Camille Preston, leading business psychologist and CEO, defines self management as ‘finding the self-control and mastery needed to take control of one’s work (e.g., to manage one’s time, workflow, and communication)’.
Essentially, it’s about understanding how to pull out your strengths and stabilise your weaknesses in a way that allows you to work most effectively.
Being able to self manage requires countless skills, all of which produce important benefits for individuals and the companies they work for. This guide will cover the key ones and will explain how to best hone them.
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- Benefits of Self Management in the Workplace
- Performance Management with Factorial
The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines self management as ‘management by oneself of oneself or one’s affairs, especially: management of one’s own care or well-being’.
If we break this down, self management is about improving your self-awareness and using this knowledge to moderate your emotions and actions in a way that allows you and your team to work best.
It’s about strengthening emotional intelligence to build your own awareness of how to balance yourself. This can then be applied to both personal and professional day-to-day activities, allowing you to become more productive and to maximise your potential.
Working on ‘being in touch with yourself’ may sound like advice you would receive at a hippie-yoga retreat, but it actually has an important place in everyday working life. But like yoga, it can take practice, patience and, as this article will give, guidance.
It’s important to remember that no two people are the same. Perhaps you have already perfected some of these self management skills. Maybe others relate to areas of weakness that could use more focus. Reflect on yourself and your strengths before picking and choosing.
‘Tidy calendar, tidy mind’ are words to live by. Essentially, effective time management is the lynchpin for all other skills. It is not solely about working productively and quickly. You must also be able to identify more pressing tasks and prioritise your workload accordingly.
Spending time on organising time might feel like a waste of time, but it can save you valuable hours in the long run. By recognising unnecessary tasks and eliminating them, you’ll have less to pack into your busy work schedule. Doing so can also reduce procrastination as your workload will become less daunting and more structured.
Applying a traffic light system to your tasks can help to rank them and spread your attention accordingly. Red can be used for ‘crucial’ tasks that need to be completed immediately. Amber can be used for ‘important’ tasks that require attention within the next few working days. Green can then be reserved for ‘non-urgent’ tasks that don’t have a deadline.
Consider how you can adapt this for yourself. If you get bogged down by small but frequent day-to-day tasks, start using to-do lists prioritised by urgency. If your calendar is full of calls, reassess how necessary they are. Could they be made shorter? Could recurring meetings be less frequent? How could you use the time you have on the call more efficiently? If new projects and deadlines always seem to creep up on you, use calendars to plan ahead and schedule reminders.
Being able to make swift, logical decisions is another key self management skill. Indecisiveness can often lead to procrastination, lack of progression and confusion in both yourself and your team. As with much of self management, it’s best to pinpoint the biggest reasons for your own indecision and target these.
If you overthink decisions and often have too many thoughts running through your head, write everything down. Start making pros and cons lists and weigh up the opposing factors. You can even give positive scores to the pros and negative scores to the cons so that the final decision rests on simple maths. In other words, [positive total] – [negative total] = positive/negative number. A positive answer means yes, a negative answer means no.
Perhaps you’re after more accuracy than your own ranking system can give. If so, apply any real-time data you can gather to the situation and rest your decision on that.
Having said that, sometimes you can’t beat a second opinion (or a third, or a fourth…). If you know you’ll go around in circles chasing your tail until someone else intervenes, seek out that guidance from the get-go. Gather trusted opinions from colleagues and weigh these up. Don’t mistake leaning on your team for weakness; ultimately, you still have the final say.
It’s easy to take accountability when you’ve had a big win, but what about when things don’t go to plan? Learn to own your mistakes and accept your part in them. Admit that you made an error in judgement and turn these moments into learning curves. This means constantly asking yourself, what exactly went wrong here? Which decisions caused this and how can I prevent myself from making these again?
Celebrate this wins as they come, too. Use these to propel you and encourage similar work in the future. These can also be learning curves if you ask yourself, what did I do right here that I can continue doing?
Taking care of yourself
Self management starts from the inside. Listening to your body and what it needs can contribute massively towards your productivity and mental clarity.
