One of the good sides of the in-office workspace is its defined work structure. Every worker knows when to hit the road and clock in. When the routine is repeated long enough, the body clock masters the schedule and keeps workers on autopilot. Workplace supervision and in-person interactions also serve as motivation to keep employees focused. These factors are mostly absent in remote work environments.
While remote work is famous for all its publicized advantages, it has downsides, and they start with poor self-management and indiscipline. Telecommuting provides a unique opportunity for workers to manage their time and work pattern how they see fit. But that’s not an entirely great thing, depending on how you’re looking at it.
Some people thrive in workplaces where schedules and assignments are laid out for them. Left on their own, they may struggle to keep things organized and stay on course. That’s where learning how to self-manage and self-organize comes in.
If you struggle to keep things in order while working from home, you’re not the first telecommuter to wonder what’s happening. The good thing is, it’s a problem you can fix. Different self-management techniques, tricks, and tools can help you see why the world still loves remote work. In this article, we’ll introduce you to those resources.
What is Self-Management, and Why is it Important?
Self-management is a worker’s ability to independently plan, manage, organize, and execute tasks without supervision. It involves keeping emotions in check, controlling actions, and managing behavioral responses to specific situations.
Self-management is why workers stay focused and professional under pressure, don’t overreact to conflicts, adapt to new methods and ideas, and stick to schedule. It’s also the reason for a worker’s neat work area, properly organized and executed presentation, and efficient communication skills. It’s behind almost everything that builds successful professional careers.
A person with good self-management is either a natural or has undergone intense training and practice. That said, they have the following self-management skills in common:
Time management: Knowing how to manipulate available time to schedule tasks effectively, set deadlines, and manage personal chores.
Goal setting: Setting achievable and intentional short-term and long-term milestones and objectives and creating a roadmap to achieve them.
Prioritization: Identifying the most important tasks and focusing on them while also being able to adjust priorities as needed based on shifting deadlines, goals, or external factors.
Planning: Outlining and using detailed steps and resources to achieve goals and overcome potential obstacles.
Self-discipline: Maintaining motivation, focus, and productivity while working independently, as well as resisting distractions that can negatively impact work performance.
Communication: Ensuring clear, timely, and efficient communication with colleagues, supervisors, and clients, including sharing updates on work progress, collaborating effectively, and requesting or providing feedback.
Continuous learning: Identifying critical areas for improvement and pursuing learning opportunities to develop new skills, adapt to emerging trends and technologies, and stay connected with professionals to stay competitive in the job market.
Organization: Arranging physical or digital workspaces in a way that speeds up work, boosts productivity, tones down distractions, and facilitates a conducive task-focused environment. Good organization also involves consciously planning every aspect of one’s work life.
Record-keeping: Systematically organizing and maintaining information, such as documents, minutes, financial records, inventory, files, and to-dos, to ensure easy retrieval and review.
Why Is Self Management Important in a Remote Workplace?
Self-management is particularly critical to a remote worker’s work routine. To be clear, a ‘remote workplace’ is mostly a fancy name for your work corner in your home or anywhere that’s not a physical office. It will almost always have more distractions than in-person workspaces unless you work in a co-working or secluded area.
In the face of so many distractions, you need a great deal of self-management to focus on work and stay productive. You’ll also have to deal with the challenge of determining how and when to work since you have the autonomy to choose as a remote worker. In most situations, workers get caught up in handling work tasks and personal chores simultaneously. Again, it takes self-management to separate the two.
So, what is the importance of self-management in remote working? Here are pointers:
- Self-management helps remote workers create strict schedules and stick to them
- Self-management helps WFH professionals identify and get rid of distractions so they can focus on work
- Remote workers with excellent self-management skills can leverage their autonomy using their planning abilities to create the best custom work process that works for them
- Self-management improves emotional and physical well-being
- Self-management helps telecommuters create a healthy work-life balance
Examples of Poor Self Management
Poor self-management can manifest in various ways, depending on the individual and the situation. Here are some examples of poor self-management:
Procrastination: Procrastination is a common symptom of poor self-management. It involves delaying tasks and responsibilities until the last minute. It is one of the by-products of the flexibility and autonomy of remote work.
Since workers are free to choose when they work, they can be tempted to push tasks until they’re too close to their deadlines.
The pressure to catch up can result in long hours and overexertion, which are bad news for physical and mental health. If you procrastinate a lot, it’s an indication that you need to check your self-management.
Lack of goals: Whenever you complete a meeting, submit a task, or respond to emails, you’re achieving micro goals. The problem is when you don’t see them as objectives and can’t tie them to a central, long-term goal. Without a big-picture pursuit, you’ll lack the motivation to get out of bed in the morning.
Poor time management: Another indication of poor self-management is when you struggle to know how you spend time. Without a strong understanding of what tasks and chores you complete and how much time you need to complete them, you’ll continue to find it challenging to achieve an optimal work-life balance.
Inability to prioritize: Failing to identify and focus on high-priority tasks leads to poor decision-making. You’ll also be spending a lot of precious time on unimportant tasks, which means you’ll continue to achieve less regardless of how hard you work.
