We spend our days similarly — most of us—working for other people. A key difference that I’ve observed between people who have a job and the people who create jobs is an ability to self-manage.
I wish it were sexier but it’s not.
My parents were entrepreneurs, I’ve built businesses with friends, and I’ve also worked for people who grew companies to be publicly traded. Along the way, I’ve seen that the entrepreneurs who succeed are business savvy, innovative and great listeners.
But their superpower is actually self-management.
Managing up to yourself means a few things:
- Determining your priorities and seeing them through
- Communicating your vision to those who need to take action with/for you to make it real
- Weeding out the voices (your inner critic and other IRL people) who may distract you
- Overcoming obstacles with ease
- Relentlessly cheering yourself on
Good self-management requires habits and practice.
- Habits give you the structure to manage yourself consistently and efficiently.
- Practice makes you great at it.
If you’re working for someone else you can ensure you’re also working for yourself by proactively setting your priorities and selling them in to your boss. The best way I’ve found to do that is by setting a space for myself, away from all the office communications (email, chat, shared calendars) to get my head straight for the week. Deciding what has to get done in a day or week gives me confidence and a sense of accomplishment, despite the prevalence of “work-til-you-drop” or “busy” cultures.
This clarity lets me “manage-up and -around,” to set expectations with execs and colleagues. If my priorities need to change to help someone out or take on a surprise assignment, I can easily socialize the tradeoffs and proactively manage expectations again. It’s a win-win-win for me, my boss and my team. This habit and its practice also helps me self-manage on work that is just for me—like my launch of the 2019 Planner.
Critical to self-management, each day starts with a free space. I use mine for jotting the two tasks—that no matter what—Must happen today. This habit is borrowed from the book by Tim Ferriss—4-Hour Workweek—and it significantly reduced my stress when I was in a start-up with a bottomless stream of work that could (or couldn’t) be done.
The weekly view suggests that I’ve gotta keep myself thinking above the daily task level (that means no never-ending, out of context to-do lists). And frankly, I find monthly views best handled by digital calendar tools because they show how weeks connect into bigger milestones and deadlines. I use these physical and digital tools in tandem to keep myself and my teams aligned.
Where, or should I ask what, will you start by picking up the pen and getting your plans on paper?