One of the greatest skills you can build for your life is that of self-management. Why do I believe that? Because we all have amazing potential. But it is obvious that if we are not managing that potential then we will be wasting opportunities.
Letting others control your use of your time, money and other resources prevents you from making better use of them to benefit you.
And the tough part of this is that only you can improve these skills and the only person who can change your destiny is you.
But it can be hard to know what you should be doing and how to make critical improvements so you let it slide and stay comfortable – and because of that you are missing out!
Missing out on new chances, prospects and opportunities. And missing out on increased income, increased business and increased life balance. Now is the time to stop these losses.
Clearly you are seeking to make changes and to take responsibility for your wellbeing and your behaviours otherwise you wouldn’t have started reading this article but reading will never be enough.
Not only do you need to understand what is happening but you need the ideas to enable you to take action and improve your self-management for the rest of your life.
When you decide you want to improve your self-management and you believe you can change, you need to start with the changes you are going to make in your brain. Of course this is going to be difficult. Although you feel you are ready to go your brain will encourage you to slip back into old habits as quickly as possible so it can be freed up to work on other important tasks.
Your brain takes everything you focus on repeatedly and turns it into a habit which is controlled in the limbic system. If you want to change this habit then you will be using the prefrontal cortex. This part of your brain is involved in higher level learning and also in planning. So it’s easy to see why the brain would prefer you just stayed put.
However you are determined to change so I want to share with you a wealth of techniques that should help you to overcome this hurdle and allow you to make incredible progress. Are you ready?
Identify your issues and triggers
We all have times that we don’t manage ourselves and our resources well – we’re human after all. What is extremely valuable in making changes is to check for situations which can trigger you to become distracted, to procrastinate or to waste your precious resources.
Try for the next week to keep a pad handy and when you find your self-management is poor just make a note of what seems to have triggered your loss of focus.
For me I find the stress of waiting on other people’s decisions can make me lose focus and waste time. This is a real obstacle when so much of what I do relies on other’s decision making. Knowing that this is a trigger for me means I have been able to set up routines which overcome the problem.
You will probably find you have different triggers but these too may involve other kinds of stress or anxiety or maybe even boredom. Whatever you discover will show you where and when you need to put plans in place to overcome these issues and improve your effectiveness and self-management.
Look around you right now and measure your self-management
Where ever you do your work, whether it’s at home or in a workplace, look around and see if you have a number of unfinished projects in your life. These may be personal or professional. Unfinished projects show that you have developed a habit of stopping and not completing.
You need to think about why this is because it is affecting your self-management. It may be that you lost interest or found it wasn’t worth continuing. So clear it out and allow yourself to let it go physically and mentally.
If instead it turns out that you didn’t finish for another reason you have two choices. Either fit it into your priorities and get it done or consider why you are choosing not to finish projects.
Is the project too big? Or too complicated? What could you do to redesign it into 2 or 3 smaller projects which you can complete more easily and less stressfully?
You may also be trying to do too much. When you take on a project you are going to need to find the time and that time has to come from something else. Did you start it without a plan for what else would have to be left out to fit it into your day?
Once you clear the decks with the unfinished projects by eliminating them or reorganising them you will find it much easier to focus on what you really want to be spending your resources on. And, that’s self-management.
All successful business owners will tell you that trying to develop the perfect product or service is a serious waste of resources. While you are trying to achieve perfection your competition has sold to your customers or your customers have moved on and now want something else.
Often the feeling that you need to produce a perfect service or product is hiding the fact that you are actually fearful of going out to the market in case you are rejected. But of course the fear of rejection is making sure that you can never be successful.
What you need to do is get out into the market and test if what you want to sell is going to provide value to your potential customers. And if you are afraid of rejection then consider starting with free samples or a free trial so you can make changes without feeling any guilt.
There is no point in trying to make anything perfect because in our changing world we should be improving to constantly delight our customers. So what we are actually looking for is constant improvement never perfection.
Check out your secret rules
Most of us have a funny set of silly rules that we have developed over the years which we don’t discuss but which we use to make decisions and to waste resources. Let me explain this by sharing a few of mine.
- It’s cheating to model myself on another successful business owner – I should work it out for myself and by myself.
- Business is serious so I should always treat it seriously.
- I should write in the mornings because that’s my most productive time. (I am actually writing this in the afternoon and my ideas are flowing well)
It you think about it carefully I bet you can probably discover of few of your own secret rules which you use because they’ve been part of you for a long time but are actually impeding your self-management.
So, as Jon Acuff in his book Finish recommends, you need to sort them out by
- Identifying them
- Destroying them
- Replacing them with better ones
The reason to do this is because these secret rules are holding you back from making the best use of your resources and from achieving what you really want in your life.
Once you can define the rules that are holding you back then it’s time to annihilate them completely. Look at them carefully and laugh at how silly they are. You know you don’t really need to live by them especially if you want to make better use of your resources. Always remember, they are just in your mind not carved in stone.
To make this destruction easier think up some new rules which will serve you better such as “I am productive whenever I choose to be – I just have to do the choosing”. Once you start to believe in your new rules you will find it much easier to make effective use of the resources you have.
Visual clues and rituals for self-management
Wouldn’t it be great to take on a new productive habit and follow through with it every day? One of the great tricks for doing this is to remind your brain that you are serious and encourage it to quickly set up this habit in the limbic system and move on. So, a successful way to achieve this is to give yourself visual clues that you want to do this regularly now.
For example, you may decide to commit to a definite start and finish time for your work so you can make the most of your best productive time. Putting up clock faces around your home and workspace will be a visual clue to remind you of your new habit.
It can be any type of visual clue that reminds you of what you now want to do every day and it works for any and all habits you want to build.
This trick really works for me and when I try to change without visual clues I find I quickly revert back to my old ways. If this is your problem then give clues a go.
Another popular way to convince the brain to support you is by using rituals. These are simple ways of signalling to yourself about what you are going to focus on next.
Successful business people will often have small rituals that they like to do at the start of their working day. It could be listening to a piece of music, repeating a motivational saying, setting up a workspace in a particular way (I find that works well for me) or any other ritual that will help you to bring your mind back under your control and bring your resources with it.
And if having a better work/life balance is important to you then having a finish work ritual which helps you let go of business and focus on family, fun or just chilling will also make a huge difference to your life.
Whatever you choose to do measure how much better your self-management is so you can accurately understand what works best for you.
Check out these rewards
Who doesn’t like rewards? Certainly your brain loves them. We have 2 parts of our brains called the nucleus accumbens which are involved with pleasure and motivation and activated by dopamine – a chemical reward. So use this to your advantage and ensure you have set up regular rewards to activate the dopamine that will ensure the brain supports you in finishing a task, especially if it is a difficult one.
Of course if you are having trouble with distractions then making one of them a reward could sabotage you completely so consider other rewards which will make you happy but will also allow you to focus again at the end of it.
And don’t wait until you have finished a really big task to give yourself a reward because it may just be too hard for you to stay focused that long. Instead, break it down into 2 or 3 smaller parts and have a quick reward between parts and then a bigger, more scrumptious reward when it’s all done.
Never forget that you put your heart and soul into your business because you believe in it and that both your heart and soul need to be nourished as much as you can so you can keep achieving. If you don’t nourish your body you will quickly lose your energy and health. And if you don’t nourish your heart and soul then you will also lose energy and everything will become so much more difficult. Rewards nourish us and keep us re-fuelled so we can continue.
This is how self-management can change your life – but it only works if you take action.
© Robyn Forryan 2021
The Biz Coach NZ