Posted on

Goals can launch a second career

Gone are the days when retirement meant being put out to pasture to spend your final days in a rocking chair on the front verandah. Retirement today usually means the start of a second career, whether that be starting a business or tearing up the golf courses. People are beginning to recognize that 65 or 70 or in many cases, even 80 and beyond is no longer old and that it’s not unusual to be active into your 90’s.

As an advertising message by United Technologies urged: “Don’t go fishing when you retire. Go hunting. Hunt for the chance to do what you’ve always wanted to do. Then do it!”

Second career executives are an emerging phenomenon of the 1990’s according to the book, America’s Changing Workforce,  “With  more  executives  having  good  pension fund benefits, paid mortgages, and children out of school, it is likely that many will ‘retire’ in their 50’s and work several years in another endeavor.” Many people are “bursting at the seams” to experience those things that time, money or opportunity previously denied. With risk now possible, retired executives and others are beginning to “do their own thing.”

Although consultants may claim that we should enjoy our jobs or get one that we find fulfilling, it’s frequently not that simple. Some of us may find ourselves locked into jobs for financial reasons, family or peer pressure, lack of qualifications, or outright fear of change or risk. Add to that the fast paced environment of work with its ever-changing digital technologies, and most of us never stop to consider whether we could actually do something else, let alone plan how to do it.

But with retirement comes a whole new perspective on life. With the pressures of job responsibilities, financial commitments and lack of time eased, retirees are free to reflect on personal values, smothered ambitions of the past and dreams for the future. Creativity is unleashed, and retirees become entrepreneurs, consultants, writers, inventors. They turn to jobs and activities they really enjoy. They self-actualize. Hobbies become businesses and businesses become hobbies.

If you want a good example of how your mind can impact your age, read about the study in Joe Dispenza’s book, You are the placebo, where a group of elderly people went on a one-week retreat and pretended they were 22 years younger. To help their imagination, the décor contained old photographs, magazines, TV programs, recordings, and so on, and they watched old programs, discussed old news – all from the 1959 era.

As result, physical changes to the elderly men took place, including improved hearing and eyesight, sharpened memory, grip strength, and more flexible joints. They grew taller as their posture straightened, their fingers lengthened as arthritis diminished, and they scored better on mental cognition. Some gave up their canes. They had actually become younger in body as well as mind.

George Crone, owner of a gravestone company, claims that “people in the fast lane don’t take the time to write their epitaphs anymore.” Perhaps if they did, they might be forced to reflect on how they would want to be remembered. And that in itself could lead to new directions and goals.

Although it would be great if everyone would evaluate their lives earlier in their careers, an increasing life expectancy, combined with early retirement, make it possible to fulfill lifelong dreams after retirement. James E. Buerger, writing in Quote magazine, states that if a person speaks mainly of the past he is old. If he talks of today, he is middle-aged. But if he is always talking about the future, he is young no matter what the calendar may indicate. Goal-setting can help keep us young.

Note: The above article is based on his new eBook, Develop a goal-setting mindset, soon to be published by Bookboon.com.

Posted on

A closer look at time management

What is more valuable than gold, weighs nothing, disappears as you attempt to measure it, and is wasted more than any other resource?  You guessed it – time. If we could bottle it and sell it to the aging population, we’d be rich. Unfortunately, each of us is allocated only a specific amount of time. It has to last us a lifetime because it is our lifetime, and we can neither subtract from it, nor add to it.

In some countries, selling organs such as one of your kidneys, can gain you some money. But nowhere is it possible to sell your time. Your time, your life, is yours to spend, and yours only. How will you spend it? If you have not consciously thought about budgeting your time, I suggest you do so. We budget our money; but how many of us actually sit down and establish our purpose or mission statement, set some lifetime objectives, plan our days and budget our time? Based on what I have discovered at my workshops over the past forty years, very few of us.

The great thing about time management is that you don’t need any particular skills or prerequisites. You simply decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. If there’s nothing you want to do, that’s probably what will get done. If you have no goals, you’ll no doubt reach them all with a minimum of effort.

But if you have a vision of becoming a successful entrepreneur, president of a corporation, church leader, volunteer, author, politician or if you want to be financially independent, retired at age 55, a world traveler, a respected authority in a fascinating field of your choice or if you want to be a great parent, an educator, a sports historian, a physically fit, healthy individual – if there’s anything you dream of doing, having or becoming, you can probably do it, have it, or become it if you take control of your time.

Time management involves determining what you want out of life, including your job or profession and setting some specific targets. Once you have your goals established, timeframes determined, and a schedule of the time for the necessary tasks required to reach these goals recorded in our planner, it becomes simply a matter of working on those tasks. Listing goals shows interest in them; but scheduling time for goals shows your commitment to achieving them. A dream becomes a goal when you have a plan for achieving it.

For some of us it’s not that simple, because many of us do not have the self-discipline or motivation necessary to stick to a plan. Time management includes the self-control necessary to persist in the pursuit of our goals – in spite of the interruptions, meetings and crises that invariably occur. In spite of the temptation to procrastinate, take the path of least resistance or give up altogether.

