Self-Management Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips

Updated February 3, 2023

Self-management skills allow you to maximize your productivity, improve your workplace performance and efficiently achieve professional goals. Improving your self-management skills can help you increase your employability and better manage your career path.

In this article, we identify self-management skills for the workplace, offer tips for enhancing them and provide examples for showcasing them.

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What are self-management skills?

Self-management skills are the abilities that allow people to control their thoughts, feelings and actions. If you have strong self-management skills, you’re able to set goals independently and take the initiative to achieve them. Purposeful self-management can help you direct the trajectory of your career and ensure you seek opportunities that get you closer to your goals.

6 examples of self-management skills

Self-management skills focus on personal responsibility in the following areas:

1. Organization

You can apply your organizational skills to your time, physical space, energy and mental capabilities to establish neatness and improve functionality. If you are well-organized, you’re able to plan, prioritize and execute important activities, helping you self-manage your essential workplace responsibilities.

2. Goal setting

Goal setting is the ability to determine what you want to achieve in a clear and well-defined manner. Goal setting in the workplace helps you to decide what’s important and to create an action plan that will help you achieve goals that align with those values. This skill is necessary to maintain productivity in the workplace because it enables you to manage your time and actions.

3. Time management

Strong time management skills allow you to prioritize tasks, avoid distractions and maintain focus. Effective time management in the workplace helps with setting and meeting deadlines, working on one thing at a time and delegating responsibilities appropriately. Managing your time is an essential part of managing yourself.

Read more: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples

4. Self-motivation

Self-motivation is the ability to take initiative and finish tasks you know should be completed. When you’re self-motivated, you anticipate and plan for potential tasks needed to achieve more significant assignments or to solve ongoing issues. You’re driven by your desire to succeed and not by outside factors, which makes you more productive in the workplace. Self-motivation is the side of self-management that ensures forward progress with your projects and activities.

5. Stress management

Stress management can take many forms, from maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen to proactively engaging in activities like meditation or journaling about your experiences. Proactively managing workplace stressors can help you remain calm on the job. Handling stress before it becomes an issue allows you to focus on your goals and make steady progress forward. Managing stress helps you self-manage your emotions and maintain a professional demeanor in the workplace.

6. Accountability

Accountability is the act of taking personal ownership of your thoughts and actions. When you maintain responsibility, you’re better equipped to evaluate your work and determine the best way to proceed. 

How to improve self-management skills

Enhance your self-management skills by actively focusing on ways you can direct, evaluate and improve upon your daily tasks. Here are a few ways you can improve your self-management skills:

1. Assess your strengths

Determine what professional tasks you’re best at, and focus on ways to maximize your abilities in these areas. Understanding your strengths helps you manage your career path in a way that makes the most of skills like coding, technical writing, graphic design or customer service.

2. Prioritize your responsibilities

Clearly define which responsibilities are most important, and focus your attention on the most critical jobs, avoiding distractions that draw you away from what matters.

4. Develop organizational systems

Find effective methods that help you manage your time, streamline your daily activities and keep important items in easy-to-find places. This step might include using an agenda book, setting up a time-management app on your phone or creating a filing system at your desk.

5. Create strict deadlines

Assign deadlines to each stage of a project, and maintain your schedule. Hold yourself accountable for getting tasks done on or ahead of schedule by committing to put in more hours when needed to reach your self-designated checkpoints.

6. Perform one task at a time

Focus your time, energy and abilities on a single task at any given moment. Complete each task fully before moving on to another so that you’re managing your time and effort efficiently.

7. Practice patience

Maintain a sense of calm so you can think clearly and objectively. Be considerate of others, and try to empathize with their needs and experiences to more effectively help them.

8. Take care of your health and wellness

Maintain a proper diet, exercise regularly, care for your personal hygiene and actively focus on lowering your stress levels. Take breaks to stretch and clear your mind, keep healthy snacks at work and look for opportunities for physical activity, such as a brisk walk during your lunch hour.

9. Evaluate your progress

Objectively assess the progress you’ve made toward your goals by setting checkpoints along the way and tracking your accomplishments to see if you’ve met them. Ask a mentor for assistance to get a well-rounded appraisal. Use this feedback to improve your self-management going forward.

Self-management skills in the workplace

Carefully managing your activities in the workplace can help you achieve and exceed your professional goals. Use the following tips to practice self-management in the workplace and maintain a productive and efficient schedule:

Arrive at meetings on time and fully prepared 

If you know a meeting is coming up, spend time the day before to collect any information you may need to bring and think of questions to ask. You can also review your questions and notes in the hour before the meeting to ensure you are focused on the meeting’s goals and can be a collaborative contributor.

Plan for the next day before leaving work

Leave time at the end of each workday to organize your calendar, write a new to-do list or organize your planner to include tasks to complete the next day. You can also use this time to review what you did accomplish to see how successful you were in reaching your daily goals.

Keep an organized agenda

You can write a detailed schedule of events, deadlines or meetings so you can better manage your projects, tasks and responsibilities. Consider using a planner or task-tracking application to organize these items.

Outline project goals

Determine strict deadlines, and consider using a calendar to track them each day, week, month and quarter. 

Assess projects early

Ask questions before you begin a project to ensure you understand exactly what your role is. You can also ask questions after starting a task to ensure you are completing it correctly or discover if you need to adjust.

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How to highlight self-management skills

Employees with strong self-management skills are a valuable asset in any workplace. Make sure you’re highlighting your self-management skills appropriately so prospective employers recognize your capabilities in this area.

Skills for the resume and cover letter

Include specific self-management skills such as organization, time management and goal setting on your resume. You can also provide examples of your self-management skills as you detail your job responsibilities. In your cover letter, build on the self-management skills you list in your resume and further elaborate on how you used them to improve your productivity or efficiency.

Example: “I used calendar management to organize daily responsibilities and set clear deadlines for long-term projects. Managing my calendar ensured I left time to fact-check my work and complete assignments on schedule. I also took the initiative to share my calendar system with other team members to help them better organize their daily tasks. This improved the team’s efficiency in completing assignments before the client needed them.”

Related: Resume Format Guide (With Tips and Examples)

Skills for the job interview

Demonstrate your self-management skills in your interview by arriving promptly and well-prepared. Have a copy of your resume on hand and wear appropriate attire. Research the company beforehand so you can reference specific projects for which the business has recently received notice. These activities showcase your ability to think ahead and take the initiative to be prepared.

As you’re answering interview questions, look for opportunities to emphasize your self-management abilities. Discuss your proactive goal setting, strong organizational skills and timeliness. Give specific examples of how these abilities have manifested in previous jobs.

Example: “In my last job, I handled all employee schedules and communicated with various team members for special accommodations. I kept track of who often took time off for recurring reasons to make sure the schedules were always accurate.

For example, one of my employees usually took certain days off to handle family commitments. When the new week’s schedule was created, this particular employee was scheduled to work on days he usually takes off. I reached out to him to make sure it was correct, and he confirmed it was. I made note that he changed the days he was taking off to update my information.”

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