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Self-Management: 10 strategies & 4 skills for more effectiveness

Private and professional success are closely related to skillful self-management. Motivation, goal setting and organization are just a few aspects of it. Why self-management is so important and the most effective tips and methods for more professional and private success we present here for you.

If you want to develop yourself privately or professionally, you can hardly avoid effective self-management. It helps you set your focus and keep the really important things in front of your eyes. What self-management actually is, we explain in the following.

Self-management definition

Self-management definition

Self-management is about the competence to shape one’s own personal or professional development largely independent of external circumstances. According to the definition, it includes the sub-competencies of motivation, goal setting, planning, time management, organization, learning, and control of success. The goal is to increase one’s own motivation, to work out achievable goals, and ultimately to achieve them more effectively.

Own responsibility plays a major role. Only if you have the will to take responsibility for your personal becoming, you can manage yourself and your tasks effectively. You can learn self-management by acquiring different methods and thus achieve more productivity. The techniques come from the fields of management, psychology and personal leadership.

Self management versus time management

The terms self-management and time management are sometimes used interchangeably. Yet there is a key difference: You can’t manage time itself – it always passes at the same rate – you, however, can. Therefore, the term time management is slightly misleading, but basically describes a similar principle. Why self-management is important for your personal success, we explain in the following.

That’s why self-management is so important

That’s why self-management is so important

In today’s meritocracy, the majority of working people are chronically stressed or overwhelmed. This constant mental strain not only leads to persistent inner turmoil, but can also facilitate sleep disorders or even burnout. Therefore, it is important to deal intensively with oneself, one’s goals and motivation and, above all, to use one’s available time effectively without stressing oneself out.

Moreover, personality development is closely linked to personal and professional success. Those who have a clear goal in mind and develop a passion or fervor for an activity can become fully absorbed in that task. Many experience a kind of "flow" as a result, i.e. feelings of success and happiness that spur and motivate them on and on. If, in addition to this, you learn to use your available time wisely, you can go far beyond yourself.

Tips for more effectiveness in everyday life

Below you will find simple and practical tips that can make your everyday life more effective. They can help you set your priorities, structure yourself better and manage your time more effectively.

Setting priorities

Before you can even set priorities, you should ask yourself what your mindset and motivation actually is. What projects would you like to tackle? What tasks do you need to get done? What exactly do you need to do to achieve this or that goal?

To be able to manage yourself and your projects, you need a clear understanding of your own personality and personal motivations. By setting priorities, you create a clear view of what is essential – what is essential to you.

Motivational Questions

Ask yourself the following questions once and try to answer them as clearly as possible:

  • Does the task/activity fit my personal goals and future perspective?
  • Where does the fulfillment of this task lead? Will it bring me closer to my goals?
  • Is there anyone (besides myself) who expects me to complete this task?
  • Am I acting purposefully or am I simply acting?
  • What makes me feel good (both physically and mentally)?
  • When and where I had the last time the feeling to act self-determined?
  • How did I achieve the feeling?

Create an overview

Get an overview of your tasks and projects

First, you need tasks or projects that you can prioritize in the first place. Get an overview by listing them all. This can also be time for you, such as reading or doing sports. Now divide the tasks into two categories according to the Eisenhower method: 1. importance (important or not important) and 2. urgency (urgent or not urgent). Once you have divided all activities into these two categories, you basically already have your priorities.

Everything marked with urgent AND important has absolute priority. After that follow activities that are not important, but urgent. Alternatively, you can try to delegate or outsource these tasks or leave them to someone else. If this is not possible, they will be added to your To-Do List in a timely manner.

Projects that are important but not urgent are often matters of the heart. You can tackle such tasks in quiet moments, or pencil them in on the calendar for a later date. Everything that you marked as not urgent and not important, you can cross off the list. They should not take a place in your thoughts for now.

Keep a diary

A time diary can help you to expose your personal time eaters. For at least a week, make a daily note of the tasks you do and how much time you spend on them. What do you do quickly and precisely? What costs you a lot of time?

