With nine months (and some change) left in 2019, here are nine ways to invest in yourself this year. I have found great benefit from applying these practices in my life, and starting them in my early to mid-twenties has led to them becoming habits today. While there are benefits to all ages, many of these are particularly relevant for young professionals today.
Read More Books. Research continues to highlight the value of reading. From the ability to feel greater empathy for others to improving your memory, reading is a low-cost, high impact way to learn. This year, aim to read or listen to at least six books on topics you want to learn about more. Take notes as you read and, when you are done, determine how you will act differently. I’ve set a goal to read one nonfiction and one fiction book every month, which is more of a challenge with having a toddler but is still achievable.
Set Goals. Several years ago, a mentor introduced me to the idea of personal goal-setting. I was a fan of setting professional goals at work, but I had not considered applying this concept to other areas of my life. Since seeing the personal transformation it had on him, I have practiced the same approach. He showed me the goals that he set for himself every year as an example, and each goal had milestones and measures to track progress and measure success. I have found that setting goals in this way allows me break them down into actionable steps and see progress as I check off each step. Since 2013, I have set annual goals for myself in the areas of financial, physical, professional, personal/family, and spiritual. I break these down into actionable steps, and then prioritize specific steps every week. It is amazing to see the progress that can be made in a quarter or a year when you take a planned approach.
Network in your Community. Your community may be where you live, where you work, or a virtual community of people connected by mutual interests. Regardless, find ways to network and build connection within your community. There may be ways that you can give back, such as volunteering, as well as people who can help you with a goal or keep you inspired to pursue a passion.
Listen to Podcasts. Podcasts are an easy and free way to learn about anyopic. I love listening to podcasts while I am working out or cleaning; while I am not a big fan of multitasking, neither task requires a high degree of mental focus so it allows me to learn by listening while I run or clean more or less on autopilot. Along with the podcast I launched this year, here are a few of the podcasts in my library: How I Built This, The Tim Ferriss Show, Y Combinator, Sharpen, and HBR Ideacast.
Update your Resume Quarterly. Regardless of whether you are in the job market or not, it is always a good idea to keep your resume fresh. You never know when someone may ask you for it, or when an amazing opportunity might present itself. Rather than asking someone to wait for a copy of your resume while you update it, or sending them an outdated version, take time every quarter to jot down your accomplishments and update your resume with relevant job and professional accomplishments so the information is fresh in your mind. I’ve recently switched from a chronological resume to a combination resume and am excited with the changes that I have seen.
Become an Engaging Public Speaker. One of the most important sources of success is the ability to communicate with other people. Whether you are selling an idea you have or selling your personal value, the most successful people I have seen are those who excel at inspiring others through their words. During my Year of Speaking Boldly challenge, I gathered and applied feedback and best practices on public speaking, and held myself accountable to present at least once a month.
Prioritize your Health and Wellness. If you are not already making time every day to sleep, sweat, and savor good food, it’s time to do so. Remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from Psych 101? Taking care of your physical needs first is the precursor to all other activities and accomplishments in life, including the ability to be creative and achieve your full potential. In my experience, dedicating time to exercise, sleep, and eat healthy the majority of the time gives me more energy for the day and a clearer head to make decisions and develop new ideas.
Set Aggressive Financial Goals (and Stick to Them). Whether you are currently focused on repaying student loans, saving for a down payment on a home, or investing in retirement, you owe it to your 60-year-old self to learn more about personal finance and to develop goals that will allow you to enjoy retirement. There are a plethora of personal financial strategies and advisors with their own ideas on how to manage money, but here are some universal basics: develop a budget and stick to it, pay off debt as fast as possible and avoid future debt (with the exception of a mortgage), start investing early in retirement, and be proactive about where your money goes rather than surprised at the end of the week or month. Different approaches work for different people, and it may change depending on your season of life. For example, when I was paying off undergraduate student loans and cash flowing my MBA, I went to a cash system where I paid myself a certain amount in cash every month for all expenses so I could avoid accidentally going over budget by putting purchases on a credit or debit card. Several years later, when we were saving money for a down payment, we transferred money to a savings account earmarked for the house every month. In both cases, I was able to see my money and either manage my expenses based on how much cash I had left or build excitement and momentum by seeing the number in the house fund go up.
Take Time to Dream. As a child, I remember the joy of being creative, using my imagination, and dreaming. While those skills naturally fade as we get older, for millennials, I think the introduction of electronic devices and social media during our childhood or adolescence has caused us to lose any interest in taking time to think and dream as adults. Instead, it is so easy to fill our idle time by scrolling through Facebook or Instagram to see what other people are doing, or to take the time to post something that we want others to see about our lives. While I have traditionally shied away from posting on social media, I used to fill idle time with scrolling through social media or would turn the television on to have noise on in the background. Last year, when I was preparing to go back to work after maternity leave and found myself with too few hours in the day, I tried giving up TV and social media and was amazed with how much more productive and joyful I felt. As I have continued this (with the exception of using social media to share content from this website), I have noticed that I am more observant and present in the moment. It has also given me time to think and dream about the future.
What other practices do you use to invest in yourself?