The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

The Effective Executive is technically a business book, but as we all know I like to break the rules — I like to make everything a heath book!!

In all seriousness, when you think about it, many of the skills needed to conquer and navigate the business world are the same skills needed to succeed at health — think awareness, drive, analysis, informed action, goal setting, communication, perseverance, a strategic- and growth-oriented mindset, etc. To succeed in both business and health one requires the discipline and directed concentration to budget valuable resources such as time and energy, the ability to know what should be made a priority AND then the courage to stick to stated priorities, and the ability to do the “right thing” vs simply “doing something for the sake of doing something.” (This is often called right effort vs busy effort.)

Think of Drucker’s insights and wisdom as “guiding life principles” — use them to become the effective executive of your health life!

Noteworthy concepts

We all have 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week. Effective individuals simply understand how to use their hours effectively! If you want to be an “effective executive” of your health you have to manage your time. 

“Count your time and make your time count”

Too many of us fritter away our time, let emergencies dictate how our time gets used, and/or have no idea how we actually use our minutes, hours, days, etc.

Time is our most valuable resource — we can’t make more time.

How many times have you stated a wish to exercise, but then been “too busy”? How many times have you decided to eat well and then “something came up”? If you want to get on top of your health, you have to get in control of your time.

As Drucker says, “what gets measured, gets managed” — you can’t possibly manage your time if you don’t know where your time goes. With awareness brings choice. In order to make a realistic plan of attack for your health, you first have to know how you currently use your time.

How? Keep a time journal.

What is a “time journal”? Exactly what it sounds like: you journal your time and then analyze the data. Colour code or use graphs to sort your activities — meetings, creative work, time with clients, sleep, time with family, etc. You decide on your categories. They will obviously depend on if you have a family, what your job is, etc. The analyze how you are spending your time. See where you are wasting 20 minutes on social media — with 20 minutes you can do 5 Tabata intervals — that is a great workout.

Things to consider

  • How compatible are your aspirational values with your regular life? (Do you say you value family but only call your mom every two weeks? Do you say you value healthy food but actually eat unhealthy lunches four of five days?)
  • Note unhealthy habits — most of us underestimate our unhealthy habits. Strategize ways to mitigate these occurrences or habits. (Do you always have a 3pm cookie when you skip lunch? If so, find ways to have lunch even if it is a “grab and go” pre-made smoothie or an apple and almonds.)
  • Note healthy habits. Find ways to ensure these become more frequent. (Do you only actually go to the gym when you have a fitness buddy waiting? If so, find ways to always meet someone or at least have someone waiting for an update email.)
  • Highlight ways you waste time. (How many of us “don’t have time” to exercise but spend hours watching TV or scrolling social media?)
  • Get rid of “non-productive” uses of your time — delegate what can be delegated. Maybe get your groceries delivered so you can exercise vs going to the grocery store.
  • Consider batching activities so you don’t waste time. For example, only look at emails during certain hours of the day and/or take conference calls during a morning walk.
  • Consider cutting back on useless time. Maybe promise yourself only a certain amount of time on social media or in front of the TV.

Make sure your action plan is not just a piece of paper

It is not enough to simply state your intended action. To be successful you actually have to plan your course, note probable stumbling blocks, state check in points along the way, and decide how you will analyze results. You can’t simply say. “I am going to lose twenty pounds.” You have to state how you will do it, possible road blocks, check in points (will you weigh in weekly, monthly, etc) and how you will analyze results (scale, BMI, body measurements, etc).

Make the action plan the basis for your time management strategy — your plan should dictate how you spend your time. Otherwise you become a “prisoner of events.” Don’t let the flow of events — eg, an impromptu social event or a sudden urge to watch Netflix — dictate what is important in that moment or what should and what shouldn’t be done. If you have decided to lose twenty pounds and your action plan includes three workouts a week, those three workouts have to dictate your use of time — they have to be your non-negotiable that the rest of your day fits around. (Don’t worry, three hours of workouts leaves plenty of other hours to be effective at work and home etc — 165 to be exact!) Now, I’m not arguing that there is the “right” or the “best” way to use your time. What I am saying is, once you have made an action plan, make that plan dictate your time. If your plan can’t dictate your time, it is obviously not an appropriate plan — chose another plan vs using a plan that you constantly deviate from. A plan you don’t stick to is more akin to a hope.

That said, revise your plan at regular intervals — every success and failure create new opportunities. For example, if during your plan analysis you note that on Weight Watchers you continually overeat “free foods” after dinner, consider adopting a “close the kitchen” no eating window between 8pm and 8am (a version of intermittent fasting).

In order to make something (your health) a priority, other things have to become a posteriority. Or in Kathleen speak, “If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority”

So many of us say we are “making health a priority,” but we really mean “I think I should make health a priority” or “I am going to add health to my already too long to-do list.” Something can’t be a priority if it is simply added to a full list of things already not getting done. We can all do anything, but not everything.

The word priority literally means that you put that action above others. “Everything” can’t be a priority. Hence why Drucker points to the importance of naming your “posteriorities.”

A posteriority is a task you have decided you will not do — a task you have acknowledged doesn’t actually need to get done and/or one that can be successfully delegated. Yes, your kids need to be picked up from school, but maybe your spouse can do it Tuesdays and Thursdays so you can go to the gym. Then you can do it Mondays and Wednesdays, so he or she can go to the gym. Gym is your priority Tuesday and Thursday. Pick-up is your priority Monday and Wednesday.

Drucker points out that it is all-too-easy to list priorities and then try and do a little bit of everything — to “make everyone happy.” This “everything” mindset means nothing really gets done well and/or something (usually one’s health) gets relegated to the “tomorrow list.” As Drucker says, keeping priorities — setting boundaries — takes courage. Your posteriorities will always be someone else’s priorities.

Two final notes, if you found this interesting, I suggest listening to Jim Collins on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast (https://tim.blog/2019/02/18/jim-collins/). Jim wrote the forward for the new edition of The Effective Executive and was greatly influenced by Drucker. Also, if you needed added inspiration to read The Effective Executive, note that I was inspired to read it by the sheer number of times it was recommended on The Tim Ferriss Show. Tim asks all of his guests which book they have gifted the most. I was shocked by how many people chose The Effective Executive.