At the music school where my kids take lessons, every February brings the start of something their teachers call 100 Days of Practice. Each kid is given a chart and pledges to practice every day for 100 days and check off each day on the chart (or decorate with a sticker!) In May, there's a pizza party to celebrate.
It's a simple idea that encourages goal-setting and accountability and in the decade or so that I've been watching my kids participate, I've come to believe it really works. They always make huge leaps in learning during the 100 Days stretches and the charts motivate them to remember to play their instruments every day. The daily practice also makes music a habit, which is the point.
I first tried National Novel Writing Month -- or NaNoWriMo -- six or so years ago. The idea is that aspiring novelists commit to finishing a 55,000 word manuscript during the month of November. You can register with the organization online or create your own accountability group. I had four published novels under my belt at that point, but my daily writing habit had been sacrificed at the altar (or exhaustion) of new parenthood and I needed a jumpstart. It was an utter failure. I didn't sign up with the organization or really tell anyone I was doing it and when life got busy in mid-November, as it always does, I stopped working on the nebulous project I'd resolved to start. Not only did I not have a novel on December 1st, I had a heavy cloak of guilt and shame that I wore around for the next few months.
But a couple of years ago, I decided to try again and I have since settled into an annual tradition that works well for me: Chapter-A-Day-November. Instead of shooting for about 1,600 words a day (the most common NaNoWriMo goal) I aim to write a chapter of a new boo