Self management: What it is and how to improve your skills

woman with pink curly hair knows that self management has a huge contribution to her success

Ever wonder how some people seem to get it all done and stay on top of every aspect of their lives? Do you feel like they must possess some secret skill that you haven't figured out yet?

Well, here's the truth: Those people who have it "all together" have cracked the code of mastering self-management.

A high level of self-management empowers you to be more productive and helps you show up as a valuable employee at work. It keeps you on track to achieve even your most ambitious life goals. Let's break down what self-management is and why it's important for your personal and professional success. We'll also share examples of self-management. We’ll provide tips you can use to model your desired behavior and reach your outcome.

Table of contents
What exactly is self-management?
Why is self-management important?
Does self-management matter in the workplace?
4 examples of self-management in your professional life and personal life
A coaching plan: personal development and soft skills to improve self-management
5 ways to practice healthy self-management
Self-management doesn't mean you need to go at it alone

What exactly is self-management?

The definition of self-management is all in the name: It's the ability to manage or maintain control of yourself. It’s knowing how to manage your emotions, tasks, behaviors, impulses, and even your time.

To a degree, everyone has some form of self-management if they can take care of their most basic needs. After all, those don't happen automatically and they require a certain degree of motivation and action.

To reach a high level of self-management means organizing more complex aspects of life using self-management techniques. It requires a range of skills paired with discipline and willpower to successfully meet major goals. People that seem to have it “all together” know their strengths and when to delegate or ask for help.  

Why is self-management important?

Let's dig a little deeper and spell out some other benefits of self-management:

  • You'll excel at relationship management. You'll build stronger bonds with people because they trust you and know you're capable
  • You'll be better equipped to use your problem-solving skills and coping skills to develop healthy relationships - at home or in the office
  • You'll be able to find the inner motivation to conquer your personal goals. You'll also have an easier time getting through your daily tasks
  • You'll experience increased productivity when you master time management. You'll have more energy and focus for your commitments and priorities.
  • You'll behave in ways you feel proud of rather than giving into impulses or other challenging behavior. In leading by example, you become a healthy model for others around you

Does self-management matter in the workplace?

Self-management pays dividends in your personal life and in professional relationships too. It makes you a more trustworthy and reliable coworker. As a contributing member of your team, you'll be eligible for more responsibilities and opportunities for promotions. Company leaders will value these productive behaviors.

You can demonstrate self-management at work by being organized and timely with your tasks and responsibilities. This includes being respectful to others and knowing when you need to put in extra time to get a project done. Leadership will have a strong sense that you're capable of taking on other projects or even managing a team of your own.

If you're already a leader or manager, it's worth noting that the best employees can manage themselves. Yes, they still need guidance. Yet a high degree of self-management usually means they are more productive, quick to take initiative, and take accountability in their work. Building a team of self-managers can make a leader's life easier so they don't feel the need to micromanage. They can trust team members to achieve simple tasks and larger goals.

A self-managing team is important, too.

Despite the term "self" in the name, self-management isn't all about an individual; you can see it play out on a team too.

Teams with strong self-management skills are invaluable for the workplace. They run effectively with little oversight from upper management. This leads to a number of benefits for leaders and the entire organization. They’ll have faster turnaround time on projects with improved communication and collaboration. When a team has trust in one another and their leader, they create a positive attitude and create less stress for everyone involved.

Self-managing teams are usually made up of individuals that have a high degree of self-management. Managers can support this with team meetings that clearly outline responsibilities. As a team, they provide frequent updates to one another and hold each other accountable.

4 examples of self-management in your professional life and personal life

Wondering how self-management shows up in various areas of your life? Here are a few different ways you might see it play out:

1. Physical health

Maintaining good health is a likely indicator of someone who has strong self-management skills. For example, someone who schedules regular exercise and eight hours of sleep is self-managing their health and prioritizing positive behaviors.

2. Behavior and emotions

Maintaining control over your emotions and behavior is another way of exercising self-management. While it's perfectly natural to feel all types of emotions (negative and positive) it can be beneficial to manage how those show up in situations. For instance, if you've been having a tough day and someone cuts in front of you in the line for the bank, your first instinct may be anger. If you have good self-management skills, you'll be able to take a step back and address the situation with positive behaviors.

3. Stress levels

Stress management skills can help you develop better overall self-management. Stress can lead to feelings of overwhelm or anxiety. Proactively managing your stress, before it becomes an issue, allows you to focus on your goals.

Some people manage their stress through meditation and mindfulness. Others may find stress relief through exercise, hobbies, or time with loved ones.

Another essential aspect of managing stress is by saying no to commitments that may cause stress later, either because you overcommitted or because it's an activity that doesn't bring you joy. Be empowered to say no to things that don't fill you up and choose activities that are good for your mental health.

Following these steps will help you self-manage your stress levels and maintain a good headspace for things you enjoy.

4. Time management

Overseeing and allocating time is an essential part of self-management. If you consistently get your work done on time and don't sweat deadlines, you have a solid sense of time management.

A good time manager is often a good delegator. They know they may not have enough time to complete certain tasks and realize another person would be helpful for getting the job done. Learn when to say no to requests and when to ask for help. This will help you prioritize tasks, maintain your focus, and give you a greater sense of ownership over your time, and ultimately, your life.

A coaching plan: personal development and soft skills to improve self-management

Understanding yourself is vital to self-management. A greater understanding of your intrinsic motivation, as well as what is draining to you, can be the key to unlocking your greatest potential. Since we don't always have an unbiased view of ourselves, coaching and personal development can help.

