Managing Yourself: How To Get Things Done & Still Have A Life


Do you sometimes despair at how few tasks you complete despite being so busy? Are people getting frustrated with you about jobs you have promised to do but have yet to start? Do you wonder how some people can achieve so much with their time? Comparing yourself unfavourably to others can leave you miserable and demotivated. Soon you are wondering exactly when you transformed from a human being into a human doing. If this sounds familiar, you need to look at how you manage yourself.

If you want to get things done and still have a life, you must take charge of how you use your time, energy and resources. Understanding how you habitually use the time available to you is the first step. According to the Oxford dictionary, a habit is 'a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.'Habits derive from behaviours which develop out of the beliefs that you hold about yourself. If you believe that you are unable to improve your self-management, then it is highly likely that you are right.

Woman about to start work.jpg

Take a moment to consider; what are your views about your ability to manage your own time? If you see yourself unable to plan and to be at the mercy of external events, nothing will help. Time-management guru, Brian Tracy says "If you have developed the habit of being late for meetings or believe that you are a disorganised person, those habits become your automatic behaviour. If you do not change your beliefs about your level of effectiveness and efficiency, your ability to manage your time will not change either." However, the great thing about our beliefs is that we can choose to change them. Tracy recommends a visualisation exercise to explore what it feels like to be an excellent time manager. 

Close your eyes. Imagine a highly productive person. Would that person's desk be clean and tidy? Would they appear calm and unhurried? How would the person start their day? How would they deal with interruptions? Create a clear mental picture of yourself as a person who is in control of their time and life. What would be different about the way you behave? Now try acting as if you are already good at self-manager. Think of yourself as organised in everything you do. How would you approach your day? What would be different about the way you act? Then consider how your current working practices serve you. If you don't like what you see, you can choose to change.

Time management.jpg

It sounds straightforward, but we all know how hard it is to break bad habits. It takes courage, determination and effort to make a switch in our behaviour. You can help yourself on the road to success by developing self-awareness and acting to lower the barriers to making beneficial changes. Begin taming your workload by undertaking an audit of all the things that are stacking up. You might like to try the technique called Decide, Do, Ditch, Delegateto bring it under control. The method works because it focuses on what you can do - not what can't do. An essential step in building self-esteem, this approach helps shift the mindset from rumination to constructive action. Here’s how to get started: 

First, decide on your goals. What is important to you at home and work? Be honest with yourself. Are the goals you are pursuing aligned with what is important to you?  It is easy to be swept up with being busy without considering why you are doing something. Pausing to reflect on your goals enables you to focus on what matters. It also helps you to make choices about how you apply your energy and expend your effort. Establishing which goals you will pursue means you can attach meaning and purpose to the way you spend your time. Try asking yourself the following questions: 

  1.  Would working towards this goal be personally satisfying?

  2.  Will pursuing this move you towards something you want rather than away from something you don't want?

  3.  Is the pursuit of this goal congruent with the way you want to live?

  4. Will the pursuit of this goal enrich you through gaining new experiences or skills?

Writing down your answers will help you identify your priorities. 

Successful woman.jpg

Next, think about all the things that you have on your plate. Write down the activities that are in progress as well as urgent tasks yet to start. Now think about any other items that need your attention but do not have a deadline. Add these too. Go through your list and highlight everything that doesn't move you towards your goals. Be ruthless. 

Typical items will be wishful thinking such as reading through all those newsletters that are gathering dust. Are there any jobs that may duplicate effort? Are there any tasks that are redundant? Set up a list called ‘ditch’and add to this the things that are unnecessary and no longer relevant to you. 

Now review what is left. There is a limit to what you can do in the time you have available. However, the reality is that many people do try to do it all. This attitude leads to work overload, long working hours, and a sense of pressure. The ability to delegate well is, therefore, an important skill to learn. Effective delegation also gives other people the chance to grow their skills and test their abilities. 


Look at your list and think carefully about what might be done by someone else. Include those tasks that you do because they are familiar and comfortable for you. Then create a list called 'delegate' and add to this the things that are important to do, but not necessarily by you. 

After completing this exercise, you will have three lists:

  1. Your Do list– the things you're going to do because they move you towards your goals. Now choose one thing from the list to do and act upon it. The experience of making progress will motivate you to continue. Think about the resources that you might tap to help you – for example, templates and checklists that can speed up workflow. Use technology to assist you– for example, apps like the Focus Keeper that enable you to chunk time and make progress on tasks by breaking them down into bite-sized pieces. 

  2. Your Ditch list– usually stuffed with wishful thinking, or other people's priorities, or items that are no longer relevant or necessary. Choose one thing to stop doing. If you need to communicate your intentions, then show respect by doing this first. 

  3. Your Delegate list– things that you're going to ask other people to do. Now reflect upon the structures that you can put in place to support you to do this. For example: the people who might undertake these tasks or assist you in streamlining them. Remember to be clear and specific about the tasks you wish to delegate. This is not about dumping on someone else so be considerate and offer guidance or a period of transition. 

Attitude is Everything.PNG

The degree to which you feel in control of your time and your life has a major effect on your well-being. You can make a massive difference to your sense of agency by using a few simple self-management techniques, introduce structure and exercise self-discipline in your working practices. Together, these can help you to be more productive and efficient, and likely feel a lot less stressed.Remember that how you choose to use your time important as this is how you spend your life.

About Beverly Landais
Beverly is a professional certified coach (PCC). Beverly comes to coaching from a senior business background, including board level. Her purpose is simple. She works with people to help them be at their resourceful best. She can help you do the things that promote wellbeing, bring personal as well as professional satisfaction and make you happy.