It can be hard for any of us to take time to focus on ourselves. Spending time on things that feel personal – time to rest, think, or socialize with our colleagues – can feel like nothing more than a distraction from our professional lives. You may find yourself anxious or even guilty when you do “indulge” in these kinds of activities.

But at the end of the day, how we develop as a person has a direct impact on how we perform as a professional. If we are stressed, bored, or unwell, it will eventually impact our careers – regardless of whether we believe it or not.

Even so, not all personal investments yield equal fruit at work. Here are three personal development activities I believe are crucial to your professional success.

1. Building business relationships

I’ve written before about why relationships can be the key to better professional results. Whether it’s a mentor, a colleague, or just a professional friend, these interactions enrich our lives in real ways…and help us through the inevitable low times in our careers.

Beyond that, our business relationships offer us a sounding board, an opportunity to seek advice from people inside and outside of our own organization, and a perspective that would not often be available to us otherwise. The people within our network can provide opportunities for new positions, open doors to new customers, or help hold us accountable to the goal we set for ourselves – all things that propel our careers forward.

2. Learning about yourself

One of the secret ingredients for professional success is self-awareness. The more you understand about yourself – your habits, your weaknesses, how you are perceived by others – the more power you have to make creative and constructive choices about responding in any situation.

There are many ways to gain this kind of awareness. You can participate in 360 surveys, self-assessments, or training opportunities offered by your employer. You can seek these opportunities out on your own. You can also participate in group programs, like mastermind groups or leadership courses. Whatever the methodology, these efforts will help you understand yourself better and improve your performance in new ways.

3. Gaining new skills

Once you’ve chosen a profession, it can be natural to focus the majority of your attention on the skills that are critical to your daily responsibilities. Over time, however, this pattern can lead to boredom and stagnation.

No matter where you are in your career, it’s important to continue to learn new skills that lie outside your comfort zone. Consider taking advantage of cross-training opportunities within your organization. Attend seminars, conferences, or webinars. Take non-credit or certificate courses at a local college. These efforts will breathe a new sense of life into your career and may open the door for new opportunities as well.

Investing in yourself isn’t always second nature. It can feel too costly or time consuming to be within reach. But, if your professional development is a priority, you can’t afford to ignore your personal development.