Try one of these 30-day challenges during the next deployment

Many military spouses like to set goals for deployment. One of the few silver linings of military deployment is that the spouse who remains behind has a chance to pause and redefine their life. You can change your routines, learn new things, pick up a hobby, or challenge yourself to do something you always wanted to try.  Not only does having goals give you creative ways to spend your time during deployment, but it also gives you a sense of accomplishment when you reach your goals.

When setting goals, especially during a long deployment, a good strategy is to set small, measurable steps. Instead of saying something general like, “I want to lose weight during deployment,” set a more specific goal, such as “I will eat salad for lunch, work out three times each week, and aim to lose five pounds this month.” This makes it easier to tell whether you are sticking to your goals and when you have met them.

30-day challenges are perfect for this. They are long enough to let you make a real difference in your life, but short enough that you can do something out of the ordinary to challenge yourself. Whether you are facing a deployment six months long or 13 months long, choose some of these 30-day challenges to break it up and make a change. Not only do they make deployment more interesting, but you will have fun results to show your spouse after Homecoming!

Change your daily routines

1. Wake up earlier: Getting up a half hour earlier can give you time to start the day more relaxed. Have coffee before your kids wake up, start some laundry, cook breakfast, or do a stretching routine.

2. Read every day: Set aside reading time to read a book in a month or a new book each week. Read a chapter each day or 20 minutes, whichever comes first.

3. Listen to podcasts: Some podcasts are only 20 minutes long and can give you great advice on all kinds of different topics. Listen to them while you do dishes or work out. Here are our favorite milspouse podcasts.

4. Do a daily workout: Adding 20 minutes of exercise to your day can make a big difference. Do squats and sit-ups when you first wake up, go jogging with the dog, or take a walk during your lunch break.

5. Bring lunch to work: This is a great habit that saves time and money. . . and is healthier, too!

6. Pray or meditate: Spend a few minutes each morning or evening getting quiet time. Say a prayer, read from your chosen religious text, or write in a prayer journal.


7. Choose a challenge: There are numerous 30-day challenges that can give you a slimmer, more toned body in one month. By working out several times each week, you will see results!

8. Couch to 5K: This is an ideal program for someone who doesn’t like running. I used it after Baby #2 and again after #3. You can go from no exercise experience to running a 5K after just a month of gradual training.

9. Marathon training: If you are already a runner, challenge yourself to run a longer race. Use a training plan so you gradually increase your stamina and distance.

10. Fitness classes: If you have never tried yoga, sign up for a beginner class for just a month and see how you like it. Or try spinning, Zumba, or swimming at your gym.

11. Spot-train with daily challenges: There are numerous online 30-day challenges that can help you achieve flatter abs, a tighter butt, or slimmer arms. Find one that works for you, then stick to the routine.

Saving money

12. No-spend weekends: Try saving money by reducing your weekend expenses. Keep what you save for special date nights when your spouse returns.

13. Don’t buy new things for a month: Have you ever tried the 30-day challenge of not buying anything new? Groceries are exempt, but plan ahead so you won’t need new clothes, shoes, books, or make-up for a month.

14. Start a savings jar: For one month, skip luxuries. Put what you save into a jar. Save it for something special, like post-deployment leave. Last year, our kids did this with their allowance money, and they saved enough for Disneyland tickets!


15. Healthy eating: Want to lose weight or be healthier? Try a 30-day diet that focuses on raw food, high protein, or low fat.

16. Meal planning: Be more intentional with cooking and planning healthy meals. Use the freezer to prepare crockpot-friendly meals, or prepare a week of healthy breakfasts or lunches ahead of time.

Around the house

17. Cleaning: It doesn’t have to be springtime for spring cleaning. Take a month to clean one new area each day.

18. De-cluttering: Get ready for your next PCS move by methodically cleaning out closets, bedrooms, toy rooms, and the garage. At the end of 30 days, hold a yard sale!

19. Redesign your wardrobe: Try to wear a different outfit each day for 30 days or eliminate one old article of clothing each day for a month.


20. Planner or journal: Try writing in a planner or journal every day for a month. It may be a habit you learn to love.

21. Take a photo a day: If you can, share them with your deployed spouse via email, printed photo books, or by printing copies for care packages.

22. Write a book: Yes, you can write a book in a month! November is National Novel Writing Month. Visit the NANoWriMo website for a supportive community of fellow authors.

23. Start sewing or knitting: If you knit a few lines every day, you can create a scarf in a month. Make a blanket or patchwork quilt by sewing one square each day.

Give something up

24. Ditch it. For one month, try giving up one of your bad habits: TV, alcohol, smoking, chocolate, watching the news, or scrolling through social media.

Learn something new

24. Work your brain. Whether you want to learn a new language, an instrument, or art, you can accomplish a lot by studying just a few minutes every day. Sign up for a college class or a local art class. Join a language conversation group or practice online.

No matter which 30-day challenge you choose, you can make some changes that you will be proud of at the end of deployment.

By Lizann Lightdoot

Lizann Lightfoot is an associate editor at Military One Click and a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at