How to improve self-management
Free to focus
The complete leader gives us a quick definition of self-management: “Demonstrating self-control and an ability to manage time and priorities.” (The Complete Leader, 2020). Once you’re able to manage your time and priorities, you’ll be able to increase your focus. As Rachel Emma Silverman explains in his article: “we get interrupted or distracted every three minutes on average” (Silverman, 2012). Start managing yourself in order to waste less time and being more productive on the tasks you really need to accomplish.
Today, self-management is taking part of the most important soft skills that companies are looking for. Here is an interesting definition of self-management by Indeed: “Self-management skills allow you to maximize your productivity, improve your workplace performance and efficiently achieve professional goals.”. With it, we understand the importance of self-management in our daily life. With self-management, everyone should be able to control their thoughts, feelings and actions. We all should try getting the right things done by asking us why we want to complete certain tasks. Later we’ll explain to you the “three step theory” of Michael Hyatt in order to focus on the right thing by improving our self-management.
2 What you can do to improve your self-management, by starting to focus on the right things
Here we’ll present you the three steps that Michael Hyatt demonstrated in his book Free to Focus (Hyatt, 2019). The idea of this book is to help people understanding themselves and being the most efficient possible in their tasks by increasing their skills in self-management in only three steps:
Stop wasting your time accomplishing tasks that are not necessary for you. Ask yourself what the purpose of your task is. To do that you can follow these three steps:
- Formulate by asking yourself if you should do this job or not. Then define what’s the success of this task to see if it joins your personal goals. It means that you’ve defined earlier what your personal goals are. This will help you in finding great motivation in your further works. As Michael Hyatt says : “We should design our lives first and then tailor our work to meet our lifestyles objectives”.
- Evaluate the tasks you must do, on a scale that takes care of what you love and what energizes you. This will allow you to become proficient by mixing your skills and contributing to society. You can use the “Freedom Compass” to define which tasks really matter for you. Then you’ll be able to have true productivity, doing more of what you really want to do!
- Rejuvenate by taking time for you! A study demonstrates the Rule of Fifty, that said the more you work, the less you’re productive. Never work more than fifty hours per week (Nevison, December 1997). Try to adapt a lifestyle that allows you to have moments to relax and not talk, read or think about work.
In all the tasks we do in our working days, some of them can be deleted.
- Eliminate in order to have the best efficiency, start doing a “Not-To-Do List”, instead of a “To Do List”. With this mindset, you’ll start doing the right things. As Steve Jobs said: “Innovation means saying no to a thousand things”
- Automate by finding repetitive tasks and doing them only once, then putting the solution on autopilot. You should first notice which tasks can be automated, then create documents in order to solve them easily next time. Finally optimize your procedure and test them to see if it works, for sharing it with your team and help your team become more efficient.
- Delegate the work you can’t avoid. Be conscious that time is the only resource you can’t have back. When you delegate a task, be sure the person you delegate it to, will find a purpose in this task, in order to not waste his time too. Be conscious that delegation is a process and it takes time before you get a trust-and skill-building process.
- Consolidate by defining all your tasks and what they include. What are your “Front” and “Back” stage work? Once you know what really matters for you, you can define your ideal week. Michael Hyatt advised us to book three days for your front stage’s activities and two days for your back-stage’s activities. Then you should share your calendar with your team, so they exactly know what you’re doing.
- Designate which task you’ll do first and which ones can wait. You could for example designate the three big tasks of your day and of your week. Take time to do a retrospective of your week when it’s done, in order to learn from your experiences and make positive changes
- Activate by reducing all the distracting elements to be the most efficient possible while you’re accomplishing a work.
3 Our experiences
For years, I had to get my homework done, study for my tests and exams, but not once did any of my teachers give me a different self-management advice than the following : “Study as soon as you get home before doing anything else and everything will be fine.” They were not entirely wrong of course, but as soon as I arrived at the Team Academy, I was very quickly lost in the load of work I had to do, especially that we didn’t have any deadlines in the first year, or almost. As soon as our first semester ended, I already handed in things after the deadline. Obviously, I wasn’t very proud of that, so I decided to take action and start learning about self-management and productivity.
As I am a very curious person, I try to learn from everywhere and everyone I can, so my learning sources varied a lot between online articles, youtube videos, discussions with people, ted talks and of course, books. I started off with some very simple but efficient tools to help me be more productive.
One of the first ones I learned during a coaching session, was a very simple, but extremely powerful tool called “The Pomodoro Technique” invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s. It consists of setting a timer for 25 minutes, working during that time, then taking a small break of a couple of minutes. It is a tool I always use while writing essays just like this one. There are more details about how to plan your breaks and what to do during them, but I have to put the accent on one specific one that works particularly well for me. Do not look at any screen during breaks. I once saw a youtube video explaining how looking at a screen, such as scrolling through social media, stimulates brain activity, which in fact does not help your brain rest. Once I learned that, I immediately saw a difference in my fatigue level while working.
Another great way of being able to get things done more efficiently that I got to learn during this last semester was preparation. Since a while now, I knew how preparing for the day after could help you for a lot of things, whether it be preparing your sports bag or things you need for work the night before. But now that I had been putting my daily objectives on paper, I asked myself, why not do the same thing with my daily objectives ? I probably had already read or heard this somewhere, but nonetheless I started taking a couple of minutes every night to write down what I wanted to get done the next day. Obviously, I don’t always manage to do it the night before, so when I forget, I try to do it as soon as I get out of bed, in order to start my day knowing what I need to accomplish that day.
Nowadays I am taking my productivity methods to another level thanks to “Free to Focus” by Michael Hyatt, Luca recommended me.
