The Importance of Self-ManagementReading Time: 5 minutes
By: Robin Brogdon, MA, CEO
When most people think of management, they think of managing people or processes. But to be most effective at these aspects of management, you need to begin on the inside with self-management. Some might also call this the ability to be introspective, self-reflective, and even have self-awareness. This is all true.
The definition of self-management is demonstrating self-control and an ability to manage time and priorities. More specifically, self-management is the ability to prioritize goals, decide what must be done, and be accountable to complete the necessary actions.
When we look at self-management in an academic context, it is the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively and in different situations. This includes managing stress, delaying gratification, motivating oneself, and setting and working towards personal and professional goals.
As you can see by the definitions, some degree of self-management is essential to coexist peacefully, let alone be productive as a leader or positive contributor to a team.
Someone with strong self-management skills knows what to do and how to act in different situations. For instance, they know how to control their anger when the umpire unfairly calls their child out at a little league game. They know how to avoid distractions while working from home, so they can maintain focus and stay productive. They know what they need to do to achieve their fitness goals—and they follow through. Self-management means you understand your personal responsibility in different aspects of your life, and you do what you need to fulfill that responsibility.
Is Self-Management Emotional Intelligence?
This self-management definition has its roots in emotional intelligence theory, also referred to as self-regulation. Self-regulation is supported by our capacity for self-awareness, which helps us create conscious access to our thoughts, desires, and feelings. Only once we are aware of these things, can we begin to control and express them appropriately.
Those with well-developed self-awareness and self-regulation are well-positioned to develop a set of self-management skills that support them on their work and personal journeys.
Why is Self-Management so Important in an Organization?
The ability of team members to self-manage is critical for the effective functioning of an organization. Imagine an environment where the majority of those working within it were unable to stay on task, on strategy, and on schedule. That would make it very challenging to complete projects.
Self-management is even more important when we talk about empowering employees across the organization to be more innovative and resourceful. When every team member understands their responsibilities, goals, and what it takes to achieve them, they can make better decisions and do their part to achieve the team and organization objectives. Part of effective self-management with empowerment is that employees make good decisions about when to seek additional help or input.
12 Tips to Sharpen Your Self-Management Skills (Excerpts from BetterUp)
- Keep your promises. There are two parts to keeping your promises. First, do what you said you would do. It creates trust with others and within yourself. Second, be careful what you say yes to. Your job is not to be a hero. It is to stay focused on your role and to work to your strengths. Know your boundaries, but apply compassion as you hold them.
- Align to the right level of engagement. Appropriate engagement varies from the executive table to individual contributors. There is a continuum from strategy to execution that moves from “why” to “what” to “how”. Keep your focus on the right point for your role. As a middle manager, for example, your job is to translate the “why” of strategy into the “what” of discreet projects. It isn’t your job to figure out how to do those projects.
- Focus on what you can control. No matter how good the plan we make, we are not in control of, or responsible for, everything that happens around us. What we are in control of is how we respond to the impact of these circumstances. Fred Kofman, the author of Conscious Business, likes to ask “how are you response-able?” What is the best action you can take right now?
- Be a player, not a victim. If you begin to feel things like “this isn’t fair” or “why didn’t they meet the deadline?” you are likely seeing yourself as a victim. How can you move from victim to player? A player works with intention rather than being controlled by external events. They can often find themselves engaged more productively by evoking a coaching stance, being creative to propose solutions, or respectfully challenging the status quo.
- Know who you are (and who you aren’t). Keep an inventory of your strengths in mind, and as you plan your work, assign yourself work that fits these strengths. The corollary here is that you also know what you aren’t good at, which means finding others who are. For example, I’m aware that I am strong at the big picture and strategy. I am poor at (and disinterested in) the minute details of execution, so I always look to have an organized, task-master around me.
- First things first. If we have a good plan we know the critical items we have to get done. We also know that there will be many demands/requests for our time helping others meet their objectives. We need to stake out time on our calendars for our work first, while still allowing enough time to be supportive of others and to stay in tune with the organization. By doing this, you control which items of lesser priority get your time.
- Meetings with yourself. Make time for yourself to stay on plan. At a minimum, set time aside for a one-hour weekly meeting where you take stock of progress, catalog problems, notice opportunities, and update your plans for the next week, month, or quarter.
- Nurture yourself. You can’t do your best if you aren’t at your best. Know that you will be most effective if you eat well, focus on physical wellbeing, and get at least seven hours of sleep daily.
- Take breaks. It is very easy to get caught up in work, and being tied to your desk is counterproductive. Taking breaks allows time to release stress and recharge. Get creative: visit a colleague, get some water, go out for a walk in nature, or call your partner. Just get away from work for a few minutes several times a day.
- Practice mindfulness. Introduce the habit of mindful meditation into your day. When we enter a state of meditation, it is just as helpful to our brains and bodies as sleep. Spending 5-10 minutes, a couple of times each day, can create new energy for us.
- Avoid “coveting.” Coveting is defined as a yearning to possess or have something. When we do this, we attach our happiness to future outcomes which can provoke feelings of stress in the present about achieving those outcomes. Keep your energy in the present, knowing that good work now leads to good outcomes later.
- Don’t multitask. The idea of multi-tasking has somehow been given a badge of honor. The fact is that human minds don’t work that way. We are wired to do one thing, and then switch tasks. Switching tasks requires energy to refocus, so the more we do it the more time and energy we waste.
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.