10 Tips for Building a Successful Second Half

by Bob Buford and Ken Blanchard

What would you like to accomplish in the second half of your life? What do you value most? Here are some helpful tips for shifting into a successful second half.

There’s a seismic shift happening across the land as the workforce ages. Today, there are almost 4 million more workers aged 60 to 64 than there were in 2005. There are also many fewer Americans age 20 to 55 working today than in 2005. As of the third quarter of 2015, fully a third of America’s workers are over age 50, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and employees over age 65 outnumber teenage workers.

This regular column is about how to figure out what’s next for those of you who are about to leap into the abyss of retirement, and how to use those years in the most productive way possible.

Our friend Peter Drucker had a wise saying, among his many: “Nothing happens by accident. Put some structure on it.”

It is easy to think that things just happen, isn’t it? It is especially easy to believe that if you have always been successful in life. At some point, as you pick up momentum in your career, it all gets easier, and it’s understandable in a way that we would think that our second half would just magically happen.

But if you want to leave a legacy and do something significant with the next phase of your life, all of the evidence says that you have to plan and you have to put some structure on it. As usual, Peter was right.

Great leaders bring two vital ingredients to their organizations: vision and values. As it turns out, those two items are also critical to figuring out what’s next for you as an individual. If you have led a great organization or even been a part of one, you know how powerful these two ingredients can be.

So, cast a vision for yourself with the same enthusiasm and vigor that you do when casting the vision for your organization. Spend time working through and thinking about it. What would you like to accomplish in your second half? What do you value most? Then, with the answer firmly in mind, get started.

To help you as you begin this journey, here are some tips that the coaches at the Halftime Institute have found to be very effective. These and other helpful advice can also be found in the bookHalftime: Moving from Success to Significance, which offers the following useful tips:

Halftime Tips

  1. Delegate — at work, play, and home. You cannot do everything and shouldn’t try. This becomes especially important for those whose second half involves keeping their present job but doing it at “half speed.” Work smarter, not harder.
  2. Do what you do best and drop the rest. Go with your strengths. Period.
  3. Know when to say no. The more successful you are, the more you will be asked to help others. Don’t let others talk you into doing something you don’t want to do or don’t have time to do; it will become a chore. You want to pursue your mission, not someone else’s.
  4. Set limits. If you currently keep an average of four appointments a day, cut back to two or three. If you normally stay an hour after work, go home on time. If you take 12 business trips a year, cut back to six or eight. Reallocate time to your mission and your core issues.
  5. Protect your personal time by putting it on your calendar. Start your day slowly. It is much easier to maintain control over your life if you have regular quiet time. Leave time for absolute silence, for deliberately looking at your life to see that it is in balance.
  6. Work with people you like. Karol Emmerich, who quit several years ago as treasurer of Dayton-Hudson, says, “I want to find all the people I like being with and find some beneficial work we can do together. In my second half, I want to work with people who add energy to life, not with those who take energy away.” Good advice.
  7. Set timetables. Your mission is important and therefore deserving of your attention and care. If you do not put your second-half dreams on a timetable, they will quickly become unfulfilled wishes.
  8. Downsize. When Thoreau moved into a cabin on Walden Pond, he lightened up on the nonessentials in his life. Think about all the time and energy that are drained by owning a boat, a cottage, a second or third car, or a country club membership. None of these things are bad by themselves and are, in fact, designed to provide some fun in your life, but they can very easily become master controllers. Bottom line: If they stand between you and regaining control of your life, get rid of them.
  9. Play around a little. Not in the sense that would get you in trouble, but as a way to keep a handle on who’s in charge. There is something about skipping out of work to catch a baseball game in the middle of the week or taking your spouse to a movie instead of attending a committee meeting that reminds you who is calling the shots. Play ought to be a big second-half activity, not so much in terms of time spent, but in importance.
  10. Take the phone off the hook. Not literally (at least not all the time), but learn how to hide gracefully. Use voicemail. Learn to be less reactive. Voicemail lets you control who you talk to and when. Cell phones are great because you can call someone when you need to, then shut off the phone and ride in wondrous silence. Unless you’re a brain surgeon on twenty-four-hour call, it’s probably not necessary to let people know where you are all the time.