With the working world going through a revolution due to the global pandemic, professional women have had to navigate age-old issues in new ways. In 2020, women made up 47% of the American workforce, yet they accounted for 54% of the initial job losses due to coronavirus shutdowns.

There are quite a few reasons for this disproportionate rate. First, many of the women-dominated fields, such as retail and service industries, were some of the first to be affected. Women also often perform the lion’s share of household duties. While schools remain virtual and entire family units are homebound, women have typically been the ones to pick up that slack and shoulder the emotional labor.

If there’s one thing we learned in 2020, it’s that we can’t control external factors, but we can control our relationship with ourselves. In the face of these challenges set before us, we must continue to be our own best advocates — and that means taking the time to invest in ourselves.

How to Invest in Yourself and Your Own Development

Doing what you love and staying true to your goals is the best way to invest in yourself. I know this from experience: I always wanted to start a women’s financial initiative. For many years, though, I waited until I would have more free time or a better plan in place. Eventually, I decided to go for it, and thus, InspireHer was born. It has turned into a successful platform where women can learn more about finances in a nonintimidating manner.

Even though it can feel challenging to find the time and money to dedicate to your growth, I’ve seen those efforts pay off. If you aren’t sure how to invest in yourself, here are eight meaningful ways to bolster your own future growth:

1. Pay Yourself First

Paying yourself first is one of the best ways to set yourself up for financial freedom. What does it mean to pay yourself first? Save a portion of your income for an emergency fund, retirement through a 401(k) or an IRA, or any other financial goals you might have. When you decide how much you can save toward your financial goals, automate as many of those savings as possible.

2. Expand Your Skill Set

Expanded knowledge leads to more opportunities — bottom line. Taking courses is a great way to accomplish this, and many courses are free. LinkedIn Learning, for example, has a lot of classes accessible through your public library. In addition, simply reading and listening to podcasts can be very beneficial and take you to new heights both personally and professionally.

3. Learn About Your Strengths

It’s just as important to learn about yourself as it is to add skills to your résumé. Explore various personality and strength assessments such as CliftonStrengths or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. These frameworks can help you identify your strengths and learn how to utilize them best. You can also gain insights into what kind of work you enjoy and where you might thrive.

4. Bring in Help

Hiring a coach or an accountability partner can help you take this type of personal investment to the next level. An unbiased third-party partner can challenge you to think outside the box, push you to consider things you may not have been open to, and help keep you accountable to your goals.

5. Set and Track Goals

There are a lot of great apps designed to help you stay on track with good habits, but it can also be as simple as writing down your goals in a notebook or planner. Make them specific, and as you’re working through this personal and career goal-setting exercise, consider not just the goals themselves, but also how long they’ll take and how much they may cost.

List the small steps you’ll need to take to achieve them. It seems simple, but checking off these little steps of progress along the way can help you stay motivated as you soar toward the end goal. But the biggest thing to remember is that you can’t achieve goals if you don’t first create them. If the best investment is in yourself, that starts with determining what’s important to you.

6. Take Time Away

It’s easy to get caught up in the mundane concerns of life. Sometimes, you need to get away from the day-to-day and consider your values; where you’d like to be in one, five, or 10-plus years; and how you hope to get there. Never underestimate the power of taking a 20-minute walk and listening to an insightful podcast. It is even better if you can go on a retreat (even just for a day) to dedicate time to reflection.

7. Find Employment With Benefits That Serve You

Don’t hesitate to seek out a job that allows for more flexibility. As a mom of two kids, I know how hard it can be to work and raise children, especially as those two environments suddenly lack separation. We’re seeing a major shift in traditional workplaces that allow for more flexible schedules and working environments, so seek out the workplace that will support your circumstances. Keeping your foot in the door can help you stay on top of your skills and financial goals.

8. Spend Money to Make More Time

If you think about your time as money, you can start to identify areas where outsourcing tasks makes economic sense. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to allocate financial resources to the tasks I don’t enjoy. For example, I pay a little extra to have my groceries delivered, which saves me time that I can spend working on passion projects, taking an online course, reading a book, or enjoying more time with my family.

It might seem frivolous to pay for someone to clean your house once a week or spend a little extra money on precooked meal delivery. However, if that’s valuable time you can reallocate toward achieving your goals, then consider it an investment in yourself.

With all of these ways to invest in yourself, remember the most important rule: Perfection is the enemy of progress. You don’t have to have all the details worked out, but remember to prioritize your own development.