50 Fun Self-Improvement Projects to Assign Yourself This Summer
Distinguishing do-it-yourself projects from self-improvement projects can be a fine line. We think the test should be: will you look back one day and wish you'd done it? Really anything that involves learning a new skill and broadening your horizons can be considered self-improvement. Since it's summertime, we've assembled some ideas for improving yourself that are also pretty fun. Some of our recommendations will take half an hour and be free, and some will take all summer or require a financial outlay. But when you're finished, you'll be all the better for it.
- Write your autobiography: Step one: Read Stephen King's half-autobiography, half-writing guide On Writing. Step two: Use his wisdom to write a compelling narrative of your life to this point.
- Take 12 Photowalks: Once a week this summer, grab your camera or cameraphone and head out the door and photograph your community. For extra credit, turn it into a coffee table book at the end of the summer.
- Pick up the trombone: Forget the harmonica. The trombone is one of the easiest instruments to learn to play, and a used one can be had off eBay or at a garage sale for about $75.
- Write a love song: According to Dierks Bentley, to write a song for your main squeeze, learn the G,C, and D chords. Also, slow ballads are best, and "the right words are 90% of what you’re going for."
- Train your vocal chords: YouTube is full of singing coaches offering you free advice on how to become a better singer, so give them a look and improve your pipes.
- Learn to read music: Don't worry, there's no judgment here that you still can't read music. But for all the musical activities you're going to be doing this summer, it's time you picked up a how-to book and learned.
- Tackle a "best novels" list: Even if you only get through one or two books, there is some fantastic literature out there to catch up on if you read the Cliffs Notes in high school English.
- Learn to salsa: Admit it: all that Dancing with the Stars you've been watching has you wishing you could cut a rug like that. Take a class, watch a video, or read a book and have that next dance.
- Become a calligrapher: Perfecting calligraphy is a great way to create gifts for people or to make decorations for your home. Teach yourself from online tutorials or take a class with an instructor.
Food and Health
- Roll your own sushi: Ever wondered why sushi is so expensive? You'll have a better idea after you try your hand rolling your own California rolls and tiger eyes.
- Become a raw food chef: Raw food diets are sweeping the nation, and the health benefits are many. Pick up a raw cookbook (and a dehydrator if you're really enthusiastic), and discover what healthy and delicious meals can be made with uncooked food.
- Acquaint yourself with wine: If you can't tell a red from a white, spend the summer sipping Pinot and Chardonnay while you read a beginner's guide to wines.
- Start juicing: Juicing is a big part of the raw food craze; everyone from MMA fighters to pro basketball players are endorsing it. Invest in a decent machine and start experimenting with flavors.
- Compete to lose weight: Here's the test for deciding if you need to lose weight: Are you an American? If you answered yes, try entering a contest with cash prizes as motivation for shedding pounds.
- Master the art of cooking meat: Let the legendary Julia Child be your Yoda on the journey to perfect meat preparation, from broiling to braising to pan-searing.
- Become a mixmaster: When word gets out that you can make the perfect Bellini DuBois, you'll never miss a party invitation again.
- Enter an extreme race: Push your limits by competing in an extreme race like Tough Mudder, where you're forced to slog your way through (or over) a 15-mile course of mud, water, and even fire.
- Yoga: There are yoga poses to improve everything from back pain to irritable bowel syndrome. Even if you're the picture of physical health, yoga can be a great way to relax and improve your mental health, as well.
- Improve your memory: Regularly playing board games like chess and solving brain puzzles can help you improve your memory, a project that fits in nicely to a three-month vacation or just summer Saturdays.
- Get a concealed handgun license: We might be blurring the lines between self-improvement and self-defense with this one, but getting a CHL is an activity that can pay off in a big way.
- Learn CPR: In the time of year when swimming pools are at their peak draw, knowing how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation could literally make you the life of the party.
- Get into Krav Maga: Tae kwon do is for kids. These days it's all about Krav Maga, the most effective hand-to-hand combat system. A summer is plenty of time to learn the basics.
- Start a fire without matches: Remember Tom Hanks' face when he "made fire" in Cast Away? So will your face look when you make a fire without matches.
