11 Solid Rules of Thumb for Adult Life
Being an adult is about more than the number of candles on your birthday cake. It’s about personal growth, building healthy habits, and embracing responsibility. It may sound like a daunting challenge (and in many ways it is), but it doesn’t have to be a painful process. Remember these 11 rules and you’ll do just fine (consider this your cheat sheet to life).
1. IF IT TAKES TWO MINUTES OR LESS, DO IT NOW.
It’s easy for little chores to pile up and become intimidating. To cut down on procrastination, do any task that takes less than two minutes to complete right away. This applies to anything from doing the dishes to responding to personal emails (work emails are another story, as studies show it may be more productive to spend longer stretches of time focusing on a single task—see No. 7). Just get it out of the way, and you won’t have to worry about it later. Avoiding procrastination will lead to a less cluttered house and mind.
2. KEEP YOUR IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS SAFE AND ORGANIZED.
Keeping documents organized is one of those things that doesn’t feel important until it’s too late. To avoid misplaced-passport-panic in the moments before you leave to catch a flight, or having to laboriously re-write and reformat your resume when your ancient laptop finally crashes for good, keep all of your important documents—both physical and digital—well organized. For physical documents, it’s a good idea to have a designated binder or drawer to keep everything important—from tax documents to bills to your lease—in one place. And for digital files: Back everything up often, either online or in a back-up hard drive.
3. RESTOCK HOUSEHOLD SUPPLIES BEFORE THEY RUN OUT.
Never get caught without household basics like toilet paper, paper towels, light bulbs, and batteries. Paying a little bit of attention to your stock of household supplies now is easier than dealing with a spill without any paper towels later. Find out what kinds of batteries the electronic devices in your home like remote controls and smoke detectors take: If the smoke detector in your home starts running low on juice, it will beep all day and night until you replace its battery, so it’s a good idea to grab a few in advance to avoid a sleepless night. Speaking of…
4. GET ENOUGH SLEEP.
Sleep is crucial to mental and physical health, but people habitually treat it like it’s optional. Fewer than seven hours a night will take a toll on your health; but, on the flip side, getting enough sleep can improve your ability to focus, lower your stress levels, and even keep you at a healthier weight. You’ll ultimately be able to get more done during the day by investing in a full night’s sleep than by staying up for a few extra hours to work.
5. LOOK TOWARDS THE FUTURE.
It’s totally possible to live in the moment and plan for the future at the same time. Break down your long term goals into smaller, more immediate tasks in order to spend less time worrying about distant future events. For instance, if you’re planning for a big career shift or a new job down the line, break that goal down into things you can do in the near future, like job applications, additional education, and networking events. Breaking your big goals into smaller tasks will help you get more done now, and allow you to worry less about the future in your down time.
6. PAY YOURSELF FIRST.
Start saving money right now—you’ll be glad you did. No matter how much money you’re making, it’s a good idea to put a little away each month. You can even have a set amount automatically transferred from your checking account into your savings at set intervals, so you won’t even have to think about it.
7. QUIT MULTITASKING.
Want to get more done? Sometimes it helps to do less. While it might feel like we’re getting more work completed when we perform multiple tasks at once, most of the time, that’s not the case. Multiple studies have found that multitasking breaks our focus, makes us less efficient, and can even cause cognitive damage in the long run. Instead of trying to do everything at the same time, break down your day into different tasks, and focus fully on each one. Many of our most common distractions are technology-related: If you’re at work, designate specific times to check and respond to emails; at home, put down your phone if you’re watching a movie or hanging out with friends.
8. LIVE A BALANCED LIFE.
People talk about finding a work/life balance, but it’s equally important to find a balance between categories like friends and family, fitness and relaxation, and being social and spending time on your own. Finding the right balance means something different for everyone, so it’s important to follow your own instincts instead of looking at what other people are doing. For some, working out at the gym every morning feels right, while others are happy to get their recommended weekly dose of cardiac exercise by heading out for jog or yoga class a few times a week. It’s important to pay attention to how you’re feeling, and find the balance of time spent on activities, work, and relationships that feels right for you.
9. STAND UP FOR YOURSELF...
Learning how to stand up for yourself isn’t just about fighting back when you’re being bullied. It’s about knowing how to express your feelings with tact, and voicing your opinions respectfully. Whether you’re negotiating a pay raise or caught in an argument with your significant other, it’s important to make sure you’re getting your point across in a way that’s assertive but not combative. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you’re listening as much as you’re talking, and to remind yourself that you’re having a conversation—not a fight.
10. …BUT DON’T BE AFRAID TO COMPROMISE.
When it comes to human emotions, things often exist in a gray area. For instance, if you’re arguing with a friend or significant other, it’s often more productive to find a middle ground than it is to prove you’re right.
11. DEVELOP GOOD HABITS THROUGH REPETITION.
When you’re a young adult, you have to work to undo all of the bad habits you developed in college, like going to bed too late, eating junk food, and skipping your workout in favor of takeout. Develop good habits the same way you developed the bad ones: Through repetition. Exercising regularly or eating healthy may feel like a chore now, but eventually it’ll be as second nature as staying up until 4 a.m. watching TV once was.