Driving Success Through Self-Management

18th September 2023

Special Boardroom contributor Ole Petter Anfinsen, Executive Director of EDBAC and DBA Research Associate at Henley Business School, UK, explains why self-management is key to driving performance.

Self-management is an indispensable element of human con- duct and a part of how we manoeuvre our behaviour to reach desired goals (Duckworth Lee, 2009). In one way you could say it helps us to interact with our environment, as it supports our ability to make decisions and overcome adversity.

However, self-management is more than just management; it encompasses self-regulation, how we choose to respond and engage in various situations, how we effectively manage our emotions, thoughts, and behaviour (Gerhardt, 2007). Although our approach may vary depending on context, it is our ability to assess and execute appropriate responses to a given situa- tion (Gerhardt, 2007). Coupled with self-discipline and resil- ience, these skills form what can be aptly called our survival kit. Together, they largely determine our ability to cope with life’s challenges.

Examining these skills and recognizing their interconnected- ness allows us to anticipate our responses and potential out- comes in different situations. This understanding empowers us to navigate through challenges while maintaining optimal performance levels. As a result, associations must grasp the sig- nificance of self-management within the workplace and ensure its integration into the organizational culture and DNA, con- tributing to overall performance.

The Fundamentals of self-management

Self-management consists of “self-assessment, goal setting, time management, and self-regulation” (Gerhardt, 2007), which can be taught if one undertakes proper training. The fundamentals of self-management on the other hand are considered to be “time management, interpersonal communication, organizational skills, basic problem solving” (Tulgan, 2017), which are characteristics that we all would like to see in our respective organizations, employees, colleagues and of course ourselves (Anfinsen, 2020).

Self-management & leadership

Looking at leadership alone, “… 73% of leaders feel distracted from their current task either “some” or “most” of the time” (Hougaard & Carter, 2017). Consequently, self-management is an important component in driving results and supporting desired outcomes, and up to 65% of leaders are unable to complete all their tasks due to distractions and conflicting demands (Hougaard & Carter, 2017).

Hence, it is suggested that concentration and focus are key to effectiveness (Hougaard & Carter, 2017). For example, there is a relationship between focus and career advancement, and one should plan one’s day according to focus and when one is most likely to be most concentrated (Hougaard & Carter, 2017).

The good news is that you can actually learn to increase focus, and a large part of managing yourself is to find purpose and knowing where to find it. However, finding purpose is subject to multiple misconceptions such as: “purpose is only a thing you find, purpose is a single thing and purpose is stable over time” (Cole- man, 2017). On the contrary, one should not be looking to find one single purpose but provide purpose to everything one does as well as understand that one’s purpose may change over time (Coleman, 2017).

10 tips to increase focus and concentration

  1. Make sure to get enough quality sleep. 
  2. Make notes for yourself, so you don’t have to constantly go around thinking about things you need to remember – which take focus away from the tasks at hand. 
  3. Avoid procrastination and stick to your deadlines.
  4. Manage your time and avoid taking on more than you can handle. 
  5. Avoid checking your emails directly before bedtime, as it might come with unnecessary stress and prevent you from getting quality sleep. 
  6. Set boundaries for yourself – and remember that it is allowed to say NO. You do not have to give an explanation as saying no should be sufficient. 
  7. Make sure to adopt and sustain a healthy diet.  
  8. Engage in physical activity and make sure to get enough exercise. 
  9. Find your “happy place” where you can unwind and make sense of your emotions. Hence, creating time and space for reflexion. 
  10. Reduce the intake of alcohol and artificial stimuli. In contrast to what many believe, artificial stimuli such as caffeine actually decreases both focus and concentration. 

We all need to practice and master these different techniques as all of us might experience difficulties in gathering focus from time to time, depending on context and situation – where multiple distractions might take place (Anfinsen, 2020).



Anfinsen, O. P. (2020). Self-management! How are you managing yourself?, s.l.: Henley Business School.

Coleman, J. (2017). You Don’t Find Your Purpose — You Build It, s.l.: Harvard Business Review Digital Articles.

Duckworth Lee, A. (2009). Backtalk: Self-Discipline Is Empowering. The Phi Delta Kappan, 90(7), 536-536.

Gerhardt, M. (2007). Teaching Self-Management: The Design and Implementation of Self-Management Tutorials. Journal of Education for Business, 83(1), 11-17.

Hougaard, R. & Carter, J. (2017). Are You Having Trouble Focusing? These Simple Strategies Will Help., s.l.: Harvard Business Review Digital Articles.

Tulgan, B. (2017). Teaching the Fundamentals of Self-Management. Talent Development, September, 48-52.

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