My career over the past seven years hasn’t been perfect—in fact, we could all agree that if we had the chance, we’d probably turn back time and do certain things a little bit differently.
Alas, this isn’t possible (otherwise someone please tell me where can I get one of those time machines). However, I have learned several valuable lessons throughout my experience that might help you as you navigate your own career.
Pst—you’re not too late to do any of these things!
1. Invest Less in Materials, More in Your Mind
The trajectory of your career will be largely based on how you decide to spend your initial paychecks. You’ll be tempted to spend it on getting a nicer apartment, upgrading your clothes, and going out to fancier restaurants.
While these aren’t necessarily bad things—you deserve to treat yourself every once in a while—you might want to think about spending your money on knowledge instead. It’ll not only give you the greatest return on investment, but also be the one thing that lasts over time.
There are certain skills that are applicable to any job, such as communication, knowing how to effectively read and write, building strong relationships, networking, and time management, while there are obviously others that are more specific to your industry.
To expand on any of these, you have several options for investing your money (instead of having a luxurious weekend away)—you can take an online class, or buy a career-boosting book, or even hire a career coach.
2. Make Health a Number One Priority
Health is the foundation that accelerates everything in your life, including your career. It elevates your creativity, energy, and grit to get through the inevitable ups and downs you’ll experience.
For far too long, I struggled to find breakthroughs in my career because I was neglecting my health, both mental and physical. This led to having less willpower and discipline during my day, and thus being less productive over time.
Prioritizing your health isn’t just a one-time task. It actually has to take priority over everything you do. That means scheduling it into your calendar, making investments to buy the right food and exercise regularly, and even giving up other bad habits.
It’s true: Once you have your health together, everything else comes easier.
3. Learn How to Best Manage Your Time (Whatever That Means for You)
How we spend our time ultimately determines how much we accomplish in our lifetime. While 30 minutes here or there getting sucked into Facebook or taking one too many coffee breaks doesn’t feel like much, it can start to add up in a bad way.
The thing is, how you manage your time is something only you can figure out—everyone works through their to-dos in different ways.
The best time management tactics I’ve learned over time—that might help you get started—are usually the simplest. For example, you can try scheduling everything into your calendar so each task has a specific time frame for completion.
Or, you can try the “One Thing” strategy of asking yourself, “What’s the one task I can complete that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”
Or, you can try one of these six better productivity hacks for people who don’t love the “famous” ones.
We can’t control how time passes, but we can maximize it to be, do, and achieve more.
4. Treat Every Relationship as Life-Long
The person you meet today may be someone you work with two, five, or 10 years from now. He or she could be an employee you want to hire, a potential business partner, or even your future boss.
When you treat every relationship as a lifelong relationship, you’ll be more giving, more patient, and more pleasant to be around.
To practice this daily, you need to focus on giving first without expecting anything in return. This might mean checking in with someone you met at a networking event via social media or over email every few months to see what’s new with them. Or, setting aside time in your calendar to regularly have lunch with team members.
And, you never know how even the most insignificant relationships will help you down the road. For example, because she stayed in contact with a networking connection, Ann Shoket, author and former Editor-in-Chief at Seventeen Magazine, turned a one-time meetup into the job that launched her career.
5. Think Bigger
One of the most common regrets I hear from successful people I interview is that they “didn’t think big enough.”
Many of the things we want in our lives will come to us as long as we give ourselves the permission to receive them. I’m sure there are things you have in your life today that five years ago you only dreamed about.
Whether you’re looking for a promotion, a new career opportunity, or a better life overall, it starts by thinking 10X bigger and raising your standards.
For example, billionaire and co-founder of Paypal Peter Thiel came up with a great question you can ask yourself to do just this:
What would you have to do if you want to achieve your 10-year goal in six months?
As unrealistic as it may sound, this level of thinking forces you to break past your current limitations and fears and ultimately approach your career with confidence, ambition, and a clear head.
How about you: What’s one thing that you would do differently if you started your career over? Let me know on Twitter!
Photo of person thinking courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Sean Kim is the CEO of Rype, the first language platform to offer 24/7 unlimited private language lessons for busy people. He's also a contributor for Fast Company, Huffington Post, 99U, and several other major media outlets, sharing his thoughts on entrepreneurship, the future of work, productivity, and more.More from this Author