Use a 30-Day Challenge to Develop a Successful English Routine

by | Grammar, Vocab and Pronunciation, How To Develop Skills | 8 comments

This lesson has been updated from its original posting on September 9, 2015. 

Did you know that, if you REALLY want something, you can do anything for 30 days.

I know you want to speak English fluently and communicate easily. You want to grow your vocabulary and say what you want. And you want to feel awesome when you speak.

I have good news for you: It is possible.
With today’s Confident English lesson, we’re going to find out what’s possible when you do something for 30 days in English. I’m going to challenge you!

And here’s the awesome secret: when you do something for 30 days, it becomes a routine. It becomes something you continue to do easily in your normal life.

That’s what we want! We want English to become part of your daily life so you continue to grow and achieve your goals. 

You can do it. And I’m going to show you how. In today’s lesson you’ll:

  • Learn 4 Keys to a Successful 30-Day Challenge 
  • Watch my favorite TED Video on how to Try Something New for 30 Days
  • Practice new vocabulary and idioms
  • Commit to a 30-Day English Challenge

How to Be Successful in a 30-Day English Challenge

Try Something New for 30 Days in English

TASK 1: Try Something New for 30 Days (in English)

Let’s start today’s Confident English lesson with my favorite TED video. 

I recommend that you watch this video at least 1 time before you continue with the other tasks. This will help to become more familiar with the topic and be better prepared for the following activities.

(This video is 3.20 minutes long)

Cuts, M. (2011, March). Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days [Video file]. Retrieved from


Let’s use Matt’s video for some new vocabulary!
Watch the video again but, as you listen, see if you can identify the missing words from the transcript below.

NOTE: Words marked with ** have definitions provided below.

A few years ago, I felt like I was 1._________ in a rut, so I decided to follow in the footsteps of the great American philosopher, Morgan Spurlock, and try something new for 30 days. The idea is actually pretty simple. Think about something you’ve always 2. ________ to add to your life and try it for the next 30 days. It turns out 30 days is just about the right amount of time to add a new 3. ________ or subtract a habit — like watching the news — from your life.

There are a few things I 4. ________ while doing these 30-day challenges. The first was, instead of the months flying by, forgotten, the time was much more 5. _________.** This was part of a challenge I did to take a picture every day for a month. And I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing that day. I also noticed that as I started to do more and harder 30-day challenges, my 6. _________grew. I went from desk-dwelling** computer nerd** to the kind of guy who bikes to work. For fun!

Even last year, I ended up 7. ________ up Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. I would never have been that adventurous before I started my 30-day challenges.

I also figured 8. ________** that if you really want something badly enough, you can do anything for 30 days. Have you ever wanted to write a novel? Every November, tens of thousands of people try to write their own 50,000-word novel, from scratch, in 30 days. It turns out, all you have to do is write 1,667 words a day for a 9. ________. So I did. By the way, the secret is not to go to sleep until you’ve written your words for the day. You might be sleep-deprived**, but you’ll finish your novel. Now is my book the next great American novel? No. I wrote it in a month. It’s 10. _________.

But for the rest of my life, if I meet John Hodgman at a TED party, I don’t have to say, “I’m a computer scientist.” No, no, if I want to, I can say, “I’m a novelist.”

So here’s one last thing I’d like to mention. I learned that when I made small, 11. __________** changes, things I could keep doing, they were more likely to stick. There’s nothing wrong with big, crazy challenges. In fact, they’re a ton of fun. But they’re less likely to 12. _________. When I gave up sugar for 30 days, day 31 looked like this.

So here’s my question to you: What are you 13. _________ for? I guarantee you the next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a 14. _________! For the next 30 days.


Answers to Gap Fill (Click Here)
  1. Stuck
  2. Wanted
  3. Habit
  4. Learned
  5. Memorable
  6. Self-Confidence
  7. Hiking
  8. Out
  9. Month
  10. Awful
  11. Sustainable
  12. Stick
  13. Waiting
  14. Shot

Key Words from Text


Memorable (adjective):

: something very good or interesting and worth remembering

  • A memorable vacation/experience
  • It was the most memorable line of the play.
  • She gave a memorable performance.

Desk-dwelling (noun)

: [dwelling] is a place where a person lives

  • A cave dwelling
  • Sales of single-family dwellings (=houses) are improving

Desk-dwelling can be used to describe people who “live” at their desk. It is another way to say that someone works all the time.


Nerd [noun] [count] informal + usually disapproving

1 : a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish clothes, hair, etc.

  • He dresses like a nerd.

2 : a person who is very interested in technical subjects, computers, etc.

  • My brother is a computer nerd. [=geek]
  • A grammar nerd
Figured Out

Figured out [phrasal verb]

figure out (something) or figure (something) out

a : to understand or find (something, such as a reason or a solution) by thinking

  • I’m trying to figure out a way to do it.
  • He claims he has it all figured out.
  • I finally figured it out.
  • I can’t figure out why he does these crazy things.

b : to find an answer or solution for (something, such as a problem) figure out [=solve] a math problem


Sleep-deprived (adjective)

: not having the things that are needed for a good or healthy life

  • emotionally deprived children
  • The diet allows you to eat small amounts of your favorite foods, so you won’t feel deprived.
  • People who are sleep-deprived [=people who do not get enough sleep]

Sustainable (adjective)

1 : able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed

  • sustainable energy resources
  • a sustainable water supply

2 : involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources

  • sustainable agriculture/farming/techniques

3 : able to last or continue for a long time

  • sustainable development/growth

Source for definitions and examples: 2015. (9 September 2015).


Idiomatic expressions can be difficult to learn. The meaning of the expression is very different from the meaning of the individual words. In this activity, you will learn the meaning of some idiomatic expressions from the listening activity.

In the next task, you’ll have the chance to practice using these expressions.

Match the expressions below (1-6) with their meaning (a-f).

Idiomatic Expressions
1. Stuck in a rut
2. Follow in the footsteps of (someone)
3. Flying by
4. From scratch
5. Likely to stick
6. Give it a shot
a. When time passes quickly.
b. Something that continues (to happen); something that does not stop.
c. To stay or remain in the same negative situation: in life, in your job, in school, etc. To feel you cannot move forward.
d. To attempt something; to try something.
e. To do something the way someone else did previously. To continue a tradition, a path or the work of someone else.
f. To make or create something from the very beginning with basic ingredients or materials.
Answers to Matching
  1. c
  2. e
  3. a
  4. f
  5. b
  6. d


Let’s practice some idioms! The best way to grow your vocabulary is to USE the language with real-life examples. 

How might you answer the questions below or finish the statements? You can share your answers in the comments section below.

1.    Have you ever felt stuck in a rut? If so, what did you do to overcome?

2.    I have always wanted to follow in the footsteps of

3.    Time flies when I …

4.    Have you ever made something from scratch? What was it?

5.    Habits are more likely to stick if …

6.    I have always wanted to give __________________ a shot because …

It’s Your Turn to Commit to a 30-Day English Challenge


In his presentation, Matt Cutts asks, “What are you waiting for?

And that is my question to you! What are you waiting for?

Is there anything you would like to do (just 1 thing) for 30 days to help improve your English? If so, what is it?

Example options:

  • Listen to an English-speaking radio program for 5-10 minutes every day
  • Read a novel by reading 2-3 pages every day
  • Watch the news in English every day
  • Read a magazine article in English every day
  • Listen to a podcast in English every day
  • Write an email in English every day

What are your ideas?

Commit to a 30-day challenge. And then share your commitment in the comments section so the Confident English community can support you. 

I can’t wait to find out what’s possible for you!

– Annemarie