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Self-management skills: What they are and why they’re important

Self-management skills: What they are and why they’re important

While many workers spend tens of thousands of dollars learning hard skills in college, soft skills are frequently overlooked. If you’re struggling to achieve your dreams, your self-management abilities may be to blame. By learning better self-management, you can become more effective in the workplace.

What is self-management?

Self-management is the way you can manage your thoughts, actions, and feelings in a productive manner. When you have strong self-management skills, you are able to change how you feel, speak, and act in different situations. You’re able to work productively on an assignment when you need to and connect with colleagues in your weekly meeting.

When you are good at self-management, you understand your personal role in managing your life. You take responsibility for your actions.

People who are good at self-management also possess strong emotional intelligence. This means they are good at self-regulation and self-awareness, which allows them to consciously work with different desires and emotions. Because they are self-aware and can self-regulate, they can express their emotions in the way they want to instead of being compelled to by their feelings.

Self-management examples

Even if you’ve never heard of it before, it is possible to learn better self-management skills. To get started, read through the following examples of this skill in practice.

1. Focusing on a task

When Thomas is given a task at work, he is instantly distracted by messages on his phone and emails from other co-workers. It makes it impossible to get anything done. He wants to finish his latest task, but he knows he won’t be able to unless he finds a way to focus.

2. Managing time wisely

Genevieve struggles to get home in time for dinner each day. As soon as a new email or request comes in, she immediately starts working on it. She struggles to prioritize tasks, which means she is often overwhelmed by working on a dozen things at the same time.

Whether you want to build a stronger bond with your children or achieve a promotion at work, time management is one of the most important skills you can learn. There are only so many hours in the day, so you have to learn how to manage your time wisely. If this is a struggle for you, you can always use the Timely app to track how you spend your time.

3. Clarify different roles

Lamonte is a go-getter who wants to get a promotion at work, so he typically turns in amazing projects. Last week, he spent several days working on a project that was assigned to someone else without realizing it. Because he wasn’t sure what he was responsible for, he ended up wasting days of effort and felt burned out.

4. Motivating yourself

Uri just started working for a new company, but he wasn’t given a lot of direction about what to do, and his workload is piling up. Whenever he looks at his inbox, he immediately feels too intimidated to tackle anything. Without some self-motivation, he feels like his job will only become more overwhelming.

5. Planning your time strategically

Fatima is great at motivating herself to get tasks done, but she doesn’t know how to prioritize different goals. She gets bogged down in minutiae because she’s unable to plan her time strategically. What she needs is a big-picture approach to her work week.

6. Managing stress

Anna’s stomach clenches into knots whenever she thinks about an upcoming assignment at work. She is exhausted during the day because she isn’t able to sleep at night. Instead of working on her task list and reducing some of her stress, she spends her time searching for vacation tickets and daydreaming.

Why are self-management skills so important?

Self-management skills matter because they allow you to be an effective, productive part of your organization. If team members can’t stay on task, the team will never be able to reach its goals.

On an organizational level, self-management empowers team members to take initiative and complete projects on their own. These skills can increase employee innovation and decision-making abilities.

When it comes to the individual level, self-management matters because it helps you to reach your own goals. If you can’t manage your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, you’ll never be able to focus on your goals. Your success in professional and personal matters is directly related to how well you can master your own emotions and behaviors.

By improving your self-management, you can enjoy some of the following benefits.

  • Enhanced productivity.
  • Increased odds of getting promoted.
  • More free time for things you care about.
  • Improved relationships with your colleagues.
  • Better mental health.
  • Enhanced physical health.
  • Accomplish more of your objectives.

Essential self-management skills

Once you realize you and your team need to make some changes, there are a few self-management skills you can start working on.

Role clarity

A key part of managing your time is knowing which tasks are yours and when you need to complete them. Role clarity also helps your team understand who is responsible for a specific part of the team’s work. It’s impossible to succeed at work if you don’t know what you’re expected to do.

