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Why self-management matters

In this article, A/Prof Marcus explores what self-management, why it's in demand and what this means for you.
5 people working efficiently at a table
© Deakin University
Self-management is the ability to effectively manage your personal and professional goals while you adapt and change.
A recent report by the Foundation for Young Australians suggests that someone starting out in the workforce today can look forward to at least 17 jobs over five different careers.
In this kind of work future, the ability to adapt to change will be critical.

The changing world of work

In 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, the popular historian Yuval Noah Harari writes that, in this type of world, we’ll have to come to terms with strangeness as the new normal:
To stay relevant – not just economically, but above all socially – you will need the ability to constantly learn and to reinvent yourself… As strangeness becomes the new normal, your past experiences, as well as the past experiences of the whole of humanity, will become less reliable guides. Humans as individuals and humankind as a whole will increasingly have to deal with things nobody ever encountered before, such as super-intelligent machines, engineered bodies, algorithms that can manipulate your emotions with uncanny precision, rapid man-made climate cataclysms