I can’t wait for 2009 to be over. I can only think of one other year (early 20s: bad marriage, even worse divorce) that was as stressful, distressing, scary and plain old difficult as this one has been. Over the course of the year, I extricated myself from real estate debacles, downsized and moved, supported my husband through six months of back pain and subsequent surgery, closed one business and started another and developed a mean, yet intermittent, case of acid reflux along the way. As I said, I’m ready to close the books on this year.
Even so, through the grace of friends and family, and with gratitude for the good things I did have in my life, I managed to turn 2009 into an opportunity to look with fresh eyes at where I was in my life, what I wanted to create next and how I was going to get there. Sometimes productivity is not about getting more done in less time, but taking the time to step back and reflect so that more satisfaction can be gained in the long run. From this vantage point, I can see that that was my productivity lesson for 2009.
So it was with great interest that I read about Bruce Rosenstein’s new book “Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life.” This past November marked 100 years since the birth of management guru Peter Drucker. While millions worldwide celebrated Drucker as the “father of modern management,” Rosenstein says that he was a big proponent of self-management as well. “Surprisingly, most people are not as familiar with Drucker’s views on personal development — or self-management — which are as profound as his teaching on organizations,” says Rosenstein.
Drucker’s central message on self-management, according to Rosenstein, can be summed up in one sentence: Get a life — a “total life” with diverse interests, relationships and pursuits. “This way, when you have a setback at work — such as losing your job or being forced to reinvent yourself — you can soften the blow with other areas of strength and support,” says Rosenstein. I know just what he means.
A former business writer and librarian at USA Today, Rosenstein has studied, interviewed and written about Drucker for more than two decades. He also conducted one of the last interviews Drucker gave, seven months before his death at 95.
Here, in a nutshell, is a Drucker-inspired compass to managing your life and career with as much satisfaction and productivity as possible in a 21st century full of new challenges and opportunities:
- Practice self-development. Think about your life, both as it is now and where you’d like it to go. Consider not just your work as a freelancer, full-time employee or part-time telecommuter, but also your life outside of work — family, friends, interests, activities and pursuits. Assess what’s working, what’s not and what you might want to add or subtract to create more satisfaction and fulfillment. Ask yourself: “Am I developing and nourishing a multidimensional human being?”
- Identify and develop your unique strengths. Drucker said that, in his experience, few people could articulate their areas of strength. Consider what’s unique about what you do, and in what areas you excel and contribute the most, both at work and outside of work. Are you the person your coworkers depend on to settle disputes? Can your clients always count on you to come through in a tight spot? Focus on those strengths — your own core competencies — and find new ways to cultivate and cherish them. Ask yourself: “Am I leveraging my strengths, at work and outside of work?”
- Create a parallel or second career. One unique idea Drucker advocated was creating a “parallel career” in areas such as teaching, writing or working in nonprofit organizations. He also encouraged developing a second career, often by doing similar work in a significantly different setting. A web worker, for instance, might move from working for a traditional high-tech company to a non-profit one that fits with his or her passions. While still in your main job, start thinking about your own possibilities for a parallel or second career. Consider how they match your values, experience and education and what shifts you might need to make in your life to support such changes. Ask yourself: “Am I preparing for the future?”
- Exercise your generosity. Sharing your time and talents in areas such as volunteerism, social entrepreneurship and mentoring not only provide opportunities to contribute, but also offer personal benefits, from broadening and deepening your life experience to expanding your circle of friends and colleagues. Think about what happens outside your workplace — in other industries, professions and walks of life — and consider ways you can exercise your own generosity. Ask yourself: “Am I making a difference in the world?”
- Teaching and learning. Drucker believed that knowledgeable workers must start learning during their formal schooling and then never stop throughout their lives. Consider your own priorities for learning, as well as how you learn best — taking classes, reading articles and books, asking or observing others, etc. Ask yourself: “Am I still learning?”
As you get ready to say goodbye to 2009 and welcome 2010, set aside some time in between cups of eggnog lattés and last minute trips to the mall to sit and reflect on the year you’ve had, the year coming up and how the productive, creative and reflective you can move forward into the “total life” Drucker describes.
What steps will you take to create a “total life” in 2010?