In this way you get to know yourself and your behavior a little better. You get a feeling for how fast you work and can think about in the next step, how you can optimize this process. This applies especially to activities that are not actually important, but are processed by you very time-consuming.

Get rid of perfectionism

Say goodbye to perfectionism

Often we try harder than perhaps we should. But sometimes "good" is good enough. Certain tasks can’t even be handled perfectly – like a completely clean apartment, for example. Here again, it helps to write down projects and set priorities before you start a task.

Start small instead of giving up quickly

Sometimes we shy away from activities before we’ve even started them. Even if we would like to implement them. Often, we lack the leisure to do the 30-minute yoga session we had planned after an eight-hour workday and a quick apartment cleaning.

If the upcoming activity makes you uncomfortable because of its duration, just shorten it. Instead of 30 minutes of yoga, an hour of reading and 10 minutes of meditation, you can limit yourself to ten minutes of yoga, five minutes of meditation and only 30 minutes of reading. The willingness to give only half of your time to one thing is higher than directly scheduling the whole evening. So you act despite your momentary demotivation purposeful. Of course, this should not be a permanent condition, if you come in this way only haltingly closer to your goal.

Create a procrastination list

Create next to your daily or weekly to-dos a so-called procrastination list. Here you write down ten to twenty activities or projects that you can do when you just can’t mentally focus on important tasks. The time that you would otherwise have procrastinated, you spend in this way yet productive.

The list can include activities like making a grocery list, doing laundry, cleaning up your desktop, or talking on the phone with family or friends.

Let yourself be inspired

There are numerous books, podcasts, e-books, seminars and motivational videos that deal with personal development and self-management. Let them inspire you, motivate you or look for new ideas for your projects. You can also put this item on your procrastination list.

Know your personal prime time

Know your personal prime time

Everyone ticks differently. We all carry an internal clock within us that regulates wakefulness and fatigue. Just as there are typical morning grouches, other people are at their most efficient in the early morning hours.

This window of time in which you are capable of high performance is your so-called "personal prime time." This is when you are usually most motivated, effective and fittest. If you know your personal prime time, you can accomplish your most important and urgent tasks during this time. If you don’t know it, record your energy levels every day for a week and evaluate them at the end of the week.

Stop multitasking

For many people, multitasking is a commendable trait. But in fact, humans – regardless of gender – are demonstrably not designed to do multiple things at once at all.

Rather, it’s the other way around: you can no longer focus fully on one thing at a time. The likelihood of making a mistake now is significantly increased. In addition, your stress level rises, you feel more quickly overwhelmed and erratic. Rather, do things in order. This won’t cost you more time in the end than if you were only half concentrating on two things at once.

Power nap

Power napping is where you take a small effective nap without it robbing you of energy for the rest of the day. Because you don’t enter the deep sleep phase during power napping, you don’t feel light-headed or foggy-headed when you wake up. Instead, the 20-minute nap providesfresh energy. This is especially helpful if you often feel tired during the day, but don’t want to waste time taking a long nap.

Cultivate a healthy lifestyle

Cultivate a healthy lifestyle

Physical and mental well-being are closely related. Those who keep themselves physically fit are usually also fitter in the head, better equipped to deal with stress and less susceptible to illness or fatigue.

In addition to a healthy and balanced nutrition, above all regular exercise plays an important role. Short sport units or a small jogging round are usually already sufficient. After all, you should not stress yourself additionally with it, but consider the care of your body as a kind of time-out or self-care.

Methods for better self-management

When self-managing, it’s helpful to have a concrete goal in mind that you want to achieve as effectively as possible. At best, this goal should be specifically nameable, measurable, achievable, and – most importantly – realistic. Not every goal can be defined by all of these criteria, and it doesn’t have to be. However, naming and assessing your goals can help you get motivated and get things done effectively. We present proven methods for better self-management below.

