The 120 Hour Continuous Creation Challenge Recap

Don’t carry on folks. Plenty of things to see here!

The latest “official” round of the Continuous Creation Challenge is over and you’ll want to hear all about it. Official is in quotes because there’s no sanctioned start or end period for the challenge and no “right” way to do it either.

But I wanted to recap a 120 hour period between September 9th and September 14th since a number of folks joined me for the challenge.

Although this isn’t everyone’s story or a full version of any of them, here are some of the highlights, lowlights, and unexpected outcomes of our challenge.

The Highs

Continuous Creation Challenge

Many of you want to hear about my experiences and we’ll get to that in a moment. But the challenge isn’t about me. I just created the framework so other people could use it for clarity and some amazing results of their own.

First up, let’s have a look at what Jane Robinson was up to. I’ll update this with a link to her blog post recapping more once it’s available.

The Artist Creates

Taking some sections of an email she sent me, Jane said:

I loooved this challenge! I painted, painted, and then painted some more. I photographed my work and uploaded to my art website. I began my eBook and made incredible progress.

I walked my dog in the country every day, went to yoga, and really tried to let go of trying to figure out everything. I did have an ‘ah ha!’ moment when I realized that I needed to focus on what I love doing (making abstract art) and not try to fit in some other box (art journaling). I decided to paint what my soul wants and write about creativity. The challenge was a very clarifying event.

What a true luxury it was to focus completely on creating! I did eat but one meal per day. I listened to music but also enjoyed long periods of silence while creating. In the end it was a great experience.”

Well that certainly sounds nice! Way to fully embrace and rock your own version of the challenge Jane!

A Happier Human Creates

Amit Amin of Happier Human had a more nuanced experience. Let’s start with some highlights from an email he sent me:

“I was super productive (and happier than average) on Monday and Tuesday. If I can make every workday like that… Well even if I can’t, I can certainly try to come close. On Monday and Tuesday I wrote 12 research reviews. For me, this is impressive as research is a tiring beast.”

Amit was off to a blazing start, but we’ll explore some of his struggles in a moment.

The Experimenter Creates

My turn I guess.

You can dive into the stats below, but at a high level, this was pretty workmanlike. By that I mean it lacked the personal pizzazz of the first time I did the challenge in April.

I knew what to expect (more or less) and executed the planning perfectly. Everyone who was potentially impacted knew what to expect from me and all the logistical loose ends were tied up nicely. I had my giant list of things to create ready to just check off one-by-one.

And most of them came off the list. Podcasts, videos, written articles, long walks with the dogs, handmade cards, yoga, and project plan for my upcoming product…Check!

But by the end of day 4, I had a strong urge to cheat on my “Not Allowed” list, especially the one about no reading. However, I stayed strong and didn’t consume anything…with one exception. I’ll cover that in the lowlights.

Overall, the experience was another awesome one! There was so much great stuff I cranked out and the quality of it all really makes me proud. I gotta say, I’m so grateful that I have a life, family, business, and support system that allows me to do something like this for five days. That’s a long time to ignore the world and ask it to leave you alone!

If anything, this renews my commitment to focus my resources on creating value to help others instead of consuming things that only help me.

The Lows

Continuous Creation Challenge

Sometimes a big or new challenge isn’t all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. Like when you experience this.

A Happier Human Experienced

Amit had a tough time with the challenge and came to some startling conclusions. He alluded to some of them in his comment on the Community Craziness, Experience, and Insight article, but here’s a more detailed look. He’s given me permission to share this with you.

“My original intention was to fast Monday to Wednesday and focus on writing research reviews. Then Thursday and Friday I’d resume eating and focus on blog and product content.

But basically, I realized that I’m an addict. That I have much less free-will than I assumed.

I frequently check Facebook, my email, Wikipedia, and news sites as a sort of mental break between work sessions. But on self-reflection, none of these activities actually recharge my mental battery, make me happy, or provide instrumental benefit. I check and read because I’m addicted, not because I’m trying to improve my life. On the other hand, meditating, going for a walk, laughing, calling a friend, and listening to music actually recharges my mental battery.

I didn’t realize just how addicted I was – every hour or so I felt an impulse to consume. Fighting that impulse, over and over again, slowly drained my willpower. When my willpower finally ran out on Tuesday night, I ended up accidently reading a book (my version of TV) until 8 in the morning.”

Joel’s note: It’s not all bad. Here’s what Amit’s going to do as a result of this.

“Armed with this self-knowledge, I have begun the gradual process of eliminating these addictions. I am now counting the number of times I go on certain websites each day, as well as total time spent. I haven’t set any hard goals yet – small, gradual improvements are OK with me.”

The Experimenter Experienced

My only lowlight was that I couldn’t fast for 120 hours.

I actually only made it 48. And this after breezing through 72 hours of fasting in my original Continuous Creation Challenge!

My stomach was so frickin’ mad at me that its revolt threatened to end the challenge early. As I gave the beast what it wanted, I was very disappointed. But it needed to happen. Breaking one rule so I could uphold the rest of them was the right move, regardless of how it made me feel in the moment.

