Self-management includes all the skills that help us control various aspects of our life. This includes the choices we make, our reactions and our ability to prioritise and control our feelings or thoughts.
Deliberate self-management lets us take control of the trajectory of our life. Broadly, we need to think about 2 things - (1) coming up with a plan, and (2) sticking to it. Without these, it's hard to achieve any personal goals.
Self-management is a critical workplace skill that we can all improve. We’re only human, after all. Take some time to consider in what ways you excel at self-management, and where you might improve.
Stay conscious of your thoughts, desires, and feelings as you go through your day, and take note of those you need to work on. Acknowledging the need for improvement is a big step toward attaining it.
4 Self-Management Techniques To Put You In The Center Of Your Life
1. Adopt The ‘Getting Things Done’ Framework To Stay Organized
According to David Allen, creator of the "Getting Things Done" methodology:
"Self-management is about knowing what to do at any given moment".
The GTD framework helps you achieve that. The idea is simple — clear your mind for important things by capturing and organizing all the tasks that need to be done in a logical system. This allows you to take control of what needs to be done, avoiding any mental distractions so you can focus on execution.
The GTD framework is based on five steps:
Capture all the things! Your ideas, recurring tasks, long emails responses, meetings, everything.
Clarify the things you have to do. This is the time to decide if that task needs action or not.
Organize those action tasks by priority and category. Assign due dates when possible.
Reflect on your to-do list. This is when you revise all the system and pick what your task should be.
Engage and get to work. At this stage, all your tasks are organized by priorities and broken down into actions. You know exactly what you should be doing.
Conscious Tip: When reflecting on what tasks needs to be accomplished, think about the emotional outcome of that action. How are you going to feel while doing it and completing it? Try to categorize your list in a balanced way where you have a task that will make you feel "you are a good person in the world", for instance, and another task where you feel tedious about it but you know it needs to be done (e.g. doing your taxes).
This way you stop trying to find valuable things to do and start finding the value in the things you are already doing.
Looking for a way to prioritize and be more productive? It starts with self-management. Follow these 4 tactics to put yourself first
2. Practice The Pomodoro Technique To Boost Your Focus
Avoid task hopping by using the Pomodoro technique. The idea is to choose one task and make the small commitment of spending 25 minutes completely focused on it, followed by short breaks of 5 minutes. After four cycles, allow yourself a break of 30 minutes.
This technique will only work if you set your environment to avoid interruptions, whether external like constant pings on Slack, or internal like your own thoughts and emotions. I would like to focus on the latter since it's much easier to shut down an app and not so easy to ease the mind.
Before you go into your deep work mode, take a few breaths and assess if that task triggers any discomfort on you.
For instance, while working on a presentation for your directors, you have a persistent voice in the back of your mind saying "I am not good at this". According to a study, if this is left unaddressed, this thought can cause a bad mood, procrastination, and/or self-doubt — a feeling associated with characteristics of imposter syndrome.
Take a moment to acknowledge your emotions or thoughts by writing it down. From there, you can either decide to find closure, or put it to rest for now, and bring your attention back to your focus (the NOW task).
Conscious Tip: Keep a journal (analog or digital!) to write down any thoughts or emotions that came through while focusing on a task. This will help you increase your self-awareness and understand what initiatives trigger discomfort and what motivates you.
3. Use The Eisenhower Matrix To Prioritize And Delegate
One way of improving self-management is by prioritizing your urgent and important tasks. The Eisenhower Matrix can help you achieve that and also understand what can be delegated. It's split into four boxes:
Below is an example of how it can be used:
The key when using this technique is to reflect and identify which quadrant you spend the majority of your time. If you spent too much time on tasks that are Urgent and Important, you will end up being burnt out, stressed, and continually putting out fires instead of being proactive.
On the other hand, if you spend most of your time on Not Urgent and Not Important tasks, that means that you are not in the center/in control of your life, being irresponsible and dependent on other people or institutions for your basic needs.
Conscious Tip: At the end of the week, sit down for the last hour to evaluate how this system worked for you. Ideally, you want to be working on tasks that are on the Not Urgent/ Important quadrant which means you are focusing on your vision, mission, and things that you can control.
4. Learn To Say No To Stay True To Your Goals
When you say yes to another project or to help a coworker on something "quickly," it means you are effectively saying no to the tasks you have already prioritized. Take your time before committing to doing another task. Sometimes, saying "Can I get back to you on this?" gives you the opportunity to delegate, research more about the new task, or ask the experts for more information.
Conscious Tip: Improve your self-esteem and your confidence by evaluating your own worth and learning to say ‘no’ in certain circumstances.