04/03/00 Design News
MANAGING DESIGN Tips on guiding product development
Time is perishable
Ted Gautschi, Consultant, Wellesley
How can ambitious engineering wizards, and non-wizards,
prepare themselves for success in the dynamic 21st century?
First, our concept of success must be defined in relation
to our life goals. No one should start out on a journey
unless they know where they want to go. Goal setting
is a difficult task even when we know our destination!
Are you a drifter? Most of us drift through
life simply reacting to opportunities as they present
themselves, with few-if any-specific goals to guide
us. Perhaps the person who made the following observation
speaks for many others as well. "I am in my mid-forties,
and what have I accomplished with my life? All I do
is get up in the morning, rush off to work, work against
an impossible time schedule, rush home, go to bed, and
start all over again."
Our supply of time is perishable. The only variable
available to us is the use we make of this invaluable
resource. It is much more important that we budget our
time than it is to budget our money. We only get one
try at life so we should make the most of it.
Too often we just drift from one situation to the next
without giving much thought to where we are heading
or what we are actually accomplishing. Much like the
stainless-steel ball in the pinball machine, we bounce
off one bumper to another, while winding our way down
to the bottom. When we ignore goals, we substitute fuzzy
alternatives, such as "to be successful."
To many, success involves outdoing others: a nicer
home, nicer furniture, better car, longer vacations,
and better schools for their children. These goals may
transform into a formula such as "make as much money
as you can," until we end up clutching a tiger by the
The person who has had one year's experience ten times
faces no particular challenges, risks, excitement, or
defeats. He or she plods along day by day, year by year.
Yet, I believe that life is intended to be more exciting
than that. It is not the days of your life, but the
life in your days that count.
Three steps. Our first step should be to determine
our life goals. What do we want to achieve now and then
later on? Hopefully, we achieve some of our goals through
our chosen profession or else we may be in the wrong
profession. In setting our goals, let's not forget our
families. It is easy to rationalize that we work for
them, yet spend little time with them. The rewards of
family and community outweigh those of corporate America.
Setting goals and priorities generally involves a three-step
Set goals. Try to decide what you want to accomplish
in life, both on and off the job. Goals are not set
in cement, so you might want to change them to reflect
drastically changed circumstances.
Establish priorities for your goals.
Determine and implement those activities required
to achieve your goals.
Remember, your lists of goals and tasks are not carved
in stone. Review and change them as necessary. Place
your list in some important place, such as the kitchen
refrigerator, where you will see it often. This list
should be an up-to-date representation of your life's
goals. Then discuss them with your spouse and children
Ask the Manager
Q :Lots of activities interest me. How can I decide
which ones will help me reach my personal and professional
A: Take some time to think about it. These
questions may help you get started.
Do you want further education for yourself?
What are your spouse's educational goals?
What schooling will your children need?
Do you seek more financial security?
Do you need to think about a vocational change?
Do you need more time to develop a hobby that you
Do you need to improve your relationships with your
children or parents?
How is your health?
Do you need to work on something that is more personally
fulfilling, such as rededicating yourself to your
Perhaps you need to increase your focus on a vocational
What are your retirement plans?
What do you need to do to enjoy life more completely
Q: I don't want to reread What Color is Your
Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles before I begin
to make plans for the future. Can you make any suggestions
about how I can reevaluate my future without consuming
reams of paper and lots of time?
A: Here are three questions that might help
you gain perspective. Good luck.
What would I do if I were independently wealthy?
How would I like to spend my next five years?
What would I do if I knew either my spouse or I
would die in six months?