Updated: Jul 29, 2019
Everything I talk about on this blog is said in order to help you pursue one goal: getting your shit together. A lot of people in their early (and later) adulthood have no idea what they’re doing. We’ve been thrown out into the world utterly unprepared (the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell tho), and no one taught us how to be adults.
Granted, there are plenty of things I can’t teach you about that transition into semi-confidently being a functional adult. I’m not great at most things related to finances (although the Financial Diet can help!). But I can help you build self-discipline and be more productive. I know how to set goals, how to schedule time, and how to effectively organize your life.
So if you’re feeling a little lost and aren’t sure how to go about functioning as an independent person, this post serves as something of a master list of Things You Need To Do As An Adult. It’s a good starting place if you really aren’t sure what you’re doing.
So without further ado, these are the skills and habits that I’ve found most important in surviving as someone in her early 20s who is still figuring out how life works after graduation. When I do all of these things consistently, I feel more or less like I have my life together.
Calendar blocking helps you use your time efficiently and actually do all of those things that you want to do. Learning to schedule and manage your own time is imperative now that there’s no one to do it for you.
Without a solid time management system in place, it’s difficult to move forward with any other goals. You may not need to plan your days down to the minute, but blocking out your time in half hour or hour long chunks will help you make the most of your time.
You have way more time than you think, but it is passing quickly, and it will continue to pass whether you’re making good use of it or not. Planning out your time and then sticking to that plan is non-negotiable if you really want to go after your goals.
This isn’t something I mention all that often on the blog because it’s not really my focus, though I did write about how to make meal prepping work for you, and a few tips and tricks for making your life more delicious. That said, I consider cooking to be an essential skill for every adult to have.
If you can’t cook, eating healthy is typically either expensive or impossible. Learning to cook is life changing. I know that I’m biased because cooking is one of my passions, but there’s nothing quite like making a delicious meal for yourself. You’ll save tons of money and have much more control over what you eat.
Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. There are plenty of stir fries and pasta dishes that come together in less than twenty minutes and use only a few ingredients. The internet is full of recipes for every skill level, kitchen limitation, and dietary restriction. I love Bon Appetit if you aren’t easily intimidated, and Pick Up Limes is great if you’re very new to cooking and need a gentle guiding hand.
If learning about food and cooking are things that you’re interested in, let me know and I can definitely write more blog posts about them! I love answering your questions!
All of those annoying things in life are faster and easier when you have a system to deal with them.
Need a system to get your to do list to zero and make sure you’re prepared for the week? Create a Sunday Reset plan.
Need a system for assessing your progress toward your goals and adjusting your actions as necessary? Do weekly reviews!
So many of those annoying tasks that plague you and your to do list can be handled painlessly if you create a system to deal with them. Rather than having to consciously plan it out all the time and fight with yourself to get it done, implement a routine that handles it for you. When you already have a strategy in place and know what needs to be done, and when and how to do it, you can handle all of that crap much more quickly and easily.
A huge part of being an adult is learning to prioritize your future self. When we’re kids, most of the adults in our lives typically do this for us. We may hate going to school, but they make us do it anyway because it will benefit us in the long run.
Once we’re in charge of our own lives, we have the option to constantly prioritize our present comfort over our long-term health and success, and many of us do. This is one of the biggest life mistakes that you can make.
One day, you will be older. You will have to face the consequences of your present-day decisions. Whether or not those consequences are pleasant or not is up to you.
There isn’t one solution or strategy to become better at delaying gratification. It takes practice. It takes love for your future self and realizing that they are a real person and one day you will have to live that life. It takes willpower. It takes self-discipline. It takes all of these other things that I’m talking about in this article. Focusing on strengthening those skills help you learn to delay gratification.
We live in a society of instant gratification. We can have food show up at our door at the push of a button. All of human knowledge lives at our fingertips, accessible at a moment’s notice. We’ve been trained to crave immediate results and immediate relief from boredom and discomfort.
It’s up to you to free yourself from the grip of the instant gratification addiction. It isn’t easy, but it is possible. Everything I talk about on this blog will help to push you in the right direction.
Morning and Night Routines
These aren’t strictly necessary to be successful, but I’d be willing to bet (and I’m not a gambler) that nearly all successful people out there living lives they love have some sort of ritual in place to start and end each day. Using your time intentionally is a huge part of transitioning to adulthood, and formally beginning and ending each day with a small routine assures that no day is completely wasted. It also signals to your mind that it’s time to get things done or time to go to sleep.
Having a morning routine wakes you up and sets the tone for your day. If you slide out of bed at noon and promptly plop yourself on the couch, that’s the kind of day you’re going to have. On the other hand, if you wake up with intention and take the time to go through a thoughtfully planned routine, that sets an entirely different tone for your day.
Your nighttime routine transitions you from the bustle of the day to the comfort of your bed. If you struggle to pull yourself away from your phone/laptop/tv/game every night and go to sleep, you need a nighttime routine. It will replace those habits that you’re trying to break with new, productive habits that leave you feeling ready to sleep and get you in bed on time. Your mom isn’t here to tell you to go to sleep every night, so you’ve got to make that happen on your own.
Setting, Planning, and Working Toward Goals
This one is a big one because if you can set, plan, and work toward goals, you can do pretty much anything.
Raise your hand if you don’t currently have any goals—or if you have goals, but can’t remember the last time that you made a conscious effort to work toward them, or when you last assessed your progress toward your goal.
If your hand is in the air, start with a life audit. That will help you build a big picture and start to give yourself a direction in life. It’s okay if this is fairly broad and you have no idea how you’ll get to many of those goals. This is just a process to get you started.
Then, use the 5-4-3-2-1 method to start figuring out how you get from where you are now to where you’d like to be. In that post, I walk you through the process of breaking your goals down into manageable pieces, which is one of the most important things to do when you decide to work toward a goal. Your brain likes little pieces. They’re much less intimidating than big goals and easier to check off a checklist.
While you’re at it, even if you already have some goals, take time to find and solidify your Why. When you find your Why, you build intrinsic motivation. You build that kind of endless determination that keeps you pushing forward even when things get difficult. And if you can’t find a Why, maybe that goal isn’t for you.
With that, you have the collection of things that I consider most important for becoming a functioning and successful adult.
If you aren’t currently doing any of these, don’t try to overhaul your entire life overnight. Lifestyle changes require patience and time. To set yourself up for success, start small. Choose one thing that you’d like to focus on first, and take small, consistent baby steps toward that for a few weeks before taking on more. Trying to do too much at once will leave you overwhelmed and burned out.
In addition to all of this, taking care of yourself is important. Eating healthy, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are all things that I would consider integral to being a functional person. Those types of things are in a slightly different vein than this post, though, so I left them out this time.
If there’s interest, I could write a post about how I do these three things. I touch on each of them fairly often, but I’ve never gone into detail about all of my routines and habits for staying healthy and taking care of myself. If there’s interest in all the nitty-gritty details of how exactly I take care of my body, leave a comment or like this post so that I know and I’ll write a post about it.