School in a Book: Essential Skills: Social, Emotional and Life Management

You probably already have most of the skills on this list, at least to some degree. Treat this checklist, then, as a gentle reminder not to pass by the couple of things you haven’t quite nailed yet.

Note that this list does not include skills mentioned in other sections of this book or those generally possessed by people under the age of six, such as memorizing one’s address and phone number. My attempts at comprehensiveness, though well-meaning, are usually futile.

General Life Management Skills

  • Managing time and tasks, including: creating short-term and long-term to-do lists; time-on-task estimating; padding time-on-task estimations; and breaking large projects into small steps
  • Managing money, including: budgeting, calculating interest, avoiding debt, calculating the highest affordable mortgage payment, saving for retirement, investing in the stock market, filing taxes and organizing financial records
  • Cleaning the home, including: washing laundry; washing dishes; dusting; cleaning the bathroom and more
  • Performing simple household maintenance tasks, including: changing lightbulbs; testing and changing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; cleaning the roof and gutters; mowing the lawn; maintaining a yard; fixing leaky faucets and unclogging the toilet
  • Cooking and baking, including: two soups or stews; two stir-fry sauces; muffins; cakes; roasted chicken; and grilled steak
  • Using basic tools, including: hammers, screwdrivers, power screwdrivers, power drills, hand-held sanders, exacto knives, pliers, wedges and wrenches
  • Organizing one’s living space
  • Learning basic self-defense techniques
  • Maintaining a car, including changing the oil, checking tire pressure, checking fluid levels and scheduling regular tire changes and other maintenance
  • Applying basic first aid skills, including CPR
  • Caring for children
  • Using public transportation
  • Sewing
    Writing formal letters and emails
  • Typing
  • Memorizing emergency procedures in various settings, including knowledge of using a fire extinguisher
  • Maintaining good hygiene, nutrition and exercise habits
  • Preventing disease, including STDs
  • Using responsible and healthy sexual practices
  • Visiting doctors and dentists regularly
  • Purchasing a house
  • Maintaining safe and secure Internet practices, including an understanding of online source verification
  • Choosing and purchasing insurance for home, health and car
  • Surviving in unsafe or wilderness situations, with skills like building a fire, using a map and using a compass
  • Gardening
    Recycling, reusing and environmental care
  • Using the Microsoft Office suite and other important computer programs
  • Interviewing for jobs
  • Knowing federal and local laws
  • Driving a car
  • Avoiding addiction and understanding the effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Keeping to-do lists and goal-setting lists, with steps to achieve those goals
    Registering to vote and choosing who and what to vote for

Interpersonal Skills

  • Making friends
  • Communicating effectively, including: listening actively; restating the other person’s message; and calmly resolving conflict
  • Avoiding and de-escalating conflict
  • Using good eye contact
  • Using good manners
  • Shaking hands firmly
  • Projecting vocally when appropriate
  • Saying “no” without further explanation
  • Enforcing healthy boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others
  • Asking questions
  • Talking to strangers
  • Making casual conversation/small talk
  • Crafting a convincing and logical argument
  • Speaking in public
  • Telling a joke
  • Forgiving and apologizing first
  • Accepting and learning from other cultures, family types and gender identities
  • Responding to anger or unkindness without defensiveness, but instead with simple statements of fact (such as “I don’t agree” or “That’s interesting,”) questions (such as “Why did you do that?”) or kindnesses (such as, “Are you okay?”)
  • Using simple consequences instead of physical force or emotional abuse (for example, “If you do that, I am not going to play with you right now,” or, “If you are rough with my toys, I will take them away”)

Self-Care Skills

  • Spending time alone
  • Labeling emotions
  • Separating fact from emotion
  • Maintaining hobbies
  • Breathing deeply and using other self-calming strategies
  • Doing self-guided cognitive therapy (writing down upsetting irrational thoughts and replacing them with rational ones)
  • Journaling about difficult memories and moments, then rewriting the story in a way that is healthy, helpful and self-compassionate
  • Maintaining healthy exercise and nutrition habits
  • Maintaining spiritual practices such as meditation (observing one’s own mind with nonjudgmental acceptance)
  • Practicing mindfulness (observing the present moment with nonjudgmental acceptance)

Personal Qualities To Develop

  • Love
  • Generosity
  • Humility
  • Faith/purpose
  • Morality
  • Hope, optimism and positivity
  • Purposeful cultivation of joy
  • Personal responsibility
  • Secure, grounded and healthy attachment to others
  • Independence
  • Confidence
  • Acceptance of hardship
  • Purposeful cultivation of one’s highest and best self
  • Dignity
  • Respect for differences


Babies come. But babies don't go. Get Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-Help Story on Amazon now.