In the example of Lamonte, Lamonte could start each week by asking his team leader about which tasks he will be expected to perform and when. His team leader can also improve role clarity by using a time management app to assign tasks and a time management matrix to sort tasks according to their priority level.


When you are good at managing your emotions and attention, you have an easier time completing your work. You are able to focus on what you’re doing and ignore outside distractions.

In Thomas’ example, outside distractions are preventing him from performing his day-to-day tasks. To improve his self-management, he could try only checking email and online correspondence at the start and end of the day. He could also close his office door or work on important projects during his peak focus hours.

Strategic planning

Take a moment to sit down and plan out your objectives. Then, you should determine the steps you will take to achieve them. Once you have figured out your priorities, you can block out time for working on different aspects of your objectives.

In Fatima’s example, she needs help understanding the organization’s objectives and her role within the organization. A team meeting or better task delegation can help her understand her priorities and roles. Then, she can spend some time prioritizing her goals for the week, so she doesn’t end up bogged down by unimportant distractions.

Time management

Time management is an important part of strategic planning. If you can’t manage your time wisely, the best strategic plans aren’t going to help. You have to figure out how much time you have available during the week and devote time blocks to specific tasks.

Other than setting aside time blocks for specific tasks, Genevieve also needs to prioritize some of her time outside of work. By setting a hard rule about going home at the end of her day, she will motivate herself to complete more projects during the day. She should also focus on her most important tasks first, so she can let minor tasks slide if she runs out of time.


In order to be good at self-management, you must be able to motivate yourself. While outside factors can sometimes make a difference, your long-term success is determined by how good you are at finding motivation within. In fact, employees with intrinsic motivation were 32% more committed to their work and had a 46% higher job satisfaction level.

In Uri’s case, he can improve his self-motivation by breaking his work day down into smaller, less overwhelming tasks. He may also benefit from understanding he doesn’t have to be perfect. Making mistakes is normal in a new position, and the only way he’ll accomplish anything is by trying to do new things.

Stress Management

Stress can make it difficult to think clearly, and it can lead to problems with your physical health. Because of this, you need to learn how to manage difficult emotions, like stress and anxiety. Otherwise, these feelings will distract you from reaching your goals.

Eating healthy and exercising are important for managing stress. In Anna’s case, she needs to reduce her overall stress levels by eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep at night. She should talk to her boss about her workload because she feels too overwhelmed to even try tackling it.

Strategies to help you build your self-management skills

Whether you want to improve your self-management skills to achieve success or simply to enjoy a less stressful work life, there are a few strategies you can try out.

Motivate through reminders and rewards

To develop self-motivation, start by reminding yourself why you are doing something. When you achieve your goal, give yourself a reward. This could be eating at a favorite restaurant, taking a long bath, or doing something else you love.

Reduce distractions

Better motivation and time management can be achieved by reducing distractions. Turn off social media, and relegate your digital correspondence to set times of the day.

Get time management tools

Time management tools, like Google Calendar and Timely, can help you prioritize tasks and work through your to-do list. If a task can be done without your presence, delegate it to a team member using your time management app.

Work during your peak hours

Identify which hours are your peak production times. Then, you should focus on completing your most important projects during your hours. During non-peak hours, you can handle meetings, email responses, and less important tasks.

Set deadlines

To achieve goals, it helps to set a deadline. Then, you can break down major goals into smaller milestones. By doing this, you can easily track how far along you are in achieving your major goals.

Develop better emotional regulation

Emotional regulation helps you manage stress, tension, anger, and other difficult emotions. Meditation, yoga, and journaling are great activities for developing emotional regulation. If you can’t regulate your emotions, you can’t learn self-management.

Learn Better Self-Management Skills

Once you become talented at self-management, it can help you achieve more at work. You can also develop a better work-life balance and a healthier lifestyle.

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