I was able to resume the fast for 36 hours until I had another eating breakdown to see me through to the end. So if you’re counting at home, I ate the equivalent of three meals in 30 minutes during those 120 hours.

On the bright side, there was no uncontrollable shaking or a night with one hour of sleep this time.

The Stats


I don’t have stats from other folks right now, so I’ll just provide mine as an example of what five days of non-stop creating can do.

  • 3 homemade birthday cards
  • 1 hour of yoga-inspired peace
  • 6 hours of walking with the dogs
  • 1 float tank recap video (coming October 4th) and an almost completed screencast video of VLC Media Player.
  • 2 full podcasts, one on curating and the other coming October 15th about education
  • 8 future articles written for Value of Simple
  • 3 hours of focused listening while Melinda talked during dinner. Note: It’s amazing how much you can focus on other people and your surroundings when you’re not consumed with your own world.
  • 5 hours of story time and play time with Grant
  • 37 hours of quality sleep
  • 1 major portion of my project plan for my upcoming product

Damn that was a lot! It’s over a month’s worth of content for Value of Simple and yet, there was still a ton left on the list. Hooray for accomplishments and plenty of ambitious things left to do.

So Whatcha Gonna Do?

If you read this far, you’re interested in the Continuous Creation Challenge.

So whatcha gonna do now?

As the goal is to have 100,000 people do their own challenge, here are some suggestions:

  • Start planning right now to do your own challenge
  • Share this article through social media, email, or Morse code so we can get people creating more and consuming less
  • Leave a comment about what you’ve read here, in the Community Craziness, Experience, and Insight article, or the announcement article
  • Contact me about what resources you need to get over the obstacles in cranking this up (e.g. planning, execution, how to get everyone to think you’re not totally crazy)
  • Please contact that person you know at a media outlet and recommend they interview me about the Continuous Creation Challenge

Enjoy the next months’ worth of content via Value of Simple folks! And remember:

Start consuming less and creating more!

Photo credit: Sean MacEntee

20 Responses to The 120 Hour Continuous Creation Challenge Recap

  1. Shanna Mann says:

    My own experience ties very closely with Amit’s. I click over to Gawker or my RSS several (dozen) times a day, which doesn’t appreciably add to my life in any way– it just makes it easier to avoid the focussed effort of whatever work I’m doing.

    And I was pleased to hear that yoga counted as creation. I think what I’m going to do is set up a random yoga video bookmark in my menu bar and make an effort to do 10 minutes of yoga instead of ten minutes of outrage news-cinema. Does this make me a member of your CCC?

    • Hey Shanna,

      Yoga itself definitely falls into my category of creating, but for other folks it might not. And that’s cool, because a lot of this is intentionally open to interpretation. I equate the CCC to what a lot of people who pick up a new diet or lifestyle go through. For example, when I went Paleo almost three years ago, I was very concerned with whether the food or exercises or amount of sunlight I was getting was “paleo”. But I quickly realized I got to define what was appropriate for me within the high level framework of a blueprint handed to me. So if you think yoga is creating, groovy. If you think it’s consumption, well, I don’t agree with you…but you’re entitled to consider it as such if that’s what works for you.

      I don’t think ten minutes of yoga qualifies for a CCC though. But keep in mind you’re an honorary member of just about everything I do. :)

  2. Erin says:

    Nice, Joel (and Amit and Jane)! I loved reading your recaps. It helps me get an even better sense of what this is all about.

    Honestly, the idea of creating non-stop makes me tired :) I think for me, an unplug period would be more effective. I’d focus, like Amit says, on things that recharge me instead of drain me. Facebook? Emails? Nonfiction? Draining. But reading fiction, doing yoga, cooking…all of those recharge me. So maybe it’s just a reframing issue for me.

    I also think I might have to start by looking at this over a shorter timeframe. Maybe one day a week, or one weekend a month, or something like that.

    Ooh! Maybe you could encourage people to do it with friends/family? Obviously, not physically together, but sometimes just knowing other people are focusing on the same things you are can be motivating.

    I know I already bugged you about this once, but I’d love to see a free resource on VoS somewhere that lays out how to decide why you’re doing the challenge, what you’ll include and exclude, who to notify and how, how to take care of commitments ahead of time, and any other issues you’ve encountered. Oh! And a start date, so people start thinking in concrete terms! I’m thinking maybe a worksheet people can print out and use as a planning tool as well.

    That might sound silly, like people can just do it themselves — after all, we’re all perfectly capable. But sometimes having guidance, at least the first time or two, can remove some of that initial overwhelm and resistance. :)

    • Erin,

      These are awesome recommendations and I’m going to act on most of them. I agree that we’re all totally capable of self-direction, but having resources to point you in the right direction can mean the difference between doing something and putting it off forever. Thanks for all this great input!

      I also never considered people doing this in “teams” with friends/family all doing their version of the challenge at the same time. That could work great and the added motivation/accountability could really make this even better for some folks.

  3. Ethan says:

    Thanks for sharing the recap joel. You got a LOAD of stuff done. I still don’t agree that the fasting part is completely healthy or helpful, but I’m thinking about it through the lens of my own body/needs. I wonder- will you try fasting the next time you do this? I’d be interested to see your results for a similar challenge without the fast vs. with it.

