Julie Zhuo, the author of The Making of a Manager, coined the concept of self-management, which helps us take control of our actions via productivity, motivation, and accountability.
Although the idea is originally about team management, it can also apply to personal development.
Why Is Self-Management Important?
Self-management includes skills that help us control various aspects of our life, including the choices we make, our reactions, and our ability to prioritize our feelings/thoughts. To achieve personal goals, we need to come up with a plan and stick to it.
Even if personal goals are not a priority right now, self-management is important because this is what employers will be looking for in new employees. Since more companies are going remote, people with good self-management skills are more likely to do their job without being monitored constantly.
There are nearly infinite self-management skills, but here are six that I believe are the most useful for both the personal and business sides of your life.
Organization. David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, describes our brains best:
Your brain is for having ideas, not for holding them.
The trick to being more organized is to "hand-off" the storing part of our brain to external systems. We need a way to capture ideas, keep track of projects, and retrieve our notes. I use Google Calendar, Things 3, and Notion.
Once we have built an organizational system, we are less likely to forget things, and we will build a library of our notes over the years.
Setting goals. Goals are like a compass; they help point us in the right direction. And the systems we use help us move forward in the direction of our goals. Try to keep a majority of goals that are broadly within your control, rather than outside of your control. An example of a goal that is within my control is publishing an article and newsletter every week. However, reaching 1,000 newsletter subscribers is not within my control.
Stress management. Even though stress manifests differently for everyone, managing stress is an important part of living a happy and fulfilled life. This point is a work in progress for me too. I have been looking into stoicism recently, and one of the main points of it is, "It is not events that concern people, it is their judgments concerning them."
Accountability. It is human nature to make excuses when we are unable to do a job as planned. However, this approach ends up in failure because it makes us seem untrustworthy. Instead, explain the situation, acknowledge the mistake, and figure out how to learn from the experience.
Meaningful productivity. This concept is about being consciously present in what you are doing while managing your mental and emotional states. Mindful productivity is a way to give us new perspectives on work, life, and the creative process. Besides being focused, this concept helps us notice when we are becoming anxious or stressed.
Improving Self-Management Skills
Much of self-management is intuitive. However, it is imperative to actually implement these skills rather than knowing that we should practice them.
- If a task takes less than two minutes, do it now (the Two-Minute Rule).
- Choose to be satisfied with how you have spent your time.
- Strive to be consistent.
- The best advice comes from books (and this blog, of course). Instead of trying self-management skills blindly, use the advice from people who are where you want to be.
Self-management can help us achieve our personal and professional goals. Even though it can be difficult to develop these skills, it is worth it to do so because it can improve our lives drastically.
Which self-management skill do you want to try? Let me know in the comments below!