With Fingerprint for Success, you can discover your talents with our highly accurate assessment. It's based on 20+ years of research, with more than 90% accuracy. By taking our free assessment we measure 48 motivations so you can thrive in your work and personal life.

Here's how to get started:

  • Take the free assessment and gain instant access to your results. Your dashboard will show your top motivations — which are as unique as your fingerprint. You'll also see any blindspots, which can mean you have too much interest or not enough. These can be risk factors that may impact your success. By understanding more about yourself, you can improve your soft skills.
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  • Set a goal with AI Coach Marlee. Here you can hone in on what you want to achieve and how you want to grow. Then Marlee will suggest the perfect coaching plan. 90% of users achieve their goal by the end of their first coaching program.

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  • Start your coaching program. F4S programs are built by scientists and expert coaches, like our founder Michelle Duval, a pioneer in the coaching field. Sessions are flexible so with 15-minute sessions, you can summon your inner genius anywhere, anytime.

5 ways to practice healthy self-management

Here are some additional ways to develop solid self-management skills:

1. Self-care

You have to take care of yourself to master self-management. This means focusing on your physical, mental, and spiritual wellness to achieve your career goals. Self-care doesn't have to be all bubble baths or face masks, either. Make sure you're keeping your body and mind healthy: exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet, avoiding unneeded stress, and spending time doing activities that fill you up.

If you find your health declining, be empowered to say no to other things so you can take time to focus on getting your health back in order. A successful self-manager knows that basic needs and health are the first priority. You can’t truly focus on other aspects of your life when your health is compromised.

2. Control your emotions

One of the toughest self-management techniques is knowing how to keep emotions in check. This doesn't mean you can't let yourself feel or be present in the moment. It's about learning how to regulate your emotions so they don't overwhelm you. Then you can control whether (or where and when) you let your emotions show.

The first step to managing your emotions is to learn how to identify the various emotions you feel. When you can name and recognize an emotion, it's easier to manage your feelings. Once you've recognized what you're feeling, you can determine how much of that emotion would be helpful to display at the moment. Being in tune and managing your emotions is part of your emotional intelligence. You can use that knowledge to practice social awareness and respond to others based on their emotional clues.

For example, it's natural to feel frustrated when someone interrupts you in a meeting. But, it may not be productive to express your frustration in the heat of the moment and potentially throw the group off track. Instead, accept your emotions. Then find an effective way to share your feelings. This might mean taking the person alone after the meeting and expressing your concern. Managing your emotions this way can help you remain clear-headed during difficult conversations. You'll show your maturity and leadership skills in the workplace.

3. Goal alignment

Goal setting is a huge part of effective self-management. If you're working on your management skills at work, consider talking to your manager about your duties. Be sure to align on the priorities so you know how to work efficiently. It's a smart strategy that will help you and your boss take stock of what needs to be prioritized, as well as what work can wait.

In addition, talk about goals you have for your career development and let your manager know which steps you're taking to meet those goals and develop yourself. They'll appreciate the initiative and may be able to support you as you're working toward those goals.

In your personal life, setting goals can help you maintain focus. Start by making a list of your biggest dreams and desires. Then visualize yourself achieving those goals and notice how you feel. To avoid overwhelm, pick one from your list. Set some short-term goals that will help you get closer to the big picture goal.

Our best advice is to take the Goal Catcher program. Most of us need help when we reach for our wildest dreams. You’ll have support from Coach Marlee and together you’ll celebrate small milestones to keep you inspired. You’ll gain direction, clarity and maintain your motivation.

4. Prioritize your time

Good self-managers are also good time managers. They know how to use the available hours they have in a day to get the most important work done. Good time management can make you more effective and productive throughout the day and help you avoid procrastination or missing deadlines.

To be a better time manager, try the following strategies:

  • Pomodoro Technique: Set a timer for 25 minutes and see how many of your tasks you can get accomplished during that time frame. When the timer goes off, take a five-minute break before resuming for another 25-minute work period. After several of those intervals, reward yourself with a longer 20 or 30-minute break to recharge.
  • Eisenhower Matrix: List your to-do items into a quadrant of urgent vs. non-urgent and important vs. not important. Things that are both urgent and important you should do right away, things that are non-urgent and important you need to plan to do and schedule time for, things that are urgent but not important should be delegated, and things that are non-urgent and unimportant should be taken off your to-do list entirely.
  • Parkinson's Law: This is a good time management technique if you work best under pressure. Give yourself a set amount of time to complete a task and work until you complete the task in that timeline. To make this strategy effective, you could set an early deadline (complete the task in three days instead of the given five) or create an environment of allotted time (working on your laptop until the laptop battery dies).

5. Find an organizational system that works best for you

If you're well-organized, you can plan, prioritize, and do your tasks effectively without unnecessary distractions or confusion. Organization is the key to developing strong self-management skills.

There are plenty of project management software tools that can help (Trello, Monday, and Asana to name a few). The organizational system that works for someone else, though, may not be helpful to you. Think about how you like to see work done or information presented. Then use that to create a system to store and log information so you can find what you need when you need it. Whether it's finding meeting notes or medical records for your doctor, good organization can help you navigate your life efficiently with less stress.

Self-management doesn't mean you need to go at it alone

Just because you're managing yourself doesn't mean you can't get support. If you’re dealing with stress, chronic health conditions, or working on your organizational techniques, don't be afraid to find self-management support. Health professionals, life coaches, and F4S are available to help you reach your full potential and set you on the right path to success.

Enhance your self-management skills

Harness the soft skills needed for healthy self-management. Support your self-development and take the free F4S assessment.

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