Last month, I participated in The Nester’s #31Days for the first time! My series was titled Letters to the Unthanked and I published a blog post ALL 31 days of October. From Day 1, I knew#31Days was going to be a BIG challenge and learning experience. So I started this post and documented a lesson learned every day. It was all real time and I think it’s interesting that there’s little redundancy. #31Days is like a marathon, there’s something new around every corner!
So let’s get to it! 31 Lessons From #31Days…
DAY 1: Do your landing page right the first time.
I published my introduction post on September 30th knowing it was going to serve as the series landing page on my blog. For some reason, I was under the impression that we we would be linking-up at the Nester’s site every day during the series. When I read the Nester’s instructions and discovered my landing page was the ONLY post I’d link-up at her site, it really changed my perspective. (Consequently, I made edits to my landing page on Day 2, and then went in again to make some final edits on Day 31.)
DAY 2: If you have a day job, leave enough time to get your posts published and up on social media sites before you head out for work.
This morning, I had my alarm set 20 minutes earlier than normal to get my #31Days post online before a long day of work, but my baby woke up before the alarm went off and my oldest daughter woke up feeling sick. Between those two unexpected interruptions, it took me 45 minutes to complete the tasks. (From then on out, I left 40-45 minutes to do my final edits, get the post published and up on Twitter and Facebook before work. This lesson is, of course, null and void if you schedule all of your posts and tweets.)
DAY 3: If you’re doing a faith, inspirational, or self-improvement series, prepare to get emotional.
Writing today’s post brought me to tears while writing and editing. Depending on the topic of your series, #31Days can be serious heart and soul work. Also note, a bit of writing fatigue already started to set in today.
DAY 4: Prepare for the best and worst, and the worst might happen.
My niece was admitted to the hospital at 12:30 a.m. today. I met my sister and niece at the hospital when they arrived via ambulance, and was there most of the day. Luckily, I wrote today’s post last night, so all I had to do was publish it at 6:30 in the morning before I went to sleep. Had I not written the post last night, today’s post would have been non-existent.
DAY 5: There will be setbacks, but worry not.
Because of my niece’s hospitalization, I only got 2 hours of sleep and spent all day at the hospital yesterday. I went to bed at 8:00 last night, so I missed my late night writing time. I had a lady’s breakfast out this morning and another visit to the hospital this afternoon, so I didn’t get today’s post published until 6:15 p.m. The tight timeline made me a little edgy, but in my sleepless state, I wrote from the heart. It was all good and turned out to be a great post!
DAY 6: If you’re twiddling your thumbs before the #31days series starts, go ahead and start writing – a little.
The bloggers who posted on Twitter that they’d written posts before #31Days even started were making me anxious. But now I see the advantage of writing ahead. Right about now, it would be nice to have a post or two written in advance. I’m staying afloat, but with the hospital setback, I’m still behind on posts. I still think part of the challenge of #31Days is writing as you go, so personally, I’d never want to write the whole series ahead of time.
DAY 7: Read other 31 Dayers’ posts. Share the love through tweets, retweets, favorites, shares, likes, messages, emails, and comments.
It’s challenging to find time to read other 31 Dayers’ posts, but focus on a few you find interesting and read as you’re able. It’s really encouraging to receive feedback from others participating in the series.
DAY 8: Make sure you get exercise.
I’m feeling physically and mentally exhausted from being a wife, mom, private practice owner/speech-language pathologist, and full-time blogger. That, paired with one kid who’s sick enough she can’t go to child care at the fitness center makes for little exercise for me. Make sure you’re getting enough exercise to combat all that sitting & writing.
DAY 9: When you plan your series, intersperse light posts among heavy ones, so you can switch the order of your posts at the drop of a hat.
I wasn’t feeling well last night, but forced myself to stay up late to start my post for today. I wanted to give today’s post my full attention, so kept at it again this morning even though I still didn’t feel well. After I got the post published, I reordered my posts a bit so I tomorrow’s post is light-hearted and easier to write. That gives me time to rest when I need it most.
DAY 10: Expect to experience a little setback if you’re sick.
Moving my posts around a bit yesterday freed me up to rest and write a short post for today. I felt better during the day, but by evening, I felt horrible again. I was in bed by 7:00 p.m., sleeping by 10:00 p.m. Tomorrow’s post will have to wait until tomorrow.