- Master Morse code: Again, Tom Hanks and Cast Away. How cool was it when he used Morse code on a flashlight? You really never know when this skill will come in handy.
- Learn basic sign language: Gain an understanding of what deaf people have to go through to communicate by memorizing 100 signs for basic words like pizza, happy, and dog.
- Learn Latin: A guy named Evan Millner has a series of videos for teaching Latin to beginners. A knowledge of the language is a huge help in improving your English grammar, and you'll feel really superior spouting Latin phrases no one else understands.
- Master public speaking: For most people, public speaking is not a fun exercise. But there are thousands of books and websites out there to help you get better at it and maybe even come to enjoy it.
- Sharpen your flirting skills: Retire your tired pickup lines and let your newly self-improved personality be your ticket to sparking a relationship.
- Memorize a poem: Find a relatively short poem that moves you and commit it to memory for wooing a lady or enlivening a cocktail party. Better yet, write a poem yourself.
- Start a journal: Journaling is a tried and true self-improvement technique that really makes for fun reading a year or two after the fact.
- Improve your vocabulary: Navigate to a word-a-day website or grab a word-of-the-day calendar and transform your vocabulary into a sesquipedalian cache.
- Build a Twitter following: Reply, retweet, and hashtag your way to a solid group of Twitter followers who challenge you, make you laugh, or laugh at your stuff.
- Learn stand-up comedy: Apparently you can learn stand-up in 10 weeks. You don't have to quit your day job, but it should make it easier to create some laughs at a party.
Home and Garden
- Start a garden: Despite what you might think, it's still not too late to start that garden you meant to start back in April. All you need to do is pick out crops or flowers that do best in the summer months and get to cultivating.
- Go green: Improve the earth while you're at it by going green this summer. Make a compost pile, do an energy audit of your home, fix leaky faucets, and more.
- Get better at sex: Hey, we did say these suggestions were supposed to be fun. If you have a partner, he or she should be quite pleased to hear that your goal this summer is to improve your performance in the bedroom.
- Build a backyard barbecue pit: Get serious about your summer barbecuing and build a pit right in your own backyard. Fair warning: your house will become everyone's favorite Saturday hangout spot.
- Build a rocking chair: Sitting in a rocking chair is a surefire way to improve your mood and lower your stress levels. Why not add to that the satisfaction of knowing that you built the chair yourself.
- Build a computer: It sounds impossible, and it may look impossible when you open one up. But putting together your own computer is a skill that can be learned like any other, and you'll come away with a much better knowledge of the technology.
- Become certified in Google Analytics: As search engines continue their global takeover, a smart business move is to make a project out of becoming certified in the best Internet analytics tool available.
- Create a website: With the proliferation of excellent software, building your own website has never been easier. Make it a blog to record your thoughts to share with others or an online presence for a business enterprise.
- Root your phone: Rooting, "jailbreaking," or hacking your phone is a gateway to self-improvement: with your new ability to customize your smartphone to your liking, you'll be amazed at how much more efficient your life becomes.
- Become a tailor: Being able to make adjustments to your own clothes is an invaluable skill if you enjoy wearing well-fitting clothes. It's a must-have skill for any sartorialist.
- Learn necktie tying: Wow your co-workers when you stroll in with an immaculate four-in-hand knot. While you're perfecting your style, master the art of pocket square folding, too.
- Learn to count cards: Have an upcoming trip to Vegas? Don't blame us if a casino owner breaks your kneecaps, but card-counting is a valuable skill that can be picked up with a little practice.
- Investigate your family tree: Everyone ought to know where she comes from. Make this the summer you discover what illustrious men and women your ancestors were.
- Learn to drive stick shift: Get a friend to let you use his car as your practice vehicle, and you'll never again have to admit to anyone that you can't drive a stick.
- Revisit your history lessons: History is many people's favorite subject. This summer, make it your mission to relearn what you thought you knew, from Columbus to the real Paul Revere. Start with Howard Zinn's seminal A People's History of the United States.
- Practice etiquette: In the summer when everyone is getting married, you'll be happy you brushed up on which fork to use first at the reception, the little one or the big one.
- Volunteer: Helping others is a great way to improve your own sense of purpose. Make a project out of finding a place that needs volunteers and committing to return several times over the summer.