Top 5 Tips to Survive The 100 Day Project

The 100 Day Project started as a workshop led by Michael Beirut, a professor at the Yale School of Art. I learned about this last year and essentially, the exercise is to pick a design task that you can repeat every day for 100 days in a row.  The only “rule” is that you do the same action, in some form, every day and keep track so you can present or look back over all 100 versions at the end of the project. 

It’s a fascinating challenge and the point, according to Michael Beirut himself, is to explore “the ways that creative people balance inspiration and discipline in their working lives. It’s easy to be energized when you’re in the grip of a big idea. But what do you do when you don’t have anything to work with?” You can read Michael’s essay called “Five Years of 100 Days” in the Design Observer and see unique student projects from years past.

I’m leading a 100 Day challenge right now with 50 students from my creative community and we are on day 36. If you’re in one too, or are thinking of participating in one in the future, here are my top 5 tips for how to survive and have fun in the process.

Tip 1: Pick Carefully

Before you start, spend time thinking about your project. Pick something you are passionate about. Do you love to draw? If so, maybe you’d like to draw botanical flowers and see how your style and attention to detail improves over the course of the challenge. Do you want to learn a new skill or how to use a new tool? The iPad Pro, Apple pencil and the Procreate app are super popular right now. If you’d like to learn how to use those tools, maybe that’s a great project for you. Full disclosure! This is what I picked this year.

In my current 100 Day Challenge group, participants are doing fantastic projects including:

·      Flower sketches following each letter in the alphabet

·      Watercolor florals

·      Mandalas

·      Black & white doodles

·      Gouache paintings

The most important part about picking your project is that it’s motivating and you’re excited to do it each day. It’s also important that it not take too long which brings me to Tip #2.

Tip 2: Set a Time Limit

While you are finalizing your project idea, think about how long it will take you to do it each day. Don’t pick something that’s super complicated unless you have lots of extra time in your daily schedule. My rule of thumb is 20 minutes. That will feel really short on some days which will give you a nice boost. And it will feel really long on other days. But you can last 20 minutes, right?

You may find the routine of sitting down to do your project and setting a timer on your phone really satisfying and habit forming. Be prepared to be startled on occasion when you’re deep in creative mode and the timer goes off. In fact, maybe because of that, you should skip the timer idea altogether.

Tip 3: Celebrate mini-goals

I’m a big believer in celebrating small wins. Celebrating EVERY win in fact. 100 days is a long time. It’s more than 3 months so it’s really important to break it down into smaller increments. You don’t want to think about 100 days and all of the thoughts associated with that. Focus on the first 10 days. Then focus on reaching day 20.

Day 25 is a great mini-goal because you’ll be at the one quarter mark. Decide which additional mini-goals are important: day 33 is one third of the way to 100 days. Day 50 is the half way mark. Working in 10 day increments with additional milestone days in between is also really helpful. The more mini-goals the better, I say. And the final countdown: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 is critical to celebrate!

Tip 4: Join a Community

This is vital. If you aren’t doing this as part of an art school project, find a community to join so you can do the challenge with a bunch of other people. The encouragement and support you’ll get is both motivating and inspiring. It’s so much fun to see what everyone else is working on. And if you miss a day, everyone will be there to support you.

The group energy is contagious and the momentum that comes from doing a project like this in community goes a long way. You’ll get instant support if you hit a wall or if you get sick. Everyone in the group wants to help everyone else have fun, stay positive and learn from the experience.  This brings me to the last tip, Tip #5.

Tip 5: Be Kind To Yourself

Remember that you are doing this for YOURSELF. You picked a project you are passionate about. You’re setting aside time everyday even with your super busy schedule. You’re in a community that’s looking out for you. And if you miss a day, the most important thing is to not give up. Missing a day here or there is not a big deal. Giving up is final.

Just think about it. If you miss several days or even a few weeks, that still means that you did your creative project for over 70 days! That’s a huge accomplishment. You’ll see amazing progress in your work and you’ll learn so much about yourself through the process.

I highly encourage you to give a 100 Day Challenge a try at some point. Make a note of mine if you’d like to join us next year. We’ll be doing it again from the beginning of April 2020 through to mid-July and you are welcome to join us. For some final inspiration, here’s a great interview that Michael did with Elle Luna last year.

Before I wrap up, I want to remind you about my free LIVE workshop: Getting Started in Surface Pattern Design. It starts this Thursday, May 9th and you don’t want to miss it. Here are just a few things you’ll learn:

·      How to transform your sketches into beautiful repeating patterns

·      The secrets for how to sell your work successfully

·      The confidence to pursue your creative dreams knowing what’s possible. 

I only offer this free training twice a year. Grab your seat! You’ll learn valuable skills in an incredibly engaged and supportive creative community.


It’s Never Too Late to Create

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Hi…I’m Anne!
My creative inspiration comes from a lifetime of observation living in, and traveling to, beautiful environments in the United States and abroad.


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