DAY 11: Be prepared to have your priorities tested.
The rest of the world will move on while you’re writing, and fast. If you’re committed enough to write a #31Days series, you’re clearly serious and passionate about writing. But if blogging isn’t your day job, you might realize your daytime responsibilities are piling up or even accelerating faster than usual. At some point during the series, your priorities will definitely be tested.
DAY 12: Never underestimate the power of a post – it’s SO much more than comments.
Today has come to an end. There weren’t any comments on my posts from Day 10, 11, OR 12. However, I received heartfelt emails from ALL of the people that were highlighted in the posts. Sometimes, you’re writing for an audience of one. And that audience of one is all that really matters. (I learned variations of this lesson again and again throughout #31Days. Letters to the Unthanked generated the largest number of emails and Facebook messages I’ve had, and for some reason, a lot of people left comments on my Facebook page instead of the blog during the series.)
DAY 13: Be prepared to be surprised.
When you write this much content, you’re bound to be surprised by something. I didn’t get today’s post published until 3:00 p.m. By 9:00 p.m., I received a sweet email from the recipient of my letter, as well as three significant comments on the post. One commenter indicated that when we were in college, I inspired her to start a gratitude journal and she’s kept one all these years. Who knew? You never know when a post is going to move someone, or when you’ll discover something you didn’t know before.
DAY 14: Your laundry will probably be out of control by now!
This is my typical daily writing schedule for #31Days: edit today’s post, publish today’s post and get it up on all social media, write tomorrow’s post, make contact with people highlighted in today and/or tomorrow’s posts, respond to email and comments on the blog as I’m able. Add to that children and a day job, and there’s not much time left for laundry!
DAY 15: Take a chance. The rewards will be bountiful.
I wanted to feature a professor from graduate school in my post today, but I knew I needed her permission first. I was a little scared, but asked anyway. She gave me permission to share a post, and after the fact, told me it was one of the greatest gifts she’d received in her lifetime. The post stimulated LOTS of fun Facebook messages and memories among my graduate school classmates.
DAY 16: Be mentally prepared to receive at least one unsubscribe notification during the series.
I’ve been blogging for 15 months. Before I started this #31Days series, only 1 person had ever unsubscribed. Today, I received my second unsubscribe notice of the month. As much as unsubscribe notices are bothersome, you have to accept it and move on. It’s bound to happen when you’re filling your subscribers’ email boxes with blog posts on a daily basis. Try not to be discouraged.
DAY 17: Expect burnout, but press on.
There might come a time when you think what’s the point? What if I didn’t post tomorrow? Would anyone notice? Would anyone care? Last night, I was wearing a little thin. I spent time with my daughter who was under the weather, worked on family finances, and caught up with my husband. By the time I sat down to START writing the post, it was 9:52 p.m. But once I got writing, it all spilled out just fine and today’s post was among my most successful of the series.
DAY 18: Take a break! Get out and do something other than writing.
Winter is drawing near in Minnesota, so I forced myself to get outside and cleaned up the garden for two hours. Tonight, I went to a movie. Both were a wonderful hiatus from all the writing, and although I had to stay up until midnight writing tomorrow’s post, the break was well worth it.
DAY 19: Don’t feel obligated to reveal all of your blog post titles when you launch your series.
I moved my posts around on Days 9 and 10 because I’d been ill and needed lighter writing one day. And now, because my mood has shifted since Day 1, I’ve decided to delete two posts I had planned between Days 20-31. I added two new posts in lieu of the two I deleted. Be flexible. It’s ok to make changes to your series as you go.
DAY 20: Let the laundry pile up high enough, and your spouse just might step in and help!
The laundry has been piling up really high, much worse than the picture I showed you on Day 14. This morning, my husband took over. He did several loads over the course of the day. Thank you, Seth!
DAY 21: Don’t be afraid to make last minute adjustments to your writing schedule (in case I haven’t already said it enough)!
Just two days ago, I deleted two posts I had planned between Days 20-31, and replaced with two new posts. Today, I decided to delete and replace another post. Had I written all my posts ahead of time, I would obviously NOT make these last minute changes, but since I’m writing as I go, my mood and sense of the series as a whole allow me this flexibility.