Lack of planning: People with poor self-management don’t always see the need to develop detailed plans for achieving goals. Not planning results in disorganization, inefficiency, and an increased likelihood of encountering obstacles or setbacks.
Neglecting self-care: Self-care is an excellent aspect of self-management. It helps workers manage their stress levels, stay physically and mentally fit, and maintain an outstanding work-life balance. If you can’t care for yourself, you’ll become slow at work, lose motivation, and decrease productivity.
Ineffective communication: Struggling to convey thoughts, ideas, or emotions clearly and concisely, leading to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, or conflict with others.
Resistance to change: Failing to adapt to new situations or challenges, leading to stagnation and an inability to grow or improve.
Impulsive decision-making: Making hasty decisions without fully considering potential consequences leads to regrettable outcomes or the need for sudden damage control. Impulsive decision-making signals poor self-management, as individuals who fall victim to it cannot plan.
Poor financial management: Failing to budget or manage finances responsibly is another way to identify poor self-management. People who don’t organize their fiscal lives run the risk of insolvency, career derailment, and poor quality of life.
How to Improve Self-Management While Working From Home
Everyone can excel at self-management. While some people are natural at chasing goals and staying organized, everyone must practice self-management principles to keep things together.
So, how do you manage yourself working remotely? These tips will help.
Identify the Tools You Need and Use them
Many remote workers can’t cope without their tools, which is good. They can’t settle for subpar work. You must have the right resources to execute your tasks efficiently, manage time, communicate with colleagues, and stay organized.
But you must understand that every professional has a unique set of tools. For example, you don’t need GitHub unless you’re a developer. That said, the following tools should be on your workstation:
Time tracking and productivity tools: Time tracking tools like Traqq help you monitor your work hours and provide insights into your productivity. Using them, you can identify time-consuming tasks, distracting apps, and other time wasters. Those insights will allow you to allocate tasks to the right time slots, eliminate distractions, and optimize your schedule to remove time-wasting activities like unnecessary meetings.
Project management tools: Using project management tools allows you to organize tasks efficiently, set deadlines, track work progress, and collaborate. You can use these tools to visualize your workload, prioritize tasks, and track your overall objectives.
Communication tools: Tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom help you stay connected with your team and clients, share updates, and hold virtual meetings. Since you won’t be able to show up in conference rooms, you need a reliable virtual connection that your clients and teams are also used to.
File sharing and storage tools: Use cloud storage solutions like Google Drive or Dropbox to store and share documents securely. This way, accessing files and collaborating with team members will be easy. This method of collaboration is slowly replacing the paper-carrying tradition of in-person offices.
Start Setting Goals
Establish SMART goals to provide direction and motivation for your remote work. SMART goals are specific because you know exactly what they are, measurable because you can always determine how far you’ve come, attainable because you can achieve them with your resources, realistic because they aren’t beyond your abilities, and timely because you can achieve them within the timeframe you set. So, create both short-term and long-term goals to maintain a balance between immediate tasks and long-term vision. Then, connect these subtasks to the actual goal you want to achieve.
Employ Time Management Techniques
Remote work can mislead you into thinking you have all the time in the world. That’s why you’ll always end up completing the wrong tasks and chasing deadlines under pressure.
Time management techniques will help you appreciate the limitations of time and give you back control of your schedule. It will ensure you don’t succumb to procrastination and the pressures of missed deadlines. There are different techniques you can implement.
Time blocking: Allocate specific time slots to tasks and minimize distractions during these periods.
Pomodoro Technique: Break work into short intervals (usually 25 minutes), separated by brief (5-minute) breaks. This technique helps maintain focus and prevents burnout. After four work intervals, take a longer break before starting again.
Prioritization: Prioritize tasks based on their importance and urgency, focusing on high-priority tasks first. Make sure you separate important and urgent tasks from tasks that are just urgent. Focus on the former and delegate the latter.
Deadlines: Always set deadlines for tasks and projects, no matter how small they are. That way, you’re ensuring that you have enough time to complete them without compromising quality.
Become a Planner and an Organizer
Planning and organizing are key skills for remote workers, especially those who want to take self-management seriously.
Declutter your workspace by removing everything you don’t need. Always update your calendar to include relevant tasks and engagements as they surface. You should also create a to-do list without leaving anything out.
Use the tools and time management techniques discussed earlier to manage your workload effectively and actively control your time. Lastly, it’s a good idea to regularly review and adjust your plans to ensure they remain relevant and achievable.
Never Stop Learning
Continuous learning is vital for personal and professional growth. Invest time in learning new skills and enhancing your knowledge to stay relevant and adaptable:
Online courses: Explore platforms like Coursera, Udemy, or LinkedIn Learning to find courses that align with your goals.
Webinars and workshops: Attend industry-related webinars or workshops to stay updated on trends and best practices.
Books and articles: Read books and articles on self-management, productivity, or other areas relevant to your career.
Networking: Connect with industry professionals through online forums, social media platforms, or virtual events to exchange ideas and learn from their experiences.
Self-management is the key to unlocking the many great benefits of remote work. Keeping yourself grounded while executing your tasks efficiently and on time will ensure you enjoy the best of work and personal life.