One Jeolgi is about two weeks and I believe that’s the best length for challenges you set to yourself. 14 days to start, learn, experiment, and conclude. It’s like a shot of experiences you take. Better than spending a long evening drinking. You get to go through all stages of a party in no time.
Keep expectations under control
By giving yourself a two-week challenge, you aren’t setting your eyes on the very long term. You get to keep things manageable because you are well-aware of how fast two weeks pass by.
Instead of telling yourself that you’ll speak a language fluently by the end of the year, you can choose to learn how to present yourself in the next two weeks. Instead of deciding to eat healthy food regularly for the rest of the year, you can add one healthy ingredient for two weeks. Instead of trying to run a marathon next December, you can choose to run ten kilometers in total in the next two weeks.
Shorter timespans mean smaller, easier-to-reach, targets.
If you still “fail”, you get to adapt and try again soon. When you drop your resolutions, you think it’s the end of the world. You’ve tried your hardest but you’ve failed. It feels like the “only way” to try again won’t come before next January.
When you switch to Jeolgi challenges, even if you fail a Jeolgi, you can try again in the next one or the one after. New starts come again and again. 24 times per year. That’s 23 more starts than typical resolutions get.
And since you can start again, failure doesn’t feel half as bad.
Have you ever decided to work out regularly? If not, I’ll tell you my experience: it was extremely hard. After a few weeks, I began pushing my workouts in favor of meeting friends or learning languages (my passion and main hobby). The principal reason it was so difficult was that I had decided I’d do it forever.
When you have a year in front of you, skipping one day doesn’t seem like a lot. After all, it’s only 0.27% of it. If you skip one day when you only have two weeks, you’re missing 7%. It matters a lot more so it’s easier to remain controlled and work on whatever challenge you’ve given yourself.
It’s also a lot less daunting to have to do the task for 13 more days rather than 364 days or a lifetime.
Surround yourself with novelty
There’s a short proverb I love: “You don’t know what you don’t know”. When you start learning something you think you know what you’ll have to tackle. As you keep learning, you discover there’s a lot more hiding under the rock.
No matter what you try to add to your life, there will always be some novelty along the way. The longer you stay on the same task, the more efforts you’ll need to encounter it though. You develop a routine and before you know it, you’re learning mechanically, without any effort nor excitement.
When you limit your challenges to one Jeolgi, you can tackle novel things one by one, again and again. You can keep novelty as the main part of the journey instead of a byproduct of it.
Each Jeolgi should be spent actually working on the challenge you’ve chosen. If you’ve decided to learn guitar, do so. If you’ve picked to work out, do so. No part of these two weeks should be spent figuring out what you have to do for these tasks.
This is why I recommend spending some time during the second week of a Jeolgi challenge meta-learning about the next challenge on your agenda.
Jonh Biggs defined meta-learning in 1985 as “being aware of and taking control of one’s own learning”. The larger the task, the more time you’d need to meta-learn. Short two-week challenges shouldn’t take you more than an hour or two.
“If effectiveness is doing the right things, efficiency is doing things right.” — Tim Ferriss
For instance, if you decided to learn how to introduce yourself in Korean for a Jeolgi, you should gather resources to learn the script (Hangul), basics of sentence constructions, as well as reading and listening material. For challenges that need physical tools, like watercolor or origami, get them during this time as well.
Remember this isn’t part of your current Jeolgi so find some extra time to take care of this.
You could use a light version of Tim Ferriss’s DiSSS Technique to find out what you need to do during your Jeolgi Challenge. Ask yourself these questions.
- Deconstruction: “What are the minimal learning units I should start with?”
- Selection: “Which 20% of the units should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?
- Sequencing: “In what order should I learn the units?”
- Stakes: “How do I set up stakes to create real consequences and guarantee I follow the program?”