Your early 20s are a strange time in your life. It’s usually the first time you’re figuring out what it means to be an adult.
Whether you’re still in school or recently graduated, on your own or still living with your parents, you could benefit from some advice from those who’ve already figured out how to survive in the real world.
In a recent Quora thread, users addressed the question: “What can I do in my 20s that will benefit my future self?“
We’ve summarized some of the best responses, beginning with several insights from Shikhar Agarwal, a young computer engineer living in Palo Alto, Calif., whose insights led the discussion.
If you’re in your early 20s, Agarwal says you should…
1. Learn to manage and balance your time.
Without the structure of school, it’s up to you to figure how to organise your day. Since you’ll be busy laying the foundation for your career, investing in your romantic life, and trying to have time left over for yourself, you’ll need to figure out how to prioritise and juggle competing demands. Agarwal recommends experimenting with different approaches until you’ve mastered the art of time management.
2. Put down your smartphone.
This generation grew up with social media, and many are probably too attached to their smartphones. Realise that someone liking your photo on Facebook or upvoting your post on Reddit isn’t as important as what’s going on around you. If you’re living in the moment, you can actually learn something, listen better, and contribute to the conversation.
3. Travel as much as you can.
As Agarwal puts it, when you’re in your early 20s, “you are mature enough to go out on your own and immature enough to learn from others.” Take trips that introduce you to new cultures and open your mind to new ways of thinking. In addition to gaining confidence and social skills, you’ll make memories that will last the rest of your life.
4. Pursue passion, not money.
At this stage, you likely do not have a spouse, kids, and a mortgage to take care of. Use this freedom to follow your heart rather than a big paycheck. Agarwal referenced a Steve Jobs’ quote: “If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.”
5. Figure out who you really are.
Use this period in your life to figure out what truly drives you, what scares you, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and who truly cares about you. Understanding who you are and what you’d like to achieve in life will give you peace of mind and set you up for success.
6. Remember that a larger world exists beyond your doorstep.
As you become more successful, give back to society’s less fortunate. Whether it’s by volunteering or donating to charity, plenty of evidence shows that those who pay it forward lead much happier lives than those who don’t.
Other Quora users weighed in as well, saying you should…
7. Learn to ignore the voice that tells you to give up.
Fight the voice in your head urging you take the easy route. If you don’t learn to ignore it, that same voice will plague you throughout your life, whether you’re trying to be healthier or gunning for a promotion. If you can overcome it, “you can push yourself to heights never imagined, and it will help you during hard times.” — Sang Young Noh
8. Start saving.
Even if you’re paying off student loans, you should start a habit of setting aside a portion of every paycheck in an emergency fund. Set a goal of having enough money to cover at least six months of expenses, in case of an injury or job loss. Make sure to also take advantage of a retirement plan offered by your employer, because you’ll appreciate the accrued interest years from now. — Drew Eckhardt
9. Take care of your body.
You’re in the prime of your life. Now’s the time to establish healthy exercise and eating habits, because it won’t be as easy to change once you grow older. And take good care of your skin to avoid the onset of wrinkles. — Mo Seetubtim
10. Get as much education as possible, be it in the classroom or not.
If you want to get a graduate degree, go for it. But even if you don’t spend any additional time in the classroom, read as much as possible, about as many things as possible. Learn a new language; get some writing published. You’ll never have as much free time and energy as you do now, so gain as much knowledge as you can. — Bill Welsh
11. Accept your mistakes and learn from them.
As you establish yourself in the world, you’re going to make mistakes in all aspects of your life. Don’t react too emotionally to any of them, and make sure that you learn how to avoid repeating them. “If you understand this, it will make you patient with other people who make mistakes, and you will learn forgiveness. It’s a very short hop from there to kindness, the greatest virtue a human being can have.” — Bill Welsh
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