Crack this approach to your work life and watch your productivity soar!
Are you the driving force behind your work day? Are you on top of your tasks? Do you prioritise like a pro? Do you have your schedule down to a tee? If you're not shouting yes, yes, and yes, you might want to take a look at your self-management skills. This crucial approach to your work could help you to increase your employability and move up the ladder.
Stuck scratching your head? We've got you. In the following guide, we'll take a look at what self-management is, the skills you need to develop it, and how you can get started.
What is self-managing?
Before you start honing this skill, you need a definition of self-management. This is what it says on the tin - the process of managing yourself on a daily basis. It can be applied to both your personal life and professional life. Put simply, it's about being in total control of your emotions, actions, and thoughts so that you're working towards an end goal.
If you're just going through the motions - making lunch, commuting, putting in the hours - you may not be looking at the bigger picture. Often enough, people allow themselves to be guided by the things that happen to them rather than being in control of themselves.
For example, you may get distracted by a colleague telling you a story at work and lose an entire hour. You may be having a bad day and be grumpy towards your boss for contributing to a poor workplace. When these problems crop up, it's a sign you're not self-managing.
On the other hand, if you have your eyes on the prize and make sure that your behaviour supports that at every turn, you'll start to see some of the benefits of self-managing.
Why is self-management so important?
Now that you're clued up on the self-management meaning, let's talk about why it's important - for both you and your career. When you master this particular skill-set, you'll become more productive. That's good news for your career. You might find that this newfound approach to work starts to open figurative doors for you. When leadership positions come up, your name is sure to be the first on the managers' lips.
Make no mistakes, self-management is a habit. You need to practise it regularly so that it becomes automatic. If this is alien to you, you may find that there's a learning curve. You may not have used the most common self-management skills in your everyday life. However, the more you start to use them, the more natural they'll start to feel. Don't panic if you're completely new to this approach to your working life. It comes with time!
8 self-management skills you need to learn
Okay, you're ready to turn over a new leaf. Before now, you've bustled along, getting through the nine-to-five day and hoping for the best. It's time to take a more proactive approach to your work. That's where learning self-management skills comes into play.
To get this right, you need a good mixture of skills. Chances are, you'll already have some of these in the bag. Others, you may need to work on to master. Take a peek at the skill-set below and see which of the boxes you already tick (and which you need to):
1. Time management
Time management is a top priority when you want to self-manage. If you WFH, you may find that time gets away from you. More than 30% of homeworkers say that their productivity fell as a result of being out of the office. With that in mind, it has never been more important to take control of your time and learn how to schedule your tasks.
If you find that you simply don't know where the hours go, there are ways you can deal with that issue. For example, you might want to try the Pomodoro Technique, in which you work solidly for 25 minutes, have a short break, and then repeat. Similarly, you may choose to use a workflow management tool, such as Asana, Clickup, or Monday.
2. Strategic planning
Are you planning for the future of your career? Getting into work, doing your job, and getting out is one thing. It's fine. However, if you want to progress in a serious way, you're going to need a game plan. So, the age-old question rears its ugly head again: where do you see yourself in five years' time? Don't worry if you don't immediately have an answer, but you may want to take some time to give this conundrum some thought.
The easiest way to make your dream a reality is to work backwards. Let's say you want to become a manager. Before you do that, you need to become a team leader. To land that promotion, you're going to need to showcase your leadership skills. That may mean working on your communication skills and collaborating with others, among other things. Looking at the process from this angle helps you to know where to start when planning.
Are you a naturally organised person? Do you have a Filofax filled with all of your appointments and tasks? Or, like most of us, do you simply “wing it” when you get to work? While you don't have to get things down to the very minute, it pays to be on top of your workload. You shouldn't rely on a manager to figure out which tasks you need to be working on. Take matters into your own hands and start planning your days.
As we've already covered, there are some management tools you can use here. However, if you're the type of person who finds organisation hard, it's all about figuring out what works for you - and that may not be the same as everyone else. It's worth looking at some of the core organisational approaches and trying them out for yourself.
4. Stress management
Workplace stress is no joke. One in every 14 Britons feels stressed every day, according to recent research from tech company Ciphr. When you're under pressure, you may want to run away and hide under your duvet, rather than doing your work. It's okay if that scene sounds familiar. However, you know just as well as anyone that you need to take control.