ALPEN method

The ALPEN method is a concept for structuring, planning and prioritizing. The implementation of the method is not necessarily easy, especially for beginners, but can be learned well with a little practice. It is an acronym, which consists of five elements:

  • A – to-do list of planned Activities, tasks and meetings
  • L estimate Length of time
  • P Planning buffer time
  • E Establishing prioritised decisions
  • N Noting down level of success

Write down tasks: Write down all tasks to be done in a to-do list. This will give you an initial overview of upcoming activities.

Estimate length: Write next to each activity the expected amount of work. Be as realistic as possible, also with regard to how long you usually need. Tip: Consider directly which tasks are not worth spending a lot of time on – you can calculate unimportant activities a little more tightly.

Schedule buffer time: Recalculate the time required again and schedule buffers in between. It happens all the time that unpredictable events occur that could throw off your entire plan. By scheduling buffers, you relieve yourself of the stress that could come your way when unexpected events occur. The ALPEN method calls for you to schedule only a maximum of 60 percent of your total work time. The remaining 40 percent is buffer time.

Making decisions: Once the rough framework is set, you continue with prioritizing. Categorize each activity into important/not important and urgent/not urgent. Now proceed as in the Eisenhower method presented above.

Follow-up: At the end of the day or at the end of work you draw a resonance. What did you do well, what didn’t you do well? Did you correctly assess yourself and the time you spent? In this way, you gain experience that you can use later. You also get to know yourself and your way of working better.

Pomodoro technique

Pomodoro technique: sprinting instead of leisurely jogging

This method is about introducing regular breaks to help you perform better and be more productive. The principle is pretty simple: you set an alarm clock or timer for 25 minutes. When the time is up, you take a five-minute break before working for another 25 minutes. Proceed in this manner four times. After the four cycles, take a longer break of about 30 minutes.

The idea behind the Pomodoro Technique is to complete tasks at full throttle, similar to intense interval training. Think of yourself as a sprinter, not a marathon runner. In doing so, you are highly effective and productive in the time you work. The regular breaks in between serve your regeneration.

Not-To-Do List

The counterpart to the well-known to-do list is the not-to-do list. It helps you to set priorities and to keep the focus on the essentials. Here’s how you go about it:

  1. Write down your 20 – 25 most important career or life goals. Alternatively, you can write down this list for the most important 20 tasks for a week or month (method works with any time frame).
  2. Circle your five most important goals. Feel free to take your time with this step and weigh them very carefully.
  3. Now you have two lists: a list, with few, but the most important goals for you and a list of goals that you now cross out of your mind. Everything you haven’t circled is irrelevant and their achievement you should not strive for. They don’t have the priority for you that other goals do.

The point behind the method is this: If you have swirling 20 goals in your head, all of which you would more or less like to achieve, do not tackle any of them concretely. The probability to achieve none in the end is higher than if you focus on a few specific goals. Only when you have achieved all five goals can you worry about the others.

SMART Method

Here’s how the SMART method works

The SMART method is an acronym: Specific Measurable Achievable Reasonable Time Bound. The technique is to help you clearly clarify your goals and make goal agreements.

S for specific: Define your goals clearly. The statements made should not be vague or ambiguous, but at best as precise as possible.

M for measurable: The defined goal must be measurable in order to be able to recognize developments. This makes it necessary to establish concrete criteria that measure progress. In this way, successes become visible and motivation increases.

A for achievable or attractive: The goal to be defined should be achievable and worth striving for. It should be attractive to you and stimulate you to want to achieve it. This would not be possible, for example, if it is beyond your own abilities or if it would interfere with your life or career goal.
life or career goal in any way.

R for realistic: The goal should be possible and therefore achievable. Only if you are convinced that your goal is realistic, it can bring you further. You can create a further incentive by linking the goal to others, for example, by making it support another goal or benefit affected persons in some other way.

T for terminated: The T stands for time bound or terminated, i.e. the definition of a specific time frame. A fixed date or dead line helps to preserve deadlines and focus on achieving the goal (since an end is foreseeable and tasks cannot be postponed into the future). Scheduling should create a sense of urgency.

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