For starters, ensure you’re getting enough sleep each night. Most people need a solid 8 hours to function but this can vary person to person. A recent study found that 7.5 million Brits are actually getting below five hours’ sleep a night. If you’re one of those people, try an app like Calm that offers sleep stories and guided meditations.
Staying healthy in regards to nutrition and exercise is another major contributor towards your mental health and therefore managing yourself. It’s been proven that diet and gut health affect your cognition, including thinking skills and memory. Looking after one means looking after the other.
Management of self can be helped by managing those around you. This might sound counter-intuitive, but hear us out.
By recognising the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and each individual in your team, you can spread the workload to match differing skill sets. It’s no use having an Excel whizz on the team if they’re spending hours on a deck whilst you’re struggling with spreadsheet formulas. Delegation is essential to productivity.
Start by identifying who is best at what. This applies to tangible skills (e.g. InDesign, Salesforce) as well as soft skills (e.g. public speaking, creativity). Tests such as 16 Personalities spotlight these and can recommend the ideal mix of individuals to work together effectively as a team.
Try beginning the work week with a team catch-up covering the upcoming projects and tasks for the week. Create a shared to-do list and tag each member in the tasks that match their strengths.
Managing stress levels
Managing yourself can be harder when stress levels are high, but this is also when you need self management the most. Stress can be the result of a large workload and can prevent you from tackling that same workload. For that reason, it’s essential to dedicate time to learning how to deal with and manage your stress.
First, start with the root of the problem – your workload. Use our time management tips above to organise your projects and plan ahead. Simply getting things in order can prevent stress from building in the first place.
Secondly, address how your stress presents itself at work and find ways to manage this. Do you become angry, causing you to lash out? If so, you could try out anger management tips from reputable places like Healthline. Or do you become despondent and unproductive? If this is the case, try surrounding yourself with positivity prompts to pull you back into work-mode.
Self motivation and self management go hand in hand. Essentially, this means finding the drive within yourself to carry out your role to the best of your abilities. Completing tasks simply because your boss tells you to and because you’re aware of the consequences if you don’t isn’t the healthiest framework. Working for yourself is more fulfilling and will lead to less resentment and frustration in the long-term.
Finding your purpose is a significant part of this. You’re much more likely to give maximum effort if you know you’re in the right place and that you’re moving towards your ultimate aim. It also means you’re likely enjoying your work, and time famously flies when you’re having fun.
However, this isn’t always easy. If you’ve not yet found your purpose and you’re finding it difficult to self-motivate, try discipline instead. Having a regimented routine means your body clock and your mind can switch to autopilot rather than relying on internal stimulation.
Management of self can be hugely advantageous to organisations and to the individuals who practise it. Benefits include:
Employees who can handle themselves put less strain on their managers. By taking away some of the management duties on the plate of managers, they will have more breathing room to focus on their day-to-day tasks. In turn, this should reduce burnout and turnover rate.
They will have more time to spend on overarching strategy as well as the professional growth and development of their team members. This can only mean clearer paths for progression, making your company more attractive to top talent.
A self managed individual is also less likely to burnout themselves. Through workload management and prioritisation, they will be able to free up more time for regular breaks and will be less likely to require overtime to finish their tasks.
This also means that a healthy work-life balance should be much easier to achieve and employee retention should be stronger as a result.
Stronger working relationships
Employees that can manage their time, stress and ultimately themselves are more consistent and dependable. These are the types of people other colleagues will feel they can lean on and approach for advice. They are often the glue that holds a team together.
They also rub off on other people. Other team members may follow in their footsteps and recreate their processes and the positive results they yield.
The self management skills listed above are all also qualities of leaders. If you can manage yourself, you are more likely to be seen as someone with the potential to manage others. Managing the self is almost like a trial run for line management!
Even if becoming a line manager isn’t on the cards, honing those skills will heighten the possibility of other types of progression. Managers generally trust important duties to those who they think can handle it. A motivated, organised person who manages their time and stress comes across as reliable. Someone who is self managed is therefore a magnet for more responsibility and will be able to develop faster and further.
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