5 Myths about Self-Management

As life’s pace picks up remorselessly, clients are increasingly looking for ideas on how better to manage themselves and their time. In this short article, I explore the self-managements myths I most frequently come across.

Myth #1 Time can be managed

I’ve covered this one in a 2010 posting on my blog: You can read what the Mad Hatter has to say about time management here.

Myth #2 One size fits all

One of the biggest hurdles to improving self-management is that most of the books on the subject take a “one size fits all” approach. I work with a personality system called the Enneagram which consists of nine personality archetypes. Each Type is characterized by a particular way of looking at the world and an associated set of preferred strategies for dealing with life.

Most of the self-management books seem to be written for or by someone who is the Enneagram Archetype called the Achiever or Performer. People with this personality type tend to be very well organized and focus on what needs to be done to achieve a desired goal. If, as a reader, you’re also of this Type, then the book can help you to become even more super-organised. If you’re not, then the book is an invitation to frustration and failure – why can’t I follow this recipe?

Myth #3 An empty inbox is the sign of an organized person

To be honest, an empty in-box in your mail program is just that, the sign of an empty in-box. It shouldn’t be an end in itself. What is the point in ensuring that your inbox is empty, if you have urgent and important tasks to take care of? They need your attention, not your inbox.

It’s a good idea to keep your inbox under control, so that you avoid unwelcome surprises. However, there is a law of diminishing returns. Depending on how you tick, you may need “empty” to feel comfortable. My own threshold is about 40 mails; when my inbox goes above that, my stress levels start to go up. At the time of writing, my inbox stands at 58. Once this posting is finished, I will give my mails some attention. I notice that when the level goes below 20 that there is no appreciable change in my stress levels.

Myth #4 All it takes is self-discipline

I read an article once that claimed that procrastination could be dealt with through enough self-discipline. Procrastination is your unconscious’ way of telling you it hasn’t signed up to this particular idea. Most people have not been blessed with a self-discipline gene, so strategies that require this have a small chance of success.

Over the past eighteen months I have been learning how to use the Zurich Resource Model in my coaching and leadership development work. This blends the latest research from psychology, neuroscience and embodiment to help the conscious and unconscious to align and help you express the attitude you need to reach a particular goal. When used well, you find yourself moving effortlessly in the right direction.

Myth #5 You just need to simplify

An increasing number of books on the market propagate different approaches to simplifying your work or your life. While there are good ideas in these books, they miss the point: you’re not in a job that can be completed in four hours a week. If it could be, someone more senior would find even more for you to do!

In my experience, it is more beneficial to be clear on your organisation’s strategy and how you and your people can contribute to that; these are your core activities. This provides a natural focus for activities and a way to prioritise your tasks. The more of your time and energy is spent on this, the more progress you make and the more fulfilling your day becomes.


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