Since I started the Team Academy in Switzerland, I had to learn a lot about self-managing. We have so many things to do, like reading, essays, book presentations, project hours, training sessions, coaching sessions, etc. So, if you’re not organized, you won’t achieve all of your goals in time. That’s why I had my first coaching with Sophie Latrille during my second semester to improve my time management. Effectively, I was working too hard and I hadn’t enough free time. I always had this feeling of unfinished at the end of the week. She gave me a simple tool: The Eisenhower Matrix.
It helped me to organize my work for each week and have a clear visualization of what I must do and all the tasks I have accomplished. At the end of the week, I had a feeling of accomplishment due to my self-management.
When I came to Finland, at Proakatemia, I first had difficulties finding new routines. I wasn’t able to wake up at 6 am, and started my day like I wanted. I always had this feeling of being tired and not as productive as I wanted. One of the first people I met and with whom I had an interesting discussion, asked me: “What is your dream?”. First I didn’t understand the purpose of her question, because I was speaking about my loss of motivation and the fact that I wasn’t as productive as desired. Then I was really shocked to realize that I couldn’t answer her question. So, she gave me this book: “Free to Focus” by Michael Hyatt. As said in the introduction: “We should design our lives first and then tailor our work to meet our lifestyles objectives”. I was in a new environment and I had to redefine my life, in order to have new objectives. I used the tool: “Productivity vision” in order to define my personal vision and the actions I should put in practice to reach my vision.
4 What we could improve
During our year and a half at Team Academy, we discovered multiple tools for productivity, creativity, self-management and lots of other things. The main way we would get to learn about these different tools was through our readings. Naturally, since we are the ones digging up the information, it would seem obvious that the information should stay in our minds and directly be implemented in our routine. Well, after reflecting on all of our past experiences of discovering tools and only implementing one or two in our way of working, we realized that there might be a bigger question than just finding the right tool. The actual question that we should ask ourselves would resemble more to something like : “How can we make ourselves use a tool on a regular basis, in order to know if it is useful for us ?”
After doing a bit of research, we stumbled upon an old TED Talk about 30 day challenges. The main points of this speech was that 30 days is a perfect amount of days to try out something new. If you end up succeeding at keeping up for 30 days, you’ll already be on a very good road to implement a new habit, but on the other side, if you struggle terribly, it might be the good moment to stop and try something else.
Therefore, as this talk inspired both of us, we decided that in order to implement a new self-management tool, we would give ourselves a 30 day duration to then evaluate its impact on our work efficiency. This would be how we test out a new self-management tool : 1. We would choose a specific tool and make sure it is possible for us to try it out during the month to come. 2. We would choose our calendar of choice, in order to visually be able to track our progress. 3. We would implement the tool in our daily routine and keep track by making sure to keep the calendar up to date. 4. Once the 30 days are over, we would evaluate the tool by using our own set of questions that you’ll find below.
|Which tool did you used ?|
|On a scale from one to five, how hard was it to implement the tool on a daily basis ?||1-5|
|Did you manage to not skip any days ?||YES / NO|
|On a scale from one two five, how useful did you find this tool ?||1-5|
|What are its benefits ? (list 4 benefits)||1. 2. 3. 4.|
|What are its downsides ? (list 4 downsides)||1. 2. 3. 4.|
|Are you going to continue using this tool on a daily basis ?||YES / NO|
|On a scale from one to five, how much would you recommend this tool ?||1-5|
- If we found the tool useful, we would very likely present it to our team by sharing our 30-day experience of testing the tool or method. And we could write a blog on LinkedIn in order to share it with our network.
It is important to consider that 30 days challenges may not be useful for all types of tools. A lot of tools we discover only need to be tested a couple of times in order for us to evaluate their efficiency. Those types of tools would concern mainly the creative field, such as brainstorming techniques, sketchnoting, etc.
There are alot of different self management tools, and a lot of them work just fine. There probably is no best tool, but only one or multiple tools that work for you, therefore you must try out different ones to find your preferred ones. One of the ways of doing that would be having some “30 day challenges” as we are going to try out. Of course, feel free to try any other way of experimenting new methods or tools.
After all of our reflexions made during the development of this article, we decided what our main focus points consist of when it comes to working on how to enhance our work efficiency through self-management.
- Making sure you are doing the right things at the right time (STOP & CUT)
- Planning your work and actually start working (ACT)
- Making sure you’re consistent (Establishing a strategy to implement it in your daily routine.)
We strongly believe that if you focus on these main three steps, you should be able to get much more work done every day.
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer
 Indeed, is an American worldwide employment-related search engine for job listings launched in November 2004 (Wikipedia, 2020)
 The front stage activities are the activities you really lie to do. The backstage activities are those you must do but you and can’t delegate.
 Sophie Latrille is a collaborator of the HES-SO Valais-Wallis (https://www.hevs.ch/fr/collaborateurs/latrille-2439)
1 Cited work
Hyatt, M. (2019). Free to focus. United States of America: Backer Books.
Indeed. (2020, February 27). Career Advice. Récupéré sur Indeed: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/self-management-skills
Nevison, J. M. (December 1997). Overtime Hours, The Rule of Fifty. New Leaf Management.
Silverman, R. E. (2012, December 11). Workplace Distractions: Here’s Why You Won’t Finish This Article. Récupéré sur outline: https://outline.com/WnCthh
The Complete Leader. (2020, Mars 6). Self-management. Récupéré sur The Complete Leader: https://thecompleteleader.org/self-management
Wikipedia. (2020, March 6). Indeed. Récupéré sur Wikipédia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indeed