THE BLOG
10/01/2014 08:43 am ET Updated Dec 01, 2014

On My 30th Birthday, 30 Tips for Your 20s

As I turn 30, I ask myself: When my 20s were yet to unfold, what do I wish I'd known, been told, or better understood?

While I have not heeded all of the pieces of advice that follow, some came instinctively, some were learned from watching other people, and plenty of insights are a consequence of plenty of mistakes.

What wisdom would be on your list? Share with me on Twitter (@PGSittenfeld) what you think can help people make the most of their first decade of adulthood.

1) Become friends with your parents. They no longer need to parent you in the same way as when you were growing up. There's a wonderful freedom in getting to know, appreciate, and value each other as adults.

2) Get comfortable and get good at working the phone. Old-fashioned, maybe, but it's by far the most high-impact mode of non-face-to-face communicating and for getting things done.

3) Invite friends and acquaintances over for meals. Your hosting performance need not be fancy; the act of simply breaking bread together is the important part.

4) Get enough sleep. The real world rewards performance, and squeezing more hours out of the day but ending up less rested and performing less well is a bad trade-off.

5) Be very intentional and thoughtful in identifying and defining your values. Take a piece of paper and write them down. Until you've given specific thought, those values might remain vague in your own mind.

6) It's fun to have a favorite TV show or two that you watch regularly, but it's highly doubtful you'll look back on your 20s and say, "I wish I'd watched more TV!"

7) Choose your friends, rather than letting proximity or routine choose them for you. It's one of the first times that school isn't dictating who you're around and interacting with.

8) Network like crazy -- you can almost certainly do more. Think of it this way: there are 21 meal slots a week, and that doesn't count daytime coffees and after work drinks. How many of those slots are you using to meet and get to know new and interesting people? Be sure to include thoughtful people whose perspectives are different from your own.

9) Live by yourself before living with your partner. It can be lonely, it can be liberating, but most of all, it enables important growth by getting to know yourself better and not simply in the context of circumstances dictated by others.

10) Know how you un-plug. Don't do something because it's supposed to be relaxing, but because it actually relaxes you.

11) Be careful about how you look for a significant other. Let's be honest: the odds aren't in your favor for meeting your soul mate at a bar after midnight. But having friends set you up on dates or being more thoughtful about matching interests through online dating can raise the odds.

12) Seeks out mentors -- ideally several.

13) Send as many hand-written notes as you can. In an increasingly impersonal world, they distinguish you, are appreciated, and are long-remembered.

14) Make every effort to go the weddings and significant occasions that you're invited to: if it's important to someone you value, it should be important to you.

15) There's no shame in getting laid off. Some smart and capable people will, and you might be one of them. Unless warranted, don't let it cause you to doubt yourself.

16) As an adult, your best friends can be totally new friends: duration alone doesn't determine the depth of a relationship.

17) That said, hold tight to your longtime friends, too. They, more than most others, can keep you on track and call it as it is.

18) Become a comfortable dancer. This is different than being a good dancer.

19) Make getting drunk increasingly rare behavior. Socializing over drinks is fine, normal, and fun. Regularly drinking as you might have in college isn't likely to serve you well.

20) Make a commitment to serving others: pick an organization, goal, or dream in your community. You'll feel good about helping, and you'll make a difference.

21) Find exercise that you genuinely enjoy -- because it only gets harder to find the time and motivation to do it.

22) Learn to cook adequately -- for your own survival; for wooing a significant other; and for sharing with friends.

23) Giving rides to the airport, no matter the hour, is something you do for your friends. Helping a friend move a couch up a staircase, on the other hand, is a fair place to draw the line.

24) Map out your plans and goals. Again, actually put pen to paper and be specific. What do you want to be doing and have accomplished when you're 30? And 40?

25) As your siblings and close friends have children, be a good, attentive aunt or uncle or role model. Do it for your relationship to the little ones, but also do it for your relationship with those important to you.

26) Don't be afraid to tell people, directly and specifically, how they can help you. This applies equally to co-workers, significant others, and mentors. Invite those people to lean on you as well.

27) Identify and forge a community for yourself outside of work. This can range from a trivia night team to a marathon training group to a Bible study group or so many other things. Have some regular engagement separate from your core daily responsibilities.

28) Increasingly focus on those qualities that make for a built-to-last relationship. This will demand drilling down from the more surface level question of "Am I having fun dating this person?" to "Do both of you offer the commitment and stability to grow together over time?"

29) Consciously make sacrifices for your significant other and for those most important to you -- but never keep score.

30) When someone is struggling or addressing a tough challenge, show up and be there for them. Don't be intimidated by thinking, "I don't know that to say to them." Your presence will convey: "I'm thinking about you, I'm there for you, and I want you to let me know what I can do to help."