“In addition to self-awareness, imagination and conscience, it is the fourth human endowment-independent will-that really makes effective self-management possible. It is the ability to make decisions and choices and to act in accordance with them. It is the ability to act rather than to be acted upon, to proactively carry out the program we have developed through the other three endowments. Empowerment comes from learning how to use this great endowment in the decisions we make every day.” - Stephen R. Covey
Have you ever worked with supervisors who did not manage themselves well? Didn't you feel let down and disappointed when you worked with them. Conversely, have you ever managed team members who managed themselves better than what you did? Probably those team members might have shared similar thoughts about you.
As project managers and leaders, you need to learn the art of self-management. The key to self-management is cultivating a foresight, making a few decisions early on and managing them daily. You need to cultivate patience, self-discipline and commitment to follow them despite the challenges that you face. One of the classic examples that can be considered here is new-year resolutions that we make. We become successful in what we do only when we have the commitment to follow these resolutions on a daily basis.
If your leader has to continuously manage you, you will be perceived as someone who drains his time and energy. However, if you manage yourself well, you will be perceived as someone who maximizes opportunities and leverages personal strengths.
Here are a few key aspects of self-management that you could focus on to gain credibility with your supervisors, leaders and your team members.
Managing Your Thinking
Have you ever come across days when you were too busy and could not accomplish tasks in your to do lists, which needed a great deal of planning and thinking? I am sure each one of us have had such days.
One of the habits that successful leaders cultivate to deal with this problem is jotting down those 3-4 main issues that need good planning. Every day, they are able to carve out some time in their lives when they can actually ponder over such issues.
Another factor that helps you in dealing with this issue is learning about 'metacognition'. Metacognitive knowledge is about our own cognitive processes and our understanding of how to regulate those processes to maximize learning.
J. H. Flavell first used the word "metacognition". He describes these words in it. Metacognition refers to one’s knowledge concerning one's own cognitive processes or anything related to them, for example, the learning-relevant properties of information or data. For instance, I am engaging in metacognition if I notice that I am having more trouble learning A than B; if it strikes to me that I should double check C before accepting it as fact.
Understanding and controlling how we think enables us to move to even higher levels of thinking. Extreme productivity is not about working harder,, it is about working smarter.
Managing Your Emotions
As a project manager, you should learn to control your emotions while managing your projects. Team members could feel insecure while working with project managers and leaders who behave as emotional time bombs ready to go off any moment. You should also know when and how to display your emotions when the occasion demands.
Sometimes, it helps to let your team members know what you are feeling to help them see what you are seeing. I remember, once, one of our project managers displayed serious concerns about the way our team was handling the requirement gathering phase and preparing the relevant documents. Although, we were quite confident in our approach, we were able to realize our mistakes only when we received a huge number of reworks that delayed our schedule by almost two weeks.
Managing Your Priorities
As project managers you may find yourselves in situations in which you have no option but to juggle between responsibilities and tasks. However, you may also have realized that eventually, you might not be as productive as you would have been. Well, ask any successful leader and they will tell you that one of the secrets for being more productive is to brutally prioritize your tasks in your to do list and cut down on all the unwanted tasks.
As you move up the ladder, you will need to be specialists rather than generalists. Most successful leaders focus on being exceptionally good at few tasks rather than just working on a lot of tasks and not achieving the desired excellence in most of them.
- Managing Your Time
Many project managers find themselves struggling with this aspect of self-management. Your inability to manage your time could have huge impacts on your projects, your organization and even on your personal lives.
However, by coming up with realistic plans, breaking your tasks into small manageable pieces and by prioritizing your tasks, you may find it easier to manage your time well and be more productive.
- Managing Your Energy
Do you remember the early days in your career, when you had boundless energy to do your tasks? With age and responsibility, however, you may have felt a dip in these energy levels and felt disappointed whenever you couldn't complete your priorities or daily tasks.
One of the ways of managing our energy is to focus on your main priorities daily and work on them with focus and excellence. These priorities could include tasks that you wanted to do for yourself, for your team, for your project or even for your family.
As a project manager, you could gain credibility with your leaders and your team members by learning the art of self-management . You could learn and master the craft by focusing on the following aspects: managing your thinking, emotions, priorities, time and energy.
Until Next Time
Sabyasachi Gupta, PMP®
PMP is a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.