How not to do any long-term challenge

Recently, on November 26th, I finished my personal #100challenge. During the period of 100 days I had to create one small illustration every day.

The rules were simple:
• Create one mini illustration each day
• Upload them to 3 different websites (Instagram, Dribbble and Keyframes)
Stick to one style and only illustrate single objects

How did I take up this challenge?

I really do enjoy creating icons and illustrations, but they are far from being perfect. There’s always a room for improvement, that’s the reason why I wanted to start something like this for a long time. Two years at least. In the past, I attempted a #DailyUI challenge but I gave up after 6 days. I think it might have discouraged me and also held back from taking up similar challenges.

Then, on one sunny August day, I came up with an idea for a 100 mini illustration challenge, again. Without much thinking I sat down and created an icon from the first idea that came to my mind — a lonely island. I ended up with a single palm icon, but I was pleased with the result. Sharing my work with people from WIP Community assured me that my work looked good. They also assured me that taking up this challenge was a good idea. What is more, I got a Dribbble invite from one of them, big thanks to Leo Baecker!

Why I’m not 100% happy with my project?

Here I am, after 100 days. Despite the fact I feel like I’ve improved my skills a bit, I know I could have done much better. Partly because of my laziness and partly because of a lack of the proper self-management. For sure, I didn’t benefit from this challenge as much as I could. Below, I listed 2 main factors which made my project a lot worse and could easily lead to a failure.

1. Waiting with the work till the late night

Well, I think there isn’t a better way to fail. Do it once, then the next day and it will eventually become your daily habit. Every day, you would sit down to your computer at 10PM and then, instead of planning the next day you would start thinking about today’s icon or anything you are doing as a daily challenge.

I’d like to create something better, more challenging. Well, but I don’t have enough time and energy today. Maybe tomorrow?

If you go this way, this phrase will shortly become your daily excuse, a permission for the lack of effort and your own laziness. You’d stay in the same place with merely any progress, taking everything the easy way. Without people who would support you or just simply follow your daily efforts, you would probably fail after a week or two.

Once I was doing an icon on a party, because I didn’t manage to make it earlier.

Of course, I’m not saying that leaving work for the night is always bad. Sometimes it’s not possible to do it the other way. You just need to make an effort and stop after one day, you must treat it as an exception. Finishing the thing you are doing as a daily challenge should be one of your highest priorities. Otherwise the whole challenge doesn’t make much sense.

2. Creating limits for myself

When I first started the challenge I set some limitations for myself. Firstly, the only icons which I was going to create were simple, single objects. Daily use things. There were some reasons behind that choice.

The more complex an illustration is, the more time you have to spend on creation process. What is more, more detailed illustrations often require you to think about the composition, arrangement, the background any many other things. I thought I wouldn’t have enough experience, time and knowledge to deliver one mini illustration a day.

After few weeks, when I knew how much time it takes me to create a simple icon I could have changed my mind and start creating more and more complex illustrations. But I haven’t. And I’m not sure why, honestly. Maybe because I wanted to stay consistent with the previous icons. But for sure, it was partially caused by my daily routine of procrastinating this activity.

The second limitation was the illustration style. I wanted to stick to one specific style during the whole project, to be consistent. All the icons were supposed to be simple objects wrapped in colorful circles.

Why I limited myself like that? After creating the first icon with the circle I thought it might look really good if I stayed consistent with the style. So I created another illustration with the circle and then another 98. I didn’t notice a very important thing but now I get it.

The whole point of such challenges isn’t about how all the illustrations put together look like. You’re not creating one big piece of art with all the illustrations matching each other and looking great (at least not if you’re attempting a challenge to develop your skills).

When you attempt any challenge to be a better designer, developer, photographer or whoever, the main goal should be seeing a progress.

Each day you should challenge yourself further and further. When I started, I was thinking about the end of the project as a grid of beautiful, matching each other illustrations rather than looking at a row of illustrations, each one better and different than the previous one.

What’s next?

It’s been some time since I finished the project. I can’t say I didn’t improve my designer skills, but I could have done much better. I’m happy that I learned a lesson and now I’m more experienced and a bit wiser. I hope that my advices will be helpful for anyone starting such challenges in the future. I’m almost sure, that I’ll start another challenge soon!

In this place I’d like to give big thanks to the Keyframes community and folks from the WIP Chat. All of you were really supportive and I’m not sure if I would have finished the project without your feedback or the feeling that there are some people who might follow my efforts.

That’s how they present on one big artboard.

Also, big thanks to all the people who provided me some icon ideas. Soon you will receive an email with the icons you suggested! 💡

All the icons can be downloaded for free!
Download them here.

Curious about my fresh thought about the project?
Check out my Twitter thread.