Time management is not getting more things done in less time. It’s getting fewer things done – but things of greater importance – in the time that we have left. It’s not saving time. Time can’t really be saved. And even if it could, it’s more important to live time than to save time.

It’s not the attempt to eliminate interruptions, meetings, telephone calls or low priority obligations. These will always exist to varying degrees. Time management is simply zeroing in on what is important to you. Doing less, but doing it better. And doing it with determination and persistence.

The time management ideas, shortcuts and tips that you get from other articles, books, seminars and recordings will help you by freeing up more time to work on your goal related activities. But they will not give you the motivation, willpower, self-discipline needed to actually work on them. That comes from within. You already have it; but you must learn to use it. It’s a classic example of on-the-job training. We learn by doing.

So do it. If you slip, if you fail, if you quit, start again. Any small success increases the probability of a greater success later. The height of one’s effectiveness varies directly with the depth of one’s commitment. Persistence can become habitual. Motivation kindled by a desired goal will get you started. And habit will keep you going.

True time management is not something that you learn. It’s something that you do. It does not come from others. It comes from yourself. From within. You can do what you have decided in your heart to do.

Clear, concrete, concise goals will increase your confidence that they can be achieved.

Motivation is desire multiplied by expectancy. If you really want something badly enough, and you really believe that what you are doing will achieve it, you are motivated to achieve it.

Set realistic goals that will have a major positive impact on your life. Reveal your goals to your supporters, but not to your critics. We all need cheerleaders. When the going gets tough, focus on the payoff. Visualize the rewards. And measure progress by what you have accomplished to date, not by what remains to be done.

Note: If you want an in depth course on time management, which includes 5 recordings, 54 pages of student notes, and a copy of my best-selling book, Making Time Work for You, all downloadable for $14.95 U.S., visit www.taylorintime.com and click on Shop at the top menu and select Download Products.

 

Posted on

Develop a mission statement – for your company and yourself.

Every organization should have a mission statement. Dale McConkey, in How to Manage By Results, urges companies to develop a concise mission statement that is reviewed periodically. Then employees will feel more motivated to meet daily goals once they understand the company’s overall objectives.

A mission statement explains why a company exists. It outlines its purpose or main thrust.  As Chris GowerRees explains in Weapons of Winners: “The main purpose, – and competitive advantage, of having a mission statement is to ensure that every employee is aware of the firm’s general goals and constantly strives, in a team setting, to attain them.” The most important factor in forming a cohesive group is a unity of purpose. Employees should be aware of this purpose.

The advantages of having a mission statement, both for ourselves and our companies, include the following:

  • Helps us to keep us focused on what we consider to be important.
  • Provides direction and purpose for ourselves and our organizations.
  • Keeps us from being distracted or sidetracked by other opportunities.
  • Helps us to draw up meaningful goals.
  • Reminds us why we are in business.
  • Helps prioritize the things we do.

Goals indicate what you will do, when you will do it and how you will do it. But a mission statement explains why you will do it.

Mission statements should state the type of business you are in, describe the service or products provided, and indicate the markets serviced. Some mission statements are several paragraphs in length, but the shorter the better. Times and technology change the market quickly these days. By making them brief we are forced to identify what business we are really in. Companies who recognized that they were really in the “idea” business, not the cassette tape or video business, are still in business today. Similarly manufacturers of board games, bicycles or skateboards are in the entertainment business, and railroads are in the transportation business.

Once the mission statement has been developed it should be reflected in any goals set by management or employees. It keeps the company “on course” and prevents individuals from pursuing objectives which are inconsistent with the purpose of the organization. Since the mission statement must be communicated to all employees it should be brief and simple. At most it should contain the type of business you are in, the services provided, the markets serviced, and the way you do things – your corporate philosophy.

I have virtually the same mission statement today and it has kept me from being sidetracked from what I do best. Each year I enter my mission statement in the space provided near the front of my Taylor Planner. Currently it reads as follows:

To help individuals and organizations manage their time and their lives, through time management training, products and services, so they are able to free up time to work on their personal and organizational goals.

Mission statements should be brief – one sentence if possible – so it can easily be reduced to writing and committed to memory. If it’s a company or organization, every staff member should understand it. It provides direction and focus in your business. It should be clear, brief and memorable.

The mission statement gives birth to goals or objectives, which in turn translate into plans – culminating in action.  We succeed by working together to achieve goals which reflect our purpose or mission.

I encourage people to have a personal mission statement as well – one that does not conflict with the company mission statement, and reflects what they want to do with their life. My personal mission statement is essentially the same one that I use for my company because it is my passion. I truly believe it is my life purpose and I continue to do it long past the age of retirement.

Posted on

Improving group brainstorming

Alex Osborn came up with the brainstorming technique back in the late 1940s, and a set of guidelines that we followed for decades. Basically, it involved a group of people blurting out ideas, no matter how ridiculous, without fear of intimidating guffaws, prejudgment or negative reaction of any sort. Through the process of association, one idea, no matter how ridiculous by normal standards, may lead to another and eventually to a perfectly workable idea, which may never have been uncovered by traditional thought processes.