DAY 22: Let your perfectionistic tendencies go to the wayside, even if it’s just for one day.
I stayed up writing until 11:20 p.m. last night and woke up again at 5:45 a.m. to edit and publish. For the first time in this series, I published a post I normally would have left in the draft box. Based on my usual standards, the post needed at least two more edits, but I’d run out of time since I had a full day of work ahead of me. I published the post as it was at 6:20 a.m., and left it at that. It got a great response, so who am I to say what’s draft-worthy?
DAY 23: You might get a second wind.
As I was drafting tomorrow’s post, I completely lost track of time. The two older kids were at school and my toddler was napping. My computer screen showed 1:36 p.m. when I started writing. When I looked up again it was 3:25 p.m. and the kids’ bus arrived within seconds. Lesson? You might still have a little writing in you, even on Day 23.
DAY 24: Don’t break your writing routine, even if you’re desperate for time!
Let’s just say that it’s challenging to write a heartfelt blog post when the man at the table next to you keeps talking loudly about the “damn tail pipes” on his car! 🙂
DAY 25: Expect to feel vulnerable.
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into with this Letters to the Unthanked series. For the most part, I’m not an information sharing blogger. I blog to bring voice where there is none. I blog to connect, to relate, to speak to people’s hearts. Many of my everyday posts have a vulnerability to them, but this Letters series is filled with vulnerability. I’m feeling particularly vulnerable for three posts in a row now, but I believe it’s worth it. That vulnerability might bring about some healing, and it’ll help your readers see the real you.
DAY 26: You’ll live, breathe, and yes, SLEEP #31Days.
If you wake up at 12:30 a.m. and again at 3:00 a.m. after dreaming about #31days, just know it’s Day 26. At this point it’s nearly impossible to get #31Days out of your mind, even when you’re sleeping!
DAY 27: Don’t feel obligated to post at the same time every day.
I’m a planner, so I appreciate organization, timeliness and consistency. But when you’re writing and editing a post every single day for a month and still trying to have a life, it’s near impossible to publish at same time every day. So don’t worry about it. My posts performed relatively equally regardless of when they were published.
DAY 28: You might end up feeling a little CRAZED if you do #31Days, try to manage your household well enough so your spouse lets you do this again next year, keep a day job, and raise kids all at the same time.
As I speak, my toddler is eating the last of Fruity Yummy Mummy cereal daddy brought home from work, the kids’ Rainbow Loom bracelets are all over the counters, and breakfast dishes haven’t been cleaned up. And yes, the laundry is piled high in the back, AGAIN. But here I am, I’m updating this post and setting up tomorrow’s post so I can write during nap time.
DAY 29: Expect to be chronically sleep deprived.
I stayed up until 11:15 p.m. last night writing today’s blog post. Baby woke up crying at 4:44 a.m. I never fell back asleep and the alarm was set for 5:45 a.m. to get today’s post up before a long day of work. Total sleep = 5 1/2 hours. Average night’s sleep for #31Days = 5 1/2 – 6 1/2 hours per night.
DAY 30: Start thinking about what you’ll need to do to get a semi-balanced life again!
Today would normally have been a day off for me. I sent my youngest to daycare so I could go to an appointment, and spent the rest of the day writing reports for work.
DAY 31: If you want to know what it’s like to sing the “Hallelujah Chorus” over and over inside your head after you publish a blog post, join #31Days!
After you finish your 31st post, you’ll sing that song to yourself non-stop. And no kidding, you’ll notice other 31 Dayers referencing the “Hallelujah Chorus” on Twitter, too! Believe me, the song is more than fitting if you’ve made it this far. As great as it’s been, it’s great to be done.
Would I do #31Days again? It’s only been four days since the series ended, but here’s what I think. #31Days is a lot like childbirth. It’s definitely challenging and sometimes seems impossible to endure in the moment. But you’re so glad you met the challenge because your beautiful “baby” has been delivered, and before you know it, you’ll (probably?) be ready to do it all over again.
Well, that’s a wrap! If you participated in #31Days, I hope you can relate to the lessons I learned. I’d love to hear about your experience! Would you do it again? If you’re considering doing #31Days next year, I hope this post provided you some insight and please feel free to leave questions!
Congratulations and best wishes to all,