So, it’s March. How are your New Year’s Resolutions going?
As the January hangovers subside and the festive fog clears, people are full of hope and resolve to do the things they said they’d finally do this year. Decisions are made, apps are downloaded, gym gear is purchased. Then you return to work or study, re-start the cycle of your mundane bill-paying tasks, and all your good intentions fall by the wayside. Apps are guiltily removed from home screens, your gym clothes gradually give way to your favourite Netflix pants. Life overtakes you.
People make New Year’s resolutions for a reason: it’s a sensible time to set some goals and habits. Your early 20s are similar; in the longer term, it’s a good time in your life to start getting your shit together. People will no doubt be asking what you are doing or want to be doing with your life. You might not know the answers to that and that is definitely okay, but this list might provide you with a few pointers on how to be a competent and functioning adult.
While getting all of the habits below means you’re probably some sort of life coach robot, kick-starting a just few of them and keeping up with them is impressive enough. If you do have an idea of where you’re going, this will help you get there. And if you don’t, at the very least it’ll give you some ready-made answers if anyone asks:
Make Time Management a Priority
With all the technological diary assistance available, there really is no longer any excuse for not managing your time well.
Gmail now automatically adds events to your calendar when they appear in your email, and apps like Wunderlist can help you break tasks down into lists and sub-lists of items to check off as you complete them. If you’re prone to distraction, try something like Go Fucking Work, which will curse you out in capital letters if you attempt to stray to your favourite corner of the internet.
Remember that timeliness when meeting people is essentially a question of respect – if you keep people waiting without letting them know you’re running late, you’re telling them that you don’t value their time. Although you might be cool with your friends running 5-10 minutes late, it’s best to assume that other people are not as cool with it.
Balance the Scales
Unless you have Jay Z levels of wealth, most big decisions in life will come down to money vs. time. While we all need to make bank, it shouldn’t be at the expense of other things, like time with the important people in your life or looking after yourself.
If climbing the corporate ladder is one of your goals, by all means commit to it, but not at the expense of your health, relationships and sanity. You’re more likely to smash that Monday morning meeting if you’ve spent your weekend chilling out rather than slaving in the office.
Balance also applies to staying fit and healthy vs. occasionally indulging. While we strongly encourage you to be a little fancy, if you’re going hard on the good food and booze every day, it’s no longer a treat – it’s an imminent heart attack. Just ask Matty Matheson.
Pay Attention to the Bottom Line
Paying attention to your finances is going to save you a lot of long term pain. Tempting as it may be to spend up once you get your regular paychecks, it is all too easy to fall into a debt spiral – and banks will be more than happy to help you, as they make a killing on interest from your credit card debt.
Having at least a weekly check in with your finances is important to ensure you can meet all your obligations, pay off your debts, save for a rainy day and have fun money, too.
Much like time management, there are enough budgeting apps out there to match the money philosophy and level of nagging you need from your budget app, and you can find a good summary here. There’s a ton of budgeting blogs out there as well, but some that we like are Side Hustle Nation, 20somethingfinance and Broke Girl Rich.
As an adult, free of the restrictions of school and university, you can learn whatever and however the hell you want to learn. While it might not add any lines to your resume, it will enable you to better understand the perspectives and challenges of others. It’s also a great way to give your brain and body a break from your 9-5.
MOOCs (massive online open courses) such as those offered by edX and Coursera are a great free way to pick up on topics that you’ve always wanted to know more about, whether that’s the psychology of advertising, learning how to code or urban design. If you’re into podcasts, AV Club’s Podmass is a great way to find fresh ideas.
If your day to day job doesn’t provide you with the opportunity to create or make anything, think about taking a practical course in something like cooking, life-drawing or bike repair. Doing something with your hands can can be both relaxing and educational if you’re tethered to a desk to pay your bills.
Get Your Interpersonal Skills on Point
Integrity and empathy are of the two most important skills to hone in your 20s, but unfortunately you can only really learn them the hard way. Don’t be afraid to express your opinion, but make sure you’re not shutting out the opinions of others, or making an assumption about someone when you don’t know the facts or their story.
2016 revealed the gaping chasm of understanding and empathy between liberals who dismissed Trump and Brexit voters as uneducated and gullible, and conservatives who dismissed liberals as out-of-touch and elite. With everyone stuck in their own echo chamber, very little actual dialogue occurred.
