1. Know how to use every household appliance. This means that you can run a load of laundry, use the vacuum, and assemble the coffee maker without the help of someone else. Sure, maybe you have to Google something every now and then but it’s probably more along the lines of “should I broil or bake” as opposed to “how do I turn the oven on.”
2. Exercise. Take the time to figure out what works for you, your body, and your schedule. Just get moving. Life isn’t going to get less busy. If you can’t find time in your days now, it’s probably going to be tough to find time when another decade of responsibilities is dropped on you. There is so much science behind the benefits of exercising, both immediate and long-term. Not only will you thank yourself, your 30-, 50-, and 70-year-old self will thank you.
3. Bring host/hostess gifts. If someone is inviting you into their home or is taking a group of people out, it is incredibly classy to show up with a little something for them. Whether it’s something special like a candle or a bottle or wine or something silly and event- or person-specific like a box of microwave popcorn for a movie night or a bottle opener for the friend who’s been cracking them open with their keys, people will be appreciative and you’ll be remembered.
4. Use digital technology to connect people. We have so many ways to stay connected that it is absurd how often we leave a gathering without making a new contact. Be the person who creates a group message after happy hour to connect two of your friends that hit it off for the first time.
5. Know how to throw together a three-course meal. This does not mean you have to go earning a Michelin star in your studio apartment. It doesn’t even mean you have to be a great cook. But if you can master at least one full meal and whip it up without referencing a cookbook or the Internet, you’re already a step ahead.
6. Have an essential that all of your friends know you’re good for. Maybe you’re super practical and always carry sunscreen, hand sanitizer, or tampons—all month long. Maybe you’re more whimsical and always have your ukulele in the trunk of your car. Either way, creating dependability around yourself, even for something small, is very adult.
7. Curate your physical space to reflect your personality. If all of the doors were thrown open in your apartment building and your friends wandered in, would they be able to pick out your unit? Having a space that speaks to the person you are implies that you’ve settled in a little bit, you’ve put thought into the appearance, and you care about being authentic to yourself.
8. Call your parents. Or your grandma, or your favorite uncle, or your high school teacher that took you under their wing. Whoever feels like home to you, call them. Be in touch. Being aware of you who helped you to get to where you are now will help you get to where you’re going in the future, too.
9. Wear a signature fragrance. Whenever I learn that one of my friends has a daily fragrance, I always think they are way more put together than I am. It takes a lot of work to nail down, for example, what face wash works. If you’ve got a fragrance going on you’ve leveled up.
10. Write—and be timely about sending—thank you cards. Show appreciation whenever you can. Make it not only about the person you’re thanking but also about yourself—your gratitude and your mindfulness around being important to other people. A thank you note shows that you’ve gone out of your way to set aside time and energy for someone.
11. Know more than one language. The world is the smallest it’s ever been. Stretch your mind accordingly.
12. Read. Chances are you and most of your friends have entered the workforce. Maybe you’ve got a handful of friends seeking continuing in higher education, but at this point your education is solely in your hands, which is kind of scary and kind of exciting. Find the time to read books that you can’t wait to get back to. Find the stories and the subjects you can’t help but bring up at dinner parties. You—and your conversation—will be better for it.
13. Go out of your way to take physical care of yourself. This means different things for different people, but figure out what works for you and do it. Get your haircut every six weeks or your nails done twice a month. Ball out at the Vitamin Shoppe. Take advantage of any health plan you have by getting your physical, going to the dermatologist for a sun spot skin screening, and seeing the dentist every six months.
14. Keep your past finances in order. Still have student loans? Prioritize them. Using a credit card? Pay it off every month. A dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow, especially when there are interest rates involved. Your 30-year-old self will thank you.
15. And have some financial security for the future. If you have a salaried job, you should have investments. Period. It doesn’t matter if it is the smallest amount of your monthly paycheck. It could be as small as you ditching your Starbucks habit and put $100 a month into a retirement plan. Check if your work place has matching programs. Take advantage of investing at an early age.
16. Stick to daily routines for your mental and emotional health. Whether this means you go to church every Sunday, meditate, journal, or see a therapist, do the thing you need to do to be your best self. If you haven’t found it yet, make a commitment to yourself to keep trying things until you do.
17. Become a stickler about general household cleanliness. Basically, do the things your mom would heckle you about. Wash your dishes directly after using them. Put your laundry away instead of living out of the hamper. Have a bathroom that you feel good about walking barefoot in. Don’t be the person who can’t take someone into your place because it’s messy unless there’s a reason for it to be clean. There doesn’t have to be a reason to make your bed. Just make it.
18. Develop a personal style. This will be helpful for your image and your budget. Knowing what’s “you” and what’s not isn’t just about style; it’s about being in touch with the person you are and the person you want to project.
19. Having a feeling about purpose or direction in life, even if it’s not ironed out yet. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re employed at your dream job. In fact, if that’s the case you’re probably in the minority. But being able to listen to your gut when you think, “Maybe this isn’t for me,” or “I think I’d be really good at that,” is key. The first step to leading a fulfilling life is deciding that your purpose and direction are worthwhile enough to align them with what you spend the majority of your time doing.
20. Do the things you want to do without FOMO. All your friends are going out but you want to watch Netflix and chill…with yourself? Do it. Let yourself do the things you want. Being in control of your time and desires is very grown up: you’re the boss of you.
21. Establish hobbies. Having certain activities that you always do and allow yourself the time to do is great for yourself but also great for your social life. If everyone knows you’re the movie buff or the weekend hiker, they’ll turn to you when they are seeking out those activities.
22. Become comfortable with doing things alone. Very closely linked to doing the things you want without FOMO. As you settle into your 20s you’ll realize that while most people think of FOMO as a group of people doing something that you didn’t do with them, there’s also a second, sneakier type of FOMO. Sometimes you’ll feel like you missed out on an experience you didn’t do because no one would do it with you. Push against that. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing alone. Start small by taking yourself to the movies or to a manicure. Then go big: solo to a concert, solo to the club, solo to a fancy dinner.
23. Be prepared. Thinking ahead for what you might need lets you better live in the moment when the moment does come. For some people, this means you’ve got sunscreen in your bag when you go the beach. For other people, this means you’ve got condoms in the nightstand. Whatever it is you find yourself doing, be ready for it.
24. Cut the drama. People will sometimes express an idea with words you wouldn’t have chosen. Friends might tell you an outfit isn’t so cute without enough tact. Whatever it is, if you’re not going to remember it a week from now, don’t bother with it. Save your energy and the energy of people around you for the things that really count.
25. Stay up to date with the news. It’s not always happy stuff, but you need to know what’s going on in the world especially if you have the privileged position of finding out through news sources instead of first hand experience. Find a news outlet you love and stick to it.