Learning how to manage your stress levels could help you to unlock your self-management. When you feel that you're on top of things - and not entirely out of control - you'll be in a better position to be productive. Of course, that's often easier said than done.
There are plenty of ways to combat your stress. If you have too much on your figurative plate, it's worth speaking to your manager about this issue. Tackling the problem head-on will help you to get a better work-life balance overall. Equally, there are some tactics you may choose to use outside of the workplace. For example, you could spend more time in nature, try some mindfulness-based activities, or improve your nutritional intake.
5. Decision making
Making decisions can be tough - especially if you're a perfectionist. If you always want to get everything right, you may find yourself stuck in decision-making paralysis. Since you don't have a crystal ball, you have no way of knowing whether the choice that you make will be the right one in the end. However, oftentimes, you need to make a call all the same.
Your ability to solve problems and make a decision is one of the biggest skills when it comes to self-management. Should you always “escalate” issues and ask your manager what you need to do, your workflow will be slow. While there will always be some choices you can't make alone, there's power in knowing which they are and which you can.
To help you get to grips with decision-making, it's smart to sharpen up your critical thinking skills. The more you flex this muscle, the stronger it will become. It may be helpful to test yourself and start out small - by making seemingly unimportant decisions. After that, you can start working your way up and become a pro when it comes to making key choices.
6. Priority setting
Let's say that you have a task list as long as your left arm. Where are you going to start here? Prioritising things is an artform. Looking at the things you have to do and evaluating which is the most important is a good place to start. You may find that one task is necessary for another department to move their workflow on, for example. That shuffles it to the top of the list. You may also have an imposing deadline coming. That matters too.
Finding it hard to prioritise your tasks? If so, you may want to make it a daily habit. Each morning, set aside 15 minutes to review the work that you have to do and determine which parts of it are the most crucial. Writing down a quick “order of play” will help you to get things straight in your mind. Once you've done that, you can get started with your work day.
7. Emotional regulation
Do you rule your emotions or do they rule you? If you have a reputation for getting hot-headed or teary in the workplace, this self-management skill is a must. If you want to be in control of your work-life, you need to take emotions out of the equation. You can only do that by regulating your feelings and ensuring that you approach work with a level head.
Need an example? Imagine that you have some negative feedback from your manager. They may tell you that you're not quite adhering to the work guidelines and they've had a number of complaints from your coworkers about your time-keeping. That stings. The last thing anybody wants to hear is that they are falling short of the mark at work.
Your gut reaction may be to argue with your manager, telling them that they're wrong and that your coworkers must be lying. You may angrily insist that they tell you who made the complaints, so that you can speak to them about it yourself. That's an emotional reaction.
Instead, you need to take a moment before you respond. Breathe and allow yourself to absorb the information. When you've done that, you can decide on the best course of action. It may be helpful to reflect on your time-keeping and how that affects others. That way, when you reply to your manager, you can do so in a calm and collected manner.
Emotional regulation isn't easy. If you find it hard to manage your feelings in the workplace, it's well worth looking at some management techniques. Alternatively, you can speak to a counsellor or mental health specialist about the steps you can take here.
8. Personal development
Have you got your sights set on bigger things? If you want to become an absolute whizz at self-management, you should weave in some personal development. Think about what you currently bring to the table and how you could add more to your existing skill set. That may mean taking an online course, shadowing a superior, or doing some on-site training.
If you want to become a leader in your field - and that is where you should be heading - having a keen eye on your personal development will help you. Make sure that you're continually looking for opportunities to grow your skills and become more valuable to the company. When you have a goal to work towards, self-management becomes easier.
How do you improve self-management?
Practice makes perfect. If you want to improve your self-management, you need a multi-pronged approach. Since we've already covered the skills you need above, the smartest thing you can do is dedicate time and energy to each of them. Take a moment to evaluate what strengths you already have, but also consider your weaknesses.
The more honest you are here, the better. When you're able to truthfully evaluate yourself, you can start looking at your weak areas and giving them the attention that they deserve. This process may be a long one. However, it can help you to supercharge your career.
Becoming a self-management pro won't happen overnight. However, when you make this your mission there are plenty of tactics that you can start to use. In this guide, we've taken a look at some of the skills you'll need to get more out of your work day. Now that you're well-versed in all of them, think about which ones you want to focus on right now.
Perfecting your self-management skills will increase your employability. If you're on the hunt for a new job, why not submit it for a free CV review from our team of experts?