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Self Management Tips That Improve Performance & Productivity

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The ability to self-manage effectively is a skill that some people naturally seem to possess. And those that manage themselves well typically achieve their goals and are more successful. As P. F Drucker tells us in his book Managing Oneself, ‘History’s great achievers’ – from da Vinci to Mozart – ‘have always managed themselves.’ It is this ability, Drucker maintains, that made them high achievers.

But the great thing is, pretty much anyone can learn to be more effective at managing themselves. Irrespective of whether you’re new to the concept, or you identify yourself as a poor self-manager, you can improve. The following four tips will show you how.

Article overview

Aim: To teach you four tried and tested tips, tricks and techniques to become more effective at managing yourself.

For Whom: Anyone who wants to be more effective in life.

Your Goal: Reflect on your current performance in the pursuit of your goals, and ask yourself ‘Could I manage myself better?’ 

The Challenge: Manage your motivation and complete this article. Identify poorly managed areas in your life and look to take control. Don’t give up!

What You Need to Address: Being able to manage yourself effectively is a key predictor of success. And it’s more than just maintaining motivation. Managing yourself is about recognising your strengths, areas for improvement, and how you best learn.

Key benefits: Learn a range of transferable skills that can have a positive impact on your effectiveness to get things done. Unlock your full potential and uncover hidden strengths. Discover how you best work and learn. Harness the power of now.


Self management tip #1: Make your strengths stronger

Knowing your strengths is a key factor in achieving success. Drucker tells us that a person will only perform well from strength as it serves as a firm foundation on which we can confidently stand. ‘One cannot build performance on weakness, let alone on something one cannot do at all,’ (Managing Oneself – p. 3).

In addition, identifying your strengths enables you to focus on making them stronger. It’s accepted self-development doctrine that it takes much less energy to build on strengths than it does to raise weaknesses.

This is not to say that we should completely ignore our weak areas. Of course, if a weakness is so personally debilitating that it inhibits you from functioning, any strengths you possess may be attenuated or completely nullified.

However, once severe weaknesses are remedied, we should – according to Druker – focus our full attention on our strengths. Get started with these five tips.

From theory to practice

Tip 1: The best way to ‘discover your strengths is through feedback analysis.’

Tip 2: Feedback analysis requires that you appraise the outcome of your actions.

Tip 3: Follow the Drucker method: When you next make a decision or engage in a professional project, write down what you expect will happen. Six, nine or 12 months later, compare the outcome to your expectations.

Tip 4: If the outcome aligns with your expectations, this suggests a strength – so long as your expectations were positive of course.

Tip 5: Make a note of your strength and strategise ways you could improve it.

Related: Learn how to Organise Your Mind

Self management tip #2: Remedy your bad habits

Bad habits are like debt, easy to acquire but ruddy hard to pay off. Generally speaking, everyone has bad habits. Some people have more than others.

But as Drucker rightly reminds us, it is ‘essential to remedy your bad habits’ for they are ‘the things you do or fail to that inhibit your effectiveness and performance,’ (Managing Oneself – p. 7).

The problem with bad habits is that they are notoriously difficult to eradicate. Who hasn’t tried to break a bad habit only to fail at the first step? Of all New Year’s resolutions, which are effectively pledges to break bad habits by forming good ones, less than 5% are maintained for a month.

The good news is that bad habits can be beaten. All that’s required is persistence, determination, dedication, and continued commitment. Ready to get started?

From theory to practice

Tip 1: Make a list of all your bad habits. Be warned though, your list may be long.

Tip 2: Select a single bad habit from your list.

Tip 3: Start with an easy bad habit – such as picking your nose in public or hitting snooze multiple times each morning.

Tip 4: Challenge yourself, over the next 30 days, to reform this bad habit.

Tip 5: Remember that there’s no infallible plan for beating bad habits. And some people respond better to different approaches. However, an oft-used method is to make a pledge – ‘For the next 30 days I will not hit the snooze button more than once each morning’ – and enforce the pledge with a punishment – ‘If I hit the snooze button more than once, I must do the dishes for a week’.

Essential reading: The Power of Habits >

Self management tip #3: Learn from feedback

In addition to uncovering strengths and weaknesses, feedback also informs us of how well we work with other people. The ability to get on with others is an essential attribute of the contemporary professional.

No great business or product was brought to fruition by one man or woman. Yes, individuals indeed conceive of great ideas. But to realise ideas – to ‘reify’ them, that is, bring them into reality – requires collaboration and cooperation between teams.

As Drucker observes, it isn’t ideas or individuals that move mountains, it’s bulldozers.

If you’ve been wondering why the people you work with aren’t proactive or are resistant to your ideas, this feedback could reveal that your interpersonal skills are not conducive to cooperation.

Perhaps the problem is something as simple as a lack of manners. ‘Manners,’ Drucker proclaims, ‘are the lubricating oil of an organisation.’ Fundamental familiarities and observing basic pleasantries – such as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and knowing a person’s name and enquiring after their family – engender reciprocity while promoting a positive attitude.

From theory to practice

Tip 1: Assess the quality of your working relationships by asking yourself: ‘Do I get on with people?’ ‘Are people receptive to my ideas?’ ‘Are they willing to lend support?’

Tip 2: If the feedback is negative – ‘No, I’m often in conflict with people’ or ‘My colleagues are reluctant to lend support’ – you might need to question your conduct and look to amend your people skills.

Tip 3: Good manners and genuine sincerity go a long way. You don’t have to go to the extremes of Ebenezer Scrooge and start buying everyone turkeys. However, showing that you value a person’s contributions and respecting their dignity, can do wonders to working relationships.

Tip 4: And if that’s a bit too much for you, just settle for being polite!

Self management tip #4: Know how you perform

Surprisingly few people know how they perform. Do you know how you get things done? And if you do, have you assessed your effectiveness at getting those things done?

Perhaps more surprising still, ‘most of us do not even know that different people work and perform differently,’ (Managing Oneself – p. 10). Consequently, many people are forced to work in ways that do not align with their personalities or preferences.

This ‘competency incompatibility’ contributes to billions of wasted working hours. In addition, working against one’s natural grain, so to speak, exacerbates stress and anxiety.

The best thing an organisation can do is assign the right roles, projects and tasks to the most suitable employees. However, that’s not always possible. That’s why it’s your responsibility to assess how you perform best. With this understanding, you can start to shape your working habits to suit your idiosyncratic preferences.

The following three tips that can help shed light on how you perform.

From theory to practice

Tip 1: Scrutinise one area of your work and ask: How Do I Perform? Are you effective? Do you suit that type of work? Do you enjoy it or is it an insufferable chore? Do you always do a good job in a timely fashion?

Tip 2: Know how you learn best. Are you a listener or a reader? Knowing how you learn can dramatically increase the quantity of information that you process.

Tip 3: Ask a manager or colleague for feedback on your performance. Use that feedback to modify your working practices.



From this article, you should now be equipped with a range of tools, techniques, and tactics to improve your self-management skills. Applying the teachings of P. F. Druker, outlined so accessibly in his book Managing Oneself, can enable you to enhance your personal and professional performance.

In addition to increasing confidence and self-efficacy, managing yourself more effectively can improve the quality of your life. How much better do you feel when you wake up early and get a head start on the day? How much happier do you feel when you are working toward defined goals?

Well, then, it’s time to get started!


About the author

Dr. Laura Allen is a Chartered Psychologist & Integrative Therapist who specialises in anxiety, mindfulness and stress. She is a published author of numerous research papers in the field of Positive Psychology. Laura works one-to-one with clients and supervises other practitioners.


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