20 Things Everyone Should Know for a Happier Career, Business and Life

Laura Benjamin

You will sleep better, live happier, get more dates and become more good-looking if you follow these 20 tips for career and life!

1. Purchase your name as a domain name via Godaddy.com or BlueHost.com so no one else can take it. You don’t have to publish a blog or website when you purchase a domain name. It will cost you less than $15.00 a year and you never know when you will become famous, decide to write a book, or run for public office. You’ll be glad you secured your name in advance, especially if it’s a popular or common name.

2. Create a Master List of Accomplishments. This is a growing list where you record all the great things you’ve achieved in all the jobs you’ve ever held. Try to quantify your accomplishments if possible. You will find this list very handy when you need a psychological lift, when you are updating your resume or if your manager needs to be reminded of what you did all year long before they write your performance review. Segment the accomplishments into functional categories, like: communication, leadership, operations, crisis management, project management, budgeting, etc.

3. Write Thank You notes. Keep a variety of blank Thank You notes handy at home and at work and use them often. Handwritten notes are rare and people are always impressed when someone takes the time to send one. If you give them to employees, volunteers, donors or co-workers, you may find them posted in their office for all to see. It’s a tangible reminder they have been recognized for doing something worthwhile.

4. Read one book a month. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, reading will improve your knowledge base, your writing and your conversational skills. If your time is limited, as it is for most people, carve out just 15 minutes a day (perhaps before bed or at lunch) to work your way through it. Not sure what to read? Ask friends, co-workers or a manager for recommendations.

5. Make promises you intend to keep. Many of us try to be the good guy and promise to do much more than we are realistically able to deliver. You will raise your credibility in the eyes of others if you are discriminating in the things you agree to do. Delivering on your promises, especially if it’s earlier than expected, will enhance your reputation.

6. Make recommendations without being asked. Obviously, make sure you only do this for those you can endorse without hesitation. If your company doesn’t have a policy against it, post positive comments on LinkedIn under the Recommendations Section. Be specific. You will make someone’s day a whole lot brighter and you could help boost their career.

7. Put as much as possible in your retirement account. If your employer will match your contribution or put X amount into your account as long as you contribute X, take advantage of it! In most cases, these are pre-tax dollars you are investing, which makes them more valuable. The younger you start, the more your investment will grow so you don’t have to play catch-up when you get older. And just because you don’t plan to stay with one employer for a long time is no reason not to take advantage of this benefit while you work there.

8. Form professional relationships with all age groups. Everyone has something to offer and age is not a predictor of someone’s value. We can all learn something new from those who are younger or older than ourselves. Mix it up!

9. Floss your teeth. Experts say it’s one of the best ways to keep from losing teeth and to protect your heart. Establish a time when you can get this done. Can you do it while watching TV?

10. Wear sunscreen. If you want to look years younger as you age, wear it every day regardless of whether it’s sunny outside or not. This is one of the best things I learned from a former supervisor. (She wondered if this was the only thing I learned from her!)

11. Give yourself credit. You may have a talent or possess knowledge you are keeping to yourself. You might be thinking, “There are so many others who know far more than I or seem to be more accomplished. How can I ever compete?” Right? This way of thinking is a trap. It’ll keep you from giving the gift that only you can offer. You know enough to be able to help others. You can provide some level of service or support. There are always people who will value your level of expertise. Don’t lock it away simply because you have competition. Dare to do it anyway!

12. Clear the debris. When our house burned down in a wildfire, I learned (through no choice of my own) the value of starting fresh. Sometimes too much clutter - on our desks, in our offices, on our schedules - can keep us from thinking clearly and being creative. It’s sometimes easier to start from scratch rather than work around something (or someone) we’re reluctant to part with.

13. Start a “Breadcrumbs Book”. This is different than a journal. It is a chronological list of events and significant changes that happen in your life. It’s meant to just capture the highlights. You will find it helpful when you want an “at a glance” look back at what’s happened to you and what you’ve accomplished.

14. Leave a job only after you’ve found a new one. You are perceived as more valuable and marketable if you are employed - at something. It may be tempting to walk away when things get rough, especially if you have a hefty savings account. But if you don’t have a choice, set up a consulting practice or small business to do in the interim. It shows continuous employment.

15. Maximize LinkedIn. This social media tool is one of the best career development resources and an efficient way to stay connected with others. Update your profile and reach out to those from your past. You don’t have to be in management or a professional position to gain from it. Friends, colleagues and acquaintances will be able to learn more about your background and experience, which may make it easier for them to refer you for opportunities of many types.

16. Create a Contact Card. This is a personal card with all your contact information. People transition from one job to another, so business cards may quickly become outdated. It would be a shame for people to lose track of you, so give the right people something with your personal email, cell phone number, LinkedIn profile address, Twitter handle, etc. on it.

17. Build in “buffer”. Based on the book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson, add some “wiggle room” into your daily schedule, financial plans and emotional commitments. Avoid living on the edge. Build in an extra 10 minutes between appointments, keep a reserve in your checking account, reduce the time spent with people who drain you. Adding “margin” to your life will reduce stress and improve your quality of life.

18. Create a household inventory. You never know when there might be an emergency or disaster where you will have to document everything you owned to get reimbursement from your insurance company. Don’t try to do this all in one day. Focus on one room at a time. Note brand names, quantity and dates you acquired each item. Take pictures of antiques and get them appraised. Make sure you have a rider on your policy for jewelry or other expensive items. Keep this inventory with your “to go” box or “bug out” bag along with a copy of your insurance policy. Take it from me, it is no fun to have to create an inventory from memory.

19. Make an emergency contact list. Post the names and contact info of people to call should there be an emergency. The top of the list should be 911. Add an ICE (in case of emergency) contact into your cell phone.

20. When you hear an alarm - get out! It’s amazing how many people will stand around and wait for someone to give them permission to leave. More lives are lost when people don’t take emergency sirens seriously.