7 Self-Management Tips To Put You In Control

1.         The quick “no” and slow “yes”

We live in a “yes” culture. A common misbelief is if we take on more projects we will be more likely to get noticed in the company we work for. Unfortunately, saying “yes” all the time will lead to burnout. Instead of saying a quick “yes”, a quick “no” and a selective or “slow” “yes” will get you working on the projects you want to be part of, allowing you to go full-steam ahead and excel in ways you wouldn’t with those quick “yes” projects.

2.         Don’t take anyone’s monkey

William Oncken, Jr. and Donald L. Wass wrote one of the most popular articles in the history of the Harvard Business Review. In this article, Oncken and Wass propose the following scenario: You are walking down the hall at work and a co-worker comes up to you and says, “I’ve got a problem.” You say, “Sure, what’s going on?” and try to help with an on the spot answer, but it turns out to be something complicated. Instead of giving an answer, you tell your colleague that you will think about it.

What just happened? Your co-worker’s problem just became your problem and instead of thinking about the project you were just working on, now you have one more thing to think about. The monkey hopped off their back and landed on yours.

Instead of saying: “I’ll get back to you”, say, “Send me an email about it.” This way, you will deal with the email on your time and this person will only send you an email if the problem is important enough to write you about it.

3.         No one has washed their rental car

Thomas Friedman is famous for saying “In the history of the world, no one has washed their rental car”. What does this mean? Ownership is everything. Two things to keep in mind: 1) If you are not fully committed to your work or a particular project, you won’t put your heart into it, and you will likely not produce your best work. 2) When you ask someone to work on a project with your team, make sure they have some ownership. This will make the person accountable to the project and will give them the drive to see it through start to finish.

4.         Live in the present moment

Don’t get caught up in negative feedback loops. If you have a habit of getting sucked into the past, take that memory and put it up on your bookshelf. Later on in the day you can take it down and think about it for a small amount of time, but for now it is on the shelf. Your only worries should be about things that are immediate to your success. Everything else is a distraction. A good thing to ask yourself at the beginning of the day and after lunch is this: What is the most important thing I can be doing with my time and resources?

5.         Sleep peacefully  

Take time during the day to write down what you need to accomplish in order to sleep peacefully at night. Writing down a list will get these thoughts out of your head and onto something else. This is a great way to start mentally processing what you need to get done that day.

6.         Do not sacrifice what matters most to you

Never do anything you wouldn’t want to watch if Hollywood made a movie of your life. Every choice is a trade off for something else. Make sure you are making a good trade every time. Don’t sacrifice your values or what is important to you for something you will later regret. We only have one chance at this life, make sure you are doing what is most important to you, especially at work.

7.         Find what works for you

The reason why there are so many tips on how to be productive is because there are so many different types of people, and we all work differently. Don’t think of managing your time as something you have to “do”, think of it as something you already are. Only use the tips and tricks that work for you. If you try something new and it becomes a hassle, stop and try something different. A lifehack or self-management tip is supposed to make your life easier; if it is an inconvenience, something isn’t right.

Andrew J. Wilt
SEI Junior Consultant
Apprenticeship Program