This book has practical tips to manage your personal and professional life.
Read time: 3 minutes
“Do not try to change yourself—you are unlikely to succeed. But work hard to improve the way you perform.”-Peter Ferdinand Drucker
Born in 1909, Peter Ferdinand Drucker, was an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author. His writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation.
I loved this book. I’ve given it as a gift many times. For me, the book breaks out into three big lessons. Let’s get into it.
- Record your decisions and predictions
- Track your results
- Focus on your strengths
Lesson 1: Record your decisions
Most people I know think they make good decisions. Most of them never actually keep track. As I get older, I’m more interested in what people “know” and can prove. Recording decisions and predictions you’ve made about events gives you an advantage. You have a record you can test against reality. You’ll know soon if your hunches are spot on or way off. You’ll notice things other people don’t, and things that never register on your radar. Both of these types of information help you improve your decisions going forward.
I use Evernote to record my decisions. You could use pen and paper, a file on your computer, or a journal of your choice to record yours. The most important thing is to actually make a record. Focus on the things you’ve been unsure of. Pick items that have an impact on your life, and outcomes you care about. These portions of your life will serve as the fuel for your improvement fire. Take 10 minutes now to write our every decision you’ve made in the last 4 weeks. Be sure to include the outcome you expect.
Lesson 2. Track your results
Once you’ve started capturing your decisions and predictions the next step is to see how you do. The book recommends reviewing your decisions every 12 months. I prefer frequent feedback, and build this review into my existing weekly review ritual. I ask myself the question “Are there any decisions I’ve made, that have results this week?” and capture the details if the answer is yes. This gives me a frequent reminder of both the decisions I’ve made, and an awareness of the results. It’s a positive loop that keeps me engaged in what I am doing and the results that I get.
Take the list of decisions you’ve made and think about the results you expect. Think about how certain you are of those results. Express that certainty as a percentage.
For example: if you think you will get a raise, capture both the result you expect and how likely you think it is. A 90% certainty of a raise vs. A 40% certainty of a raise is what we are looking for. Make a reminder to review it at a later time. You can update your certainty, just keep track of your original prediction.
Lesson 3: Focus on your strengths
When someone isn’t doing well in a particular area in life I’ve told them “Maybe _____ isn’t your sport”. I usually am not being a jerk. Maybe they didn’t do well, because doing well in it just isn’t in the cards. We aren’t all athletes, geniuses, chefs or celebrities. When we fall short of that status, it’s not something to fix. We instead should focus on what we are good at. When we focus on where we excel, when we focus on our “Sport”, it’s inevitable that our excellence shines through.
The activities above are all about observation. The resulting data allows us to focus on what matters. When we spend the bulk of our time and energy on what we do well, over time we upgrade those skills to world-class. Waste no effort on improving areas of low competence. Don’t try to change yourself. Instead be your best self. There is little competition for being your best self. By working to improve on your strengths you create a compelling competitive advantage that no one else has. If you follow the lessons, you will have certainty of what your strengths are, and solid data on how to make them even stronger.
My Personal Takeaways
My personal takeaway from this book is you need to:
keep yourself honest by recording your decisions
Keep track of your results
Use that record to inform what you are good at, and focus on your strengths
Record your thoughts, decisions, observations and then review this against what actually happens. Using actual information from your real life puts you at a tremendous advantage. You don’t have to rely on questionable advice. Armed with the real facts from your life, you can review and adjust. Over time these small improvements, these small adjustments compound. A year from now you will see the difference in your life.
I’ve used Evernote for the last 9 years and it’s been a tremendous value, you can even get a free account here.
Who would I recommend “Managing Oneself” to?
This book is great for someone who wants to get better results out of life. Someone who wants to learn with certainty their strengths and weaknesses. It would make a perfect gift for a new high school or college student, or anyone who just feels “stuck”. It’s a short read, under 100 pages, and packed with wisdom anyone can apply today.