Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Planning My Next Lap

A reason for writing these articles is that it is meeting one of my goals set out for this phase of my life.  I started thinking and planning for it some 8 years ago and 2 years before I went into active retirement.  I thought it was as simple as practicing what I have learned.  First list what you want to achieve, then analyzed where you are at and finally chart out how you want to reach your goal.  I turned on my computer and tried listing.  I struggled with what I wanted to achieve.  There were so many things and it was all over.  After some time, I did the next best thing.  I listed what I didn’t want.

I didn’t want be just playing a game or traveling or enjoying a hobby.  I wanted more than that.  I wanted activities that are intellectually challenging.  I wanted to keep my mind active.  I read an article long ago that scared me into action.  In the article it stated that an idle mind is a devil’s workshop and the devil is Alzheimer.  I had personally experienced a loved one going through it and I wanted to delay or prevent this situation for as long as I can.

In 2003, I started plotting the NEXT LAP of my journey. The people who touched my life have taught me a lot.  I knew that I could rely on their wisdom.   So, after much conversations and deep thinking, I finally identified 3 things I wanted.
  1. Firstly, I wanted to continue to do what I did well in my career.  I was told by my managers, peers and staffs that I am good at coaching and developing individuals.  My 32 years of work experiences and targeted trainings have given me the skills to help individuals, who want to, move to a better position.  
  2. The second area is to have a more integrated life.  This is not the elusive work-life balance.  It is not taking time away from one activity to giving it to another.  For me, it is about integrating my own life, my family life, my social life and my community life.  My activities should be integrated as much as possible.  For example, how do I involve my family in my social activities or how do I involve my work in my community activities?
  3. Finally, share my experiences by writing a book.  I thought that I had enough stories from my life’s challenges to fill a book.
In some future stories, I shall write about how I did in each of them.  Since this article is about planning for my Next Lap, I will focus on this.

When I started this plan, I was still working in a corporation.  If I wanted to leave the organization in a good state, I had to ensure that there is a smooth transition.  It meant identifying activities for my functions and what I needed to do for the transition.  I made sure that I included developmental activities for me.  The chart showed a segment of the roadmap I created for my role transition.  I listed all my responsibilities down a column and drew out a time line for 2004, 2005 and Retirement Phase.  I then identified the actions needed for each functional area and the amount of time required.  Since this is a 3-year roadmap, I broke each year into quarters.  You may not be able to read the details on the chart but I am sure you understand the concept.  The dark green blocks were firm activities or plans.  Those shaded yellow were being worked on or negotiated upon.  This roadmap gave all parties involved a clear idea of my transitional plan.  I used this roadmap for my career conversations with my managers, mentors and friends.  After each conversation, some of the actions were modified and all parties concerned were informed of the changes.

This method can be used not only for planning retirement activities but also for any career and role transition.
  • I started with what I like to do in 2 years from now.  Well it was more like what I didn’t like to do.  I chose 2 years as I felt I had sufficient clarity to plan specific activities.  One year is too short for me to take the necessary actions for change.   You should choose a time range that you feel comfortable with to enact the change and transition.
  • Next I reviewed my strengths, skills and weakness to beginning charting my activities required for the plan and the transition.
  • Then I adjusted the length of time required for each activity.
  • Finally, I began my career conversations.  Talk to people that you trust will give you good inputs – as many as you can.  They may be your family, your mentors, the people that you work with and others.  You will know that you have a solid plan when the time comes.  If you don’t, so what?  Plans shouldn’t be locked in concrete.  It should be flexible enough to change with conditions and time.

Although it seemed simple, there were quite a bit of work.  The most important input to the plan is the conversations I had with a number of people.  I was candid in explaining to them what I didn’t want and wanted.  I asked them for their insights and the feedback on both the feasibility and the “feel good” factor.  Usually in such conversations, more questions were raised than answered.  The additional questions gave me new insights whether I could find the answers.

So start your planning your NEXT LAP now.  Talk about your plans frequently.  Be prepared to change them even after you feel you have the best plan.  The only constant is change.  With each change you will need to modify your plan.  Finally, enjoy the process!


  1. KL, thanks for sharing these insights. Elpi and I will find these very useful and inspirational. Positive thoughts that are just in time for the Chinese New Year !

  2. Dear Betty Ann and Elpi, thank you for your constant and encouraging comments of my articles. You are absolutely correct in that one of the concept of the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival is renewal and refresh. We clean and get rid of clutters and obstructions to enable space for the new and good. It is wonderful that you can relate so well to the Chinese culture and tie it to personal renewal and development.

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