If you want to get ahead at the office (opens in new tab) and in other areas of your life then you can’t just be productive when you’re at your desk – you need to work on yourself, too.
Happily, if you want to commit to self-improvement, you don’t have to make big changes. Instead, one of the best ways to deliver meaningful, permanent change is to take small, practical steps every day.
If you’d like to work on different areas of your life, there are plenty of modest and notable changes that you can deploy right now that can result in personal and professional development sooner than you think.
You don’t have to just rely on the ten methods we’ve listed here if you want to work on yourself, either. Use our guide to SMART goals (opens in new tab) if you need some help on creating achievable objectives, and head here for the best self-care methods for home workers (opens in new tab).
Learn a new professional skill
If you’re enthusiastic about your career and your prospects for future growth then you’ll likely be aware of the areas where you need a boost – and addressing one of those areas is a perfect way to kick off a practical self-improvement schedule.
Look around online, and you’ll find no shortage of great courses. Big job sites (opens in new tab) like LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter and Indeed offer free and affordable courses that cover every professional topic. You’re only a quick search away from courses that’ll cover hobbies and interests, too. And you don’t have to stick to the internet if you want to learn a new skill – local colleges and education centers often offer professional courses for adults.
Learn a new language
Self-improvement is, ultimately, all about learning – so it’s no surprise that practical tips revolve around learning something new, too.
If you commit to a new language, you’ll develop your linguistic skills and widen your worldview. If you learn to speak a new language to a high standard then it’ll open your travel horizons, which is great for vacations, and it could also lead to new job opportunities. And you won’t just improve your speaking skills either – a long-term commitment like learning a language can improve your writing, patience, and communication skills, and those are all useful in a wide variety of professional settings.
Hit the books
Most of us spend hours scrolling through smartphones (opens in new tab) or binging TV shows. And while that certainly has its place, especially when you need to relax, we all know that it’s not the best way to spend time if you want to improve yourself and your prospects.
One easy, practical way to turn that time into pure productivity (opens in new tab)? Read more. And it doesn’t necessarily matter what you read, either: whether it’s your favorite fiction, biographies of successful sports stars or self-help books, getting stuck into a book will improve your knowledge, increase your attention span and boost your focus. There’s a reason why many of the most successful people around always have their nose in a book.
Perfect your morning routine
The most successful people on the planet don’t just do lots of reading – they start the day right, too. If you wake up at the same time, eat healthy food, shower, wear clean clothes and ensure you’ve got everything you need for the day ahead, that day will be calmer and more productive.
When you have a consistent, calm start to every day, good things will follow – you’ll certainly have a better shot at success than if you wake up late and endure a chaotic and stressful start.
One of the best ways to improve yourself in every way is to get regular exercise. You’ll improve your physical health if you regularly exercise, but that’s not all – your mental health will get a boost and your focus, concentration and alertness all increase.
While there’s no denying the benefits of exercise, this is one self-improvement tip that will look different for everyone. Some people with an elevated level of physical fitness should develop their routines, while others will need to start with a modest activity level. Morning exercise will be achievable for some, evenings will work for others, and lunchtimes will be best for certain people.
No matter what kind of exercise routine you develop, you can be sure that exercise is a practical choice that can make a significant difference to your personal and professional life.
In much the same way, you can take immediate steps to self-improvement by changing your diet. Skip breakfast? Eat something healthy instead and you’ll find your job performance improves in the morning. If you’d usually grab something unhealthy for lunch, switch to a more nutritious meal to power you through the afternoon.
There are more health hacks, too: ditch fatty, carb-ridden snacks for healthier options to stave off hunger and give yourself a boost, and eat a smaller meal at an earlier time in the evening to improve your sleep. A healthier eating regime is a practical and achievable option for most people and it’ll help you develop in many other areas.
Listen to the music
We’ve already recommended learning a language or a new skill as a practical self-improvement tip, but if you don’t fancy either of those then learning a musical instrument is another top-notch choice.
If you start to play an instrument you’ll engage with your creative side, feel happier and find a new way to express yourself. On a more practical level, if you commit to learning a musical instrument you’ll improve your dedication, patience and concentration levels, and you may even find new friends if you join a band or orchestra.
Lots of people will talk for hours about the benefits of meditation, but there’s science beyond the self-satisfaction. Studies have shown that regular meditation improves your mental health, sleep, memory skills and attention span, and it can target particular issues, like anxiety or depression.
There’s a huge amount to be gained if you start meditating, and it doesn’t have to be a time-sink – install an app like Calm or Headspace and you can take this practical step in five or ten minutes per day.
Sort out your space
You may have committed to improving yourself by meditating, learning something new or changing how you eat, but you’ll have a better chance of success if you place yourself in a welcoming environment.
At home and work that means much the same thing: keeping your environment airy and tidy rather than cluttered, messy and uncomfortable. If you exist in a space that promotes clear thinking and calm progress, your brain will be more inclined to follow suit.
Head to therapy
See a therapist or counselor if you really want to work on yourself. They’ll use their professional skills to help you resolve trauma, improve your mental health and develop better strategies for dealing with problematic situations.
This practical step won’t be an option for everyone, given the waiting lists for publicly-funded treatment and the cost of private practitioners. But if you can see a therapist regularly, you’ll reap the benefits.
Want to learn a new language? We’ve featured the best online courses to learn Spanish (opens in new tab).