Management is an essential tool in the workplace, but we typically only focus on the skill of managing others. While just as important, self-management skills are crucial but overlooked as a necessary set of skills on the job. Being able to manage oneself is critical, and often an indicator of your ability to manage others.
Why is self-management important? It’s the ability to hold yourself accountable for your work. Without proper self-management, many of us lose sight of goals or cannot effectively prioritize our work. Not sure how to start mindfully using this skill? Here are five tools for improvement:
1. Implement the “Two-Minute” Rule
The “two-minute” rule is a great way to kick start self-management, both at home and at work. The rule is simple: if it takes less than two minutes to complete a task, do it now. Don’t put off hanging up a coat, RSVP-ing to a meeting, or putting the dishes in the dishwasher.
It’s a simple rule, to be sure, but it’s essential to self-management. It teaches you to make the most of your time while avoiding everyday procrastination habits. While a two-minute task could seem small or meaningless, checking things off your to-do list is a confidence builder. Being efficient with your time, even with the most trivial tasks, can snowball into more significant accomplishments.
Frequent use of the two-minute rule can also help you avoid the “busy trap,” or that misconception that you’re too busy to get anything done. Instead, complete a small task and start crossing things off of your list.
2. Forget the Myth of Multitasking
In today’s workplace, it’s hard to reject the appeal of multitasking. Studies show that only 2.5% of the population can efficiently multitask, so most of us need to stop kidding ourselves that it works.
However, it’s easy to believe the myth of multitasking when it keeps us from reflecting and prioritizing. When we’re thrown many tasks at once, it can be tempting to try to accomplish a few at the same time, instead of considering the order of importance of each task. Instead, we multitask and split our brains - likely losing our ability to get even one thing done correctly.
It’s understandable that we’d want to multitask. In the modern workplace, we’ve got emails, office chats, and multiple tabs open on our web browser. It’s a lot to contend with. So start combating multitasking in small ways. Dedicate ten minutes of undivided attention to a task at hand. Do your best to limit distractions. Pause your inbox, close out most of your web tabs. Hide your cell phone if you need to. At first, it might feel like your work is moving slower, but in reality, you’re much less likely to make mistakes this way.
3. Admit Your Mistakes
As a manager, it often falls to us to point out the mistakes of others. In self-management, it’s essential to be able to admit your own mistakes. So many of us are afraid to own up when we’ve done something wrong, but when we ignore it, we’re impeding our paths to growth.
Instead of avoiding a mistake, acknowledge it as soon as you can. Then move on. The more comfortable you become with this process, the less you’ll find you need it. Admitting failure - even your own - creates a teachable moment of growth. It’s also one of the healthiest things you can do as a leader or manager.
Admitting failure can be the most challenging ask when it comes to improving self-management. Working with a coach can be a great way to push through the baggage that comes with admitting our mistakes.
4. Act like a Kindergartner
The first lessons we learn as children are often forgotten as an adult. But, acknowledging "the golden rule" in the workplace can fundamentally change the way we relate to teammates. It’s simple: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. We get back exactly what we give.
At work, focus on treating teammates and managers (even the challenging ones) the way you want to be treated in return. Consciously considering the way you treat other people will have a positive effect on your daily output. Instead of being rushed or unkind, work to address everyone with a little patience. In turn, this can change the way you treat yourself. Practicing compassion with others will bring compassion back to yourself.
Alternatively, we often worry about being too nice or being too easy on people in the workplace. We fear they won’t learn or grow. Instead, consider how kindness can change your relationships at your job. How can compassion in the day-to-day lead to improved relations and output?
5. Allow Time for Self Reflection
Self-management will only go as far as your personal goals allow it. With an eye on the horizon, plan your day-to-day keeping in mind your future goals. While we get swept up in daily drama or projects, make time to “course correct”: How are your actions now setting you up for success in the future?
“I’m always ‘working with myself’ so why would I need to have check-ins?” you might ask. But think about it - you have regular meeting with bosses or teammates to check the status of a project, so why wouldn’t you apply the same rule to yourself?
Self-reflection can be a time to think about mistakes or areas of improvement, but it should also be used to acknowledge personal accomplishments and celebrate progress. Remember, if you haven’t reflected on where you’ve been, you’ll have a harder time understanding where you’re headed.
Most of us have the misconception that to be your own boss, you need to own a company or work exclusively for yourself. However, we are already our own bosses, and focusing on self-management is a great way to strengthen this skill. With some kindness, patience, and habit-forming behaviors, we can all become the managers we aspire to be - even if it’s just for yourself.