more comments on our own blogs, as well as how to be better commenters on other blogs.
Both of these experiences were powerful learning experiments for me. In addition to the skills I learned, I forged incredible online relationships that have endured for years. I've used this 30 Day Free Trial idea (as Steve Pavlina calls it) in my personal life as well, trying on habits and new ways of thinking that have helped me start to make some major shifts in my life. Sometimes I do these alone. Sometimes I do them with others.
The idea of trying on a new habit or skill for a month is a powerful one. First, it lets you "try it out," before actually committing to doing something forever. We humans are funny--big change can be hard. But saying that we're committing to doing something for a month and can stop doing it later can often be just the motivation we need to keep going.
Thirty days is long enough to form a habit, which is often what we're talking about when it comes to professional development. A month can be your personal "transfer of training" experiment to see what happens when you apply a new skill, tip or technique for a period of time--how do things change for you?
So how does the idea of a 30-Day Free Trial apply to positive career and professional development? Here are some experiments to try:
- Identify a particular skill or habit you want to incorporate into your professional practice. Maybe it's a time management or organizational tip. It could be a skill you learned in a training at work. Try it out for one month. What happens as a result of you doing it for 30 days? Is it something you want to continue? If not, what new skill or habit could you try?
- Keep a One Sentence Journal for a month. Observe what happens as a result.
- Each day, select one significant activity from your day and apply these debriefing questions to it. What do you learn after a month? How does this habit change your professional practice?
- Use this list to identify your most important values--what are the things that you stand for, that give your life purpose? Try to flesh these out in as much detail as possible. When this is done, come up with one activity you can do each day that brings you into closer alignment with your values. Do it and then journal about the results. How does your life improve as a result?
- Find a work peer--or someone online with whom you connect. Each day, share with each other something you learned or are thinking about. If you work together, discuss impressions, what you can do with this learning. If they are someone you know online, share your insights or ideas via email. Make it your goal to build a learning connection with another person--or a group of people--and then engage in daily habits to support the development of this learning group.
- Read this article on Workplace Narratives and how they can control how we behave and respond at work. Each day for a month, try to surface the narrative you may be telling yourself about who you are at work. What happens if you try to change this story?
- Start your day by listing the major activities that will take place on the left side of a sheet of paper. On the right side, list the outcomes you want from that activity. You may list an important meeting, for example, and then the outcomes you want are buy-in from the client to go with your approach and to develop a more positive relationship with that client. At the end of the day, see what happened. How did thinking about your outcomes ahead of time actually impact the results?
Thirty Day Experiments can be a tremendous tool for personal and professional growth. They help you "try out" new behaviors and can turn them into habits.
Have you used experiments like these to power your professional development? What have you done? How have they benefited you?