The next time you butt heads with someone, listen to what they’re saying and try to see things from their perspective. It’ll prepare you well for your personal and professional future (providing that our future isn’t the Hunger Games, in which case you should immediately pick up archery and parkour).
Stop Ignoring Your Body
Your twenties are traditionally seen as the time when you throw everything you can at your body, whether you’re enjoying drugs and booze on the regular, or taking on intense physical feats like mountain-climbing. Regardless of how you enjoy yourself, your underlying health and recovery times will be vastly improved if you balance out the more intense elements of your lifestyle with good food, sleep and exercise.
Good quality mattresses are increasingly affordable thanks to companies like Casper, Tuft & Needle, Leesa, and Saatva, who offer 100 night trials, 10 year warranties and easy returns. Thug Kitchen’s motto is “eat like you give a fuck,” and their cookbooks of cheap, easy vegan and vegetarian recipes read more like Action Bronson than Nigella Lawson.
If you can’t afford a gym membership and you don’t like running, Darebee has a range of easy to follow, equipment-free workouts, and there’s also a bunch of exercise channels on YouTube. If you’re having difficulty getting motivated to exercise, allow Lethal Bizzle to shame you into getting fit.
Ditch Your Sycophant Impulses
Whether you intend to or not, at some point you are going to piss people off. Sometimes, it’ll be because you’ve genuinely been a dick, or miscommunicated something (for that, see “listen and think before you speak” above). But sometimes, someone’s not going like the tone of your voice or the distance between your eyes. Aside from reflecting on your communication, you can do very little about whether people like or dislike you.
Your time is precious, so don’t waste it hanging out with people who you don’t really like, or who don’t return your emotional (and sometimes financial) investment. Figure out who the most important people in your life are and spend time with them, and if they’re spread out all over the world, make sure you keep in contact.
Don’t spend time with people just because y’all went to school together or grew up on the same street. People grow up, change and move on, and some of those people become douchebags. Recognize when you’re flogging a dead friendship horse and move on accordingly.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. While we strongly encourage you to take one day a year to fully “treat yo’self,” being kind to yourself on the regular is also important. As discussed above, sometimes people will hate on you for no real reason and despite your best efforts, so make sure you’re not making things even more difficult by being unnecessarily hard on yourself.
Some people have criticized self-care as encouraging people to become insular and disconnected from the world at large. Fuck ‘em. If you’ve had enough of people and the world for a while, do something that makes you feel good to recharge before you re-engage. Run a bath, smash some porcelain, buy a Batman suit or have a nap – you do you.
Pro tip: if you are planning a treat yo’self day requiring cash, make sure you plan your finances accordingly in advance. You really shouldn’t be treating yo’self with debt.
Gone are the days where a tertiary degree was a surefire way of securing a well-paid, professional job. Statistics show that a degree no longer means what it used to, and yet it is significantly more expensive than it used to be.
Despite the fact that a degree no longer guarantees you a job, it should not be dismissed as worthless. Use your studies to explore areas that interest you, rather than choosing the most “practical” or “sensible” subject. Society could definitely benefit from people with strong critical thinking skills and a sense of curiosity, regardless of what degree you graduate with.
Terms like “career path” and “success” continue to change, grow and take increasingly nebulous forms, so don’t be afraid to say yes to unexpected opportunities. So-called “career mistakes” eventually become really good motivation to push you in the right direction. If nothing else, it will teach you a valuable lesson of what not to do in future.
Care Less About Outside Influences
As you move through your twenties, your peers are going to start locking down everything that society expects as you progress down the approved track of life: a steady job, a steady partner, a house, kids, and so forth. If you’re not ticking these boxes, it’s easy to panic and think that you’ve fallen behind – particularly at this time of year, when engagements and weddings are blowing up your feeds like a snowstorm of tasteful bunting.
Society and media can gaslight us into thinking that we’re missing the essential components of life, that we don’t have or are not ourselves enough. Realistically, the marriage/house/kids progression is completely beyond reasonable reach for millennials, so the fact that it’s still held up as an ideal is ludicrous.
There is a simple solution to this: stop giving a single fuck what anyone else thinks. The only standard of happiness that you need to meet is your own. The sooner you stop checking your life against other people’s milestones, the clearer your own path will be.