    • Hey Ethan,

      It would take decades to do a controlled experiment with adding or removing types of consumption and seeing its impact on creation. Especially considering I’m only planning to do my own Continuous Creation Challenge 2-3 times a year. Well, at least the ones that last 72 hours or longer. And besides, my life and circumstances will be so different each time I do it that I don’t think I could form any meaningful comparison between any of them. Plus, I don’t have the scientific rigor to pull off something like what you suggest.

      More importantly, I wouldn’t want to do my own version of the challenge without attempts at fasting. And some people wouldn’t want to do their version of this and attempt to fast. To each their own I’m happy to say.

      It really goes back to my comment in the announcement article when I said:

      “The biggest thing people get hung up on or grill me about is the fasting. This isn’t about how much weight I can lose or body image. It’s just that everything that goes into consuming food (buying, prepping, eating, and cleaning up) takes a frickin’ ton of time. Time that could be used to create. I’m primally adapted for intermittent fasting which helps enormously.”

  4. Bobbi Emel says:

    Joel, it seems like the “lows” weren’t really low at all – just information your body and mind gave you and Amit. I think Amit’s realization that he had an addiction to certain information processes was a huge high point.

    I have to agree with Erin that the CCC as it is set up wouldn’t work for me – I need more to be unplugged and quiet rather than non-consuming. But I think the general idea is great!

  5. Sarah says:

    One of these days you will win me over to doing one of these… it sounds pretty amazing. Congrats on such a successful experience! And I agree with everyone who said that breaking the fast was definitely the right move.

  6. Hi Joel:
    I enjoyed the recap and the range of experiences. I don’t know how productive I would be if I took on this challenge. I would want to “just be” versus producing so much, so I would need to find that balance.

    – Wendy

    • Hi Wendy,

      The purpose of the challenge is not a productivity exercise. The stats I put up were just to give people a case study of what one person can achieve. I hope I gave the impression that a good part of my challenge was to “just be”, via walking the dogs and doing yoga. Naps or meditation could be a great part of someone’s challenge too.

      I’m not trying to convince you to do one of these yourself though. The Continuous Creation Challenge isn’t right for everyone. And without a great reason why you could or should do it, I’d actively encourage people not to do it.

  7. I have to say reading that list of creations almost wins me over! I’m with some of the other commentors here that unplugged, replenishment time feels more like what I need. Especially while fasting (which I don’t do full on, but I do like to whittle down to simple, cleansing foods now and then.)

    You do have me intrigued with this Joel. And I really appreciate how you included the experience of the others who gave this a try – or at least a version of it. Reading about it definitely makes me more conscious of how much time I spend consuming as opposed to creating.

  8. Amit Amin says:

    I’m also addicted to almond milk.

  9. Joel, I truly loved this challenge and have you to thank for the inspiration. Next time I will try for longer. My stats:
    Painting: 16 hours
    Walking the Dog: 4 hrs.
    Yoga: 1
    Video making: 3
    Erasing video: .1hr
    Writing ebook: 4
    Sleep 16

    Again thanks for challenge. My entire city is doing an art creation day (today) and then posting on Facebook. Maybe we could do something like that next time.


    • Hi Jane,

      I’m thrilled you took on the challenge and had such a great experience! Thank you for sharing the stats with us and thanks for having part of your story shared in the post itself. I can’t wait to read your blog post about the experience and I’ll update this article with a link to it once it’s live.

      I like the idea of posting our results or experiences on social media. I could see that being an expanded part of the next time around for me, you, and anyone else doing it.

  10. Kaylee says:

    Sounds like you guys had some great experiences! Amit’s low definitely resonates with me..Even without doing the challenge, I know I waste time on Facebook. And he’s right – it’s not even recharging. It’s distracting and busying.

    I’d like to try the CCC my own way sometime – let go of consuming for a while and focus on creating and being. Even just a day would be refreshing, I think. A nice reset.

    Thanks for the inspiration, Joel. =)

    • Hi Kaylee,

      Yep, we sure had a diverse set of experiences. And who doesn’t waste time on something or many somethings? Facebook is a popular one, but not any worse than a number of other things that draw energy from us instead of putting a charge in us.

      Just tell me what you need to go from “I’d like to try the CCC” to “I will try the CCC on “. I’ll do my best to provide it.

      • Kaylee says:

        Hmm… That’s a great follow-up. Unfortunately, I don’t have a great answer. Motivation? Get everyone outta my house for a day? 😉

        Though honestly, that just happened this past weekend. And I still didn’t do it. I did create way more, but I still consumed. I think it’s a matter of energy for me. Creation is really draining – I can’t do it for too long without feeling like I need a break.

        I suppose my break could be something other than television, reading or the Sims 3, but I guess I just figure it’s my break – do even those have to be “productive?”

        Guess that’s the point though. Can’t I take a break without doing – gasp – anything at all? Lots to think about. I’m sure you didn’t expect this as a response, haha, I apologize for the novel. You just got me thinking – thanks for that, my friend!

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