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Self-management: 10 tips & 4 methods to be more effective

Private and professional success is closely related to skillful self-management. Motivation, goal-setting and organization are just a few of the aspects involved. Read on to find out why self-management is so important and discover the most effective tips and methods for more success in both your professional and private life.

If you want to develop yourself either privately or professionally, you can hardly avoid tackling the topic of how to effectively self-manage. It helps you set a focus and keep the most important things in sight. The information below explains what self-management actually is.

Self-management: a definition

Self-management: a definition

Self-management is about having the ability to shape one’s own personal or professional development, for the most part irrespective of external factors. According to the definition, it also includes the sub-skills of motivation, goal-setting, planning, time management, organization, learning aptitude, and success monitoring. The approach aims to increase motivation, define achievable goals, and ultimately be more effective in achieving them.

Taking responsibility for yourself plays a major role here. Only if you have the will to take responsibility for your personal growth will you be able to manage yourself and your tasks effectively. You can learn self-management by adopting different methods and thus becoming more productive. The techniques stem 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 and yet there is a key difference: you can’t manage time itself – it always passes at the same rate – you can, however, manage yourself. Therefore, the term time management is slightly misleading, but basically describes a similar principle. Find out why self-management is important for your personal success below.

Why self-management is so important

Why self-management is so important

In today’s achievement-oriented society, the majority of working people are chronically stressed or overwhelmed. Not only does this constant mental strain lead to persistent inner turmoil, but it can also facilitate sleep disorders and even burnout. Therefore, it is important to properly engage with yourself, your goals and your motivation and, above all, to use your available time effectively, without stressing yourself out.

Moreover, personal development is closely linked to both 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 keep motivating them and spurring them on. If, in addition to this, you learn to use your available time wisely, you can really surpass yourself.

Skills for a more effective everyday life

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

Setting priorities

Before you can even think about setting priorities, you should start by defining your mindset and motivation. 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 what motivates you personally. By setting priorities, you can generate a clear view of what matters – what matters to you, that is.

Questions about motivation

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

  • Does the task/activity fit my personal goals and prospects for the future?
  • Where does completing this task take me? 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 going through the motions?
  • What makes me feel good (both physically and mentally)?
  • When was the last time I felt that I was really taking control of my actions and what was I doing?
  • How did I achieve this feeling?

Create an overview

Create an overview of your tasks and projects

To start with, you need to actually have some tasks or projects in order to be able to prioritize them. Create an overview for yourself by listing them all. This can also include taking time for yourself, such as reading or doing sports. Now divide the tasks into two categories using the Eisenhower method: 1. Importance (important or not important) and 2. Urgency (urgent or not urgent). Once you have divided all your activities into these two categories, you have basically already set your priorities.

Everything marked urgent AND important has top priority. After that come 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 should be added to your to-do list in good time.

Projects that are important but not urgent are often labors of love. You can tackle such tasks when you have a quiet moment, or pencil them in on your calendar for a later date. Anything marked as neither urgent nor important can be crossed off the list. They shouldn’t occupy your mind for now.

Keep a diary

Keeping a diary can help you to expose the activities that eat up your time. For at least a week, make a note of the tasks you do on a daily basis and how much time you spend on them. What do you do quickly and precisely? What costs you a lot of time?

This can help you to get to know yourself and the way you behave a little better. You’ll be able to get a feeling for how fast you work and you can then move on to think about how you can optimize this process. This especially applies to activities that are not actually important, but that take your time to complete.

Say goodbye to perfectionism

Say goodbye to perfectionism

We often put in more effort than we perhaps should. But sometimes "good" is good enough. Certain tasks can’t be done perfectly – like getting your house completely clean, for example. Here again, it helps to write your projects down and set priorities before starting 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 actually like to do them. It is often the case that we lack the motivation to do the 30-minute yoga session we had planned after an eight-hour workday and a quick clean of the apartment.

If an upcoming activity is worrying you because of its duration, just shorten it. Instead of 30 minutes of yoga, 1 hour of reading and 10 minutes of meditation, limit yourself to 10 minutes of yoga, 5 minutes of meditation and only 30 minutes of reading. You’ll be more willing to give only half of your time to something than to schedule activities that take up your whole evening. This way, you can still be productive despite having moments of demotivation. Of course, this way of acting shouldn’t be permanent if it means that you only make sluggish progress towards your goal.

Create a list to prevent procrastination

In addition to your daily or weekly to-do list, create a list of tasks to prevent procrastination. Write down 10 to 20 activities or projects that you can do when you simply can’t get your mind to focus on the important tasks. The time that you would have otherwise spent procrastinating can now be spent productively.

This list can include activities like making a list of groceries, doing laundry, cleaning up your desktop, or talking to family or friends on the phone.

Get inspired

There are numerous books, podcasts, e-books, seminars and motivational videos that talk about personal development and self-management. Use them for inspiration or motivation, or to look for new ideas for your projects. You can even add this activity to your list of things to do to prevent procrastination.

Get to know your personal prime time

Get to know your personal prime time

Everyone works differently. We all have an internal clock that regulates how tired and how awake we are. Just as there are typical morning grouches, other people are at their most efficient during the early hours of the morning.

