9 Great Ways to Invest in Yourself


Does your money earn money? Through dividends, money you invest in stocks actually earns you more money each year without you having to do any work. This principle of investing is behind what makes banks, fund managers and people like Warren Buffet rich.

Investing money isn’t an uncommon idea. But does your time earn more time? Does your energy earn more energy? Do the investments you make in yourself pay huge dividends, or are you placing all your funds into a vehicle that is bound to crash at any moment?

Finding Great Self-Investments

Spending and investing aren’t the same thing. Spending simply exchanges value, say, money for rent. Investing creates value in that after your initial cost is paid, you can keep getting value without new input. Getting a big promotion might give status and prestige, but it also eats away more time. In order to count as a great self-investment, your efforts need to pay you back with more time or energy, not less.

Here are a few great ways to invest in yourself and reap the rewards later:

1) Eat Healthier Foods.

Your energy levels throughout the day are based largely on what food you eat and how much you exercise. If you eat junk, your body will become junk. Try eating a diet low in animal products and high in whole grains and leafy greens.

Cost of Investment:

  • Slightly higher food prices. (Although you can eat healthy and save money…)
  • 1-2 month period for adapting tastebuds.
  • Potential first week of detoxing. If you rapidly switch to a healthier diet you can feel the dietary equivalent to withdrawal symptoms as your body adjusts. This should only be temporary and it doesn’t occur with all people.

Investment Pay-Out:

  • Improved energy levels.
  • Less time lost to illness.
  • Improved health and body.
  • Reduce chances of chronic illnesses later in life.

2) Develop an Organization System

Set up the habits of using to-do lists, carrying around a notepad to record tasks at any time, weekly reviews and other productivity tricks. The choices for different methods and styles are endless. I suggest reading Zen To Done if you want some information on how to build GTD concepts into habits.

Cost of Investment:

  • 1-2 months to adapt to habits.
  • Several hours to design system.
  • 1-2 hours a month for maintaining/tweaking system.
  • Low cost to buy notepads, folders and organizers.

Investment Payout:

  • Reduced stress from forgetting tasks.
  • Enhanced productivity.
  • Less clutter.
  • More time from being able to quickly batch work.

3) Morning Ritual

A morning ritual is the Swiss army knife of productivity. Morning rituals have two key components: the habit of waking up earlier and the habit of using that morning time towards something useful. I use my morning ritual to spend an extra hour reading each day, but you can use it to squeeze in exercise, working on projects or studying for courses.

Cost of Investment:

  • 30 days to set up the initial ritual.
  • Sleeping 30-60 minutes earlier each night to compensate for earlier waking time.

Investment Payout:

  • More exercise, reading, work accomplished or whatever you use the ritual time for.
  • Momentum built into your day from the start.
  • Added quiet time in the morning.
  • Increased flexibility. (Your day schedule might shift around too much to add in new habits such as exercise or reading, morning time has more flexibility to set up these habits)

4) Networking Skills

Keith Ferrazzi of the bestselling book, Never Eat Alone, suggests that the idea of self-help is a contradiction. Instead, he believes that most self-improvement is built on your relationships with other people and that having great connections can make the biggest difference. Spending time getting in touch with current friends or e-mailing and meeting strangers can give your relationships a tune-up.

Cost of Investment:

  • Time spent writing e-mails, cards or making calls.
  • Emotional effort in facing rejection and meeting strangers. (It can take a bit of a push to cold-call someone you’ve always wanted to meet or talk to strangers you bump into)
  • Money spent on social activities, conferences or meals with friends.

Investment Payout:

  • Mental boost. (Your network can be your eyes and ears in giving you important information)
  • Social grease. (“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” may be a cliche but that doesn’t make it false)
  • Emotional support. (You can leverage friends for encouragement, ideas or mentoring)

5) E-Mail Ninja Training

Batch all your e-mails into 1-2 checks each day. If you’re going to read an e-mail act on it (reply, add to-do list items, etc.). Empty your inbox after each check and don’t let unread messages pile up. Write short, concise letters instead of lengthy conversations.

Cost of Investment:

  • 30 days to adapt to new e-mail methods.
  • A few small opportunities lost because of less frequent e-mail answering. (I’ve found this to be incredibly low to barely warrant a mention, but it is a concern for some people)

Investment Payout:

  • No more procrastination excuses. (Work or don’t work, e-mail no longer counts)
  • Saved time. (I reduced my e-mail time by over an hour each day)
  • Better workflow, less interruptions from answering e-mail.

6) Set Personal SOP’s

SOP’s are Standard Operating Procedures. While there are many cases when you want the flexibility of making decisions on a case-by-case basis, often this is just wasting your time. If an answer is right in 99% of cases of that type, the time and energy spent debating aren’t worth it. I set up SOP’s to make answering common e-mails easier and you can use them to streamline your habits, overcome procrastination or stick to a budget.

Cost of Investment:

  • An hour or two writing down the basic operating procedures.
  • A few lost opportunities because of more automated decision making.
  • At least a month to adapt to the new rules for spending, working, answering e-mails, etc.

Investment Payout:

  • Saved time from deliberating over what to do.
  • Reduced mental stress and energy wasted on making unimportant decisions.
  • Easier to match behavior to long-term goals rather than short-term impulses.

7) Weekly Review

Carving out a bit of time each week to think can be one of the best investments on this list. A weekly review allows you to think through problems, come up with opportunities and keep you on track. Most of my good ideas have come from these personal thinking sessions which I wouldn’t have time for in my normally busy week.

Cost of Investment:

  • 1-3 hours a week for writing.

Investment Payout:

  • Improved creativity.
  • Better goal-setting and problem solving.
  • Saved time through cutting down wasteful activities in the following week.
  • Less stress by being able to explore problems fully.
  • Enhanced organization by being able to tidy up to-do lists and project planners.

8 ) Exercise

People who say they are too tired for exercising have got it backwards. Exercising creates energy through a healthier body while releasing brain chemicals to improve your mood and mental alertness. In reality, you lack energy because you don’t exercise.

Cost of Investment:

  • 30 minutes a day for exercising. (Possibly another 30 minutes for showering, traveling to the gym, etc.)
  • Gym membership dues. (Running outside is free)
  • Cost of exercise clothes. (Or just use an old t-shirt and sweat pants like everyone else…)

Investment Payout:

  • Increased mental energy
  • Healthier body
  • Improved strength and endurance
  • Boosted body-image
  • Saved time from fewer illnesses.

9) Reading Habit

Reading more books each year doesn’t have to eat up all your free time. Cutting down on television, carrying a book with you for lines and listening to audio books during commutes can squeeze in more knowledge for less time. Reading fifteen minutes a day can help you read over a dozen books a year. Squeezing in an hour can help you read over fifty.

Cost of Investment:

  • Small time expense.
  • Cost of books. (That’s what libraries are for…)

Investment Payout:

  • Learn more information.
  • Improved creativity and understanding.
  • Faster learning of related subjects for courses and work.
  • Apply ideas to other areas of life for further benefits. (Reading a nutrition book improves your diet, etc.)