It was thought that the rapid fire thoughts in a successful brainstorming session would seem to come directly from our creative right brain before our logical left brain had a chance to put a damper on them. And it seemed reasonable that more ideas would come from a group of people than from brainstorming alone.

But more recent research has revealed that both the belief that groups came up with more ideas than individuals, and the belief that criticism or even questioning ideas during the brainstorming session would be counterproductive, are both wrong.

Jonah Lehrer, in his book, Imagine: how creativity works, goes so far as to say that brainstorming in a group, rather than unleash the potential of the group, actually suppresses it, and makes each individual less creative. He believes that the only way to maximize group creativity is to encourage a candid discussion of mistakes.

A study in Psychological Science also found that group decision-making makes people more likely to reject outside information.

According to an article by Evangelia G. Chrysikou, originally appearing in the July/August, 2012 issue of Scientific American Mind, and included in the 2017 special collector’s edition of Scientific American Mind on creativity, “group brainstorming is beneficial only after you have come up with a few solutions for a complex problem on your own.”

Shelley Carson, author of the book, Your creative brain, agrees, saying that research on brainstorming yields more quality ideas when individuals brainstorm alone and then have their best ideas evaluated by a group. It is believed that even though the brainstorming process is supposed to be nonjudgmental, individuals may be wary of shouting out ideas that their superiors might think are foolish.

A newer technique called brainwriting has each member of the group generating from 3 to 5 ideas written on an index card and passed anonymously to a spokesperson who then introduces the ideas to the group for further exploration.

Julia Cameron, author of the book, The artist’s way, agrees that dominant people tend to do most of the talking and groups inhibit a lot of creative expression. She has had a brainstorming team work together for five minutes, then work individually for five minutes, and then come together again for the final five minutes. She says it boosts group creativity – with twice as many ideas generated than staying together as a team for the full 15 minutes. She attributes this improvement to the fact that everyone has an opportunity to work on the problem individually.

There is more information on brainstorming and other techniques of creative thinking  in my eBook, Creativity in action, soon to be published by Bookboon.com.

Posted on

Busyness is the enemy of creativity

Our lives are being filled with so much activity that we no longer have time to think creatively. The old adage that “busyness is not effectiveness” never applied more than it does today – when we are working longer and faster, and multitasking more frequently.

Our tendency is to fill every minute with activity. We seem to have a fear of empty space. Just as an emptied drawer doesn’t stay empty long, so freed-up time doesn’t stay free long. If there’s a pause in a conversation, we’re quick to fill it. If we ask a question and there’s no immediate response, we answer it ourselves. If we’re waiting in a line-up, we grab for our smartphone to check email or send a quick text message.

It’s difficult to make time for creativity in this digital age of speed. Electronic tablets, smart phones and other PDAs are efficient beyond imagination. Unfortunately it’s the imagination that is the key to successful ventures. And smart phones are just plain stupid when it comes to creativity. I sometimes think we would be better off with more doodle pads and fewer keypads.

I’m not knocking technology. It has been the greatest time saver of all time, and it makes our earlier efforts at efficiency seem pathetic. But we have to control it. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Don’t be afraid to turn off your smartphone, ignore email and engage voice mail for an hour or more during the day. History has proven that we can survive for at least 60 minutes without the use of technology.  The key is to make use of the virtual world while still feeling great, having healthy relationships, and remaining connected to the here and now.

Most of the latest books on creativity, such as Your Creative Brain (2010) and Imagine: How creativity works (2012) agree that we are all creative and every day we perform hundreds of creative acts. And everyone is able to train their creative brain.

If that’s true, why do so many people struggle with coming up with novel ways to market, write, promote, produce and so on? I would suggest that one of the reasons is that we don’t have time to be creative. You don’t get your most creative ideas while rushing to a meeting or racing to get to the grocery store before it closes. Ideas come when you’re relaxing in a hot tub, lying on the beach or strolling in a park.

When a NY Times reporter interviewed several winners of the MacArthur “genius” grants, most said they kept cell phones and iPads turned off when in transit so they could use the downtime for thinking. That’s what most people are lacking. Research shows that people think more creatively when they are calm, unhurried, and free from stress. Time pressures lead to tunnel vision.

Michael Gebb, author of How to Think Like Leonardo daVinci, asked the question “Where are you when you get your best ideas?”  The answer was seldom “At work.”  It was usually “while walking, taking a shower, listening to music” or some other non-work-related activity.  Making work your whole life is detrimental to your work.

People usually get their best ideas, not when they are busy working, but while relaxing at home, on vacation or just before dozing off at night. You are not doing yourself a favor by skipping lunches or vacations or continually multitasking. Make time for creative thinking by going for long walks, taking regular breaks, having leisurely lunches and keeping normal hours. Don’t feel guilty if you find yourself staring at the sky or watching steam rise from your coffee. That’s when you might get your best ideas.

And it’s good for your health as well.