This window of time where you are capable of giving your top performance is known as your "personal prime time." This is when you are usually at your most motivated, effective and fittest. If you know when your personal prime time is, you can use it to accomplish your most important and urgent tasks. If you don’t know when it is, 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, it is proven that humans – regardless of gender – are not at all designed to tackle multiple things at once.

Rather, it works the other way around: you can no longer fully focus on one single thing at a time and there is a much stronger likelihood of making a mistake. In addition, your stress levels rise and you can become more quickly overwhelmed and erratic. Do things in order. In the end, this won’t cost you any more time than if you were to only half concentrate on two things at once.

Power nap

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

Lead a healthy lifestyle

Lead a healthy lifestyle

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

In addition to a healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise is also a main factor that plays an important role. Doing a short sports routine or going on a quick jog will usually suffice. After all, taking care of your body shouldn’t create any additional stress, but should be considered as a form 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 go about achieving as effectively as possible. This goal should ideally be specific, quantifiable, achievable, and – most importantly – realistic. Not every goal can meet all of these criteria, and it doesn’t have to. However, specifying and assessing your goals can help you to get motivated as well as get things done effectively. Here are some tried-and-tested methods for better self-management.

The ALPEN method

The ALPEN method is a concept which helps to structure, plan and prioritize. It is not necessarily easy to use this method, especially for beginners, but it can be grasped with a little practice. The name is an acronym which denotes five elements:

  • A – Define Activities
  • L Estimate Length of time
  • P Plan buffer time
  • E Establish prioritized decisions
  • N Note success level

Define activities: define all the activities to be done in a to-do list. This will give you an initial overview of your upcoming tasks.

Estimate length of time: next to each activity, note down the expected workload. Be as realistic as possible, including with regard to how long you usually need. Top tip: think about which tasks are not worth spending a lot of time on – you can calculate short time frames for unimportant activities.

Plan buffer time: recalculate the time required and schedule in some buffer time in between. It happens all the time that unpredictable events occur with the potential to upset your entire plan. By scheduling buffer time in, you’ll avoid any stress that could come your way when unexpected events occur. The ALPEN method calls for you to schedule a maximum of just 60 percent of your total work time. The remaining 40 percent should be buffer time.

Establish prioritized decisions: once you have a rough framework, you can get to prioritizing. Categorize each activity as important/not important and urgent/not urgent then proceed as in the Eisenhower method presented above.

Note success level: at the end of the day or when you finish work, you should give yourself some feedback. What did you do well and what didn’t you do well? Did you correctly assess yourself and the time needed? In this way, you can gain experience that you can be drawn upon later. You can also get to know yourself and your way of working better.

The Pomodoro technique

The Pomodoro technique: a sprint instead of a leisurely jog

This method revolves around taking 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 time is up, you take a five-minute break before working for another 25 minutes. Do this four times. After four cycles, take a longer break of about 30 minutes.

The idea behind the Pomodoro Technique is to complete your tasks at full throttle, similar to doing some intense interval training. Think of yourself as a sprinter, not a marathon runner. To this end, you are highly effective and productive during the time you work and the regular breaks in between help you to re-energize.

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 keep focused 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 make this list for the 20 most important tasks for the week or month (the method works with any time frame).
  2. Circle your 5 most important goals from the ones on the list. Feel free to take your time with this step and do some careful consideration.
  3. Now you have two lists: a list with just a few goals, but these are the ones that are the most important to you, and a list of goals that you can now put out of your mind. Any goals you haven’t circled are irrelevant and you shouldn’t strive to achieve them. They don’t have the priority for you that the other goals do.

The point behind the method: if you have 20 goals swirling in your head and you would more or less like to achieve all of them, you won’t tackle any of them properly. There is a higher probability that you’ll achieve none of them in the end than if you were to simply focus on a few specific goals. Only when you’ve achieved all five of these goals can you worry about the others.

The SMART Method

Here’s how the SMART method works

The SMART method is an acronym: Specific Measurable Achievable Reasonable Time Bound. The technique serves to help you properly clarify and agree on your goals.

S is for specific: be specific when defining your goals. Any statements made should be neither vague nor ambiguous, but they should ideally be as precise as possible.

M is for measurable: the goal defined must be measurable so that any progress made can be recognized. This means that concrete criteria need to be established for measuring progress. In this way, success becomes visible and motivation increases.

A is for achievable or attractive: when setting your goal, it should be achievable and worth striving for. It should also be attractive to you and push you to want to achieve it. This would not be possible, for example, if it were to go above and beyond your own abilities or if it were to interfere with your life or career goal in any way.

R is for realistic: the goal should be possible and therefore achievable. Only if you are convinced that your goal is realistic can it help you progress. You can give yourself a further incentive by linking one goal to another, such as by making it facilitate the achievement of another goal or benefit those involved in some other way.

T is for time bound: this refers to setting a specific time frame or date, which can help you meet deadlines and focus on achieving the goal (since the end is in sight and tasks cannot be postponed). Scheduling should create a sense of urgency.

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