Four Tools for Managing Oneself – Staying on the High Wire

One of the things that I enjoy most about the summer break is a chance to reflect upon my goals, and how I’m doing on my path to achieving them.   Though sometimes mistaken for its superficial relative “self-help” literature (beset by fads and pop-psychology), the systematic study of self-management is important for any professional.  In fact, I wish I’d paid more attention to the topic during my MBA.  Anyway, in pursuit of both summer self-reflection and preparing to teach in the autumn, I thought I’d offer my four favourite tools for managing oneself.

The first two “tools” are actually articles.   Like most important subjects in management, the topic of self-management attracted the attention of Dr. Peter Drucker.  In his classic 1999 Harvard Business Review Essay “Managing Oneself”, Drucker posed a series of key questions to ask in pursuit of better self-management.   For those new to the idea of self-management, I recommend starting with Drucker’s article, which is built around a series of questions that you can use to structure your goals.  Even if you know Drucker’s piece, however, I find that like most classics it is worth revisiting periodically as your life changes.

To Drucker’s classic I would add the more recent article by Donald Sull and Dominic Houlder, “Do Your Commitments Match Your Convictions?”  Like Drucker’s piece, Sull and Houlder offer a series of questions to create a systematic process for clarifying your priorities, goals and resource commitments.

The third tool is a simple acronym (I’m told that all aspiring management gurus need them) that I came up with working with a tool I’ll discuss in a moment, GoalscapeHIWR (pronounced “High Wire”).  HIWR is a mnemonic device to categorize the four main areas into which I believe most professionals’ goals should fall.  The H stands for Health:  what are your goals for diet and exercise?  The I stands for Intellect:  what are you doing to educate yourself and improve your knowledge of the world?  The W stands for Wealth:   what are your financial goals?  And the R stands for Relationships:  what are you planning to do to stay connected to and caring for those dear to you?  To stay on the high wire of any demanding professional career, none of these categories can be out of balance for too long.

The final tool that I recommend is some relatively new software called Goalscape.  Developed for Olympic athletes,  Goalscape is simply the best way that I’ve encountered to define in detail not simply what your goals are, but exactly how you will reach them.  It’s easy and intuitive to set up and maintain, and it makes a great tool for project management and communicating team goals as well.  You can try it out free here.

Have a great summer (or winter, depending on where you are).

PS  On a more philosophical note, for those interested in deep self-examination about the purpose of life and deciding goals, I recommend Seneca and Epictitus.

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2 responses to “Four Tools for Managing Oneself – Staying on the High Wire

  1. Never heard of Goalscape – must give it a try!

  2. An excellent toolset!!!
    Playing with letters and words, an alternative could also be HIRW : High Rewards…
    I personally think that relationships should stand before wealth…
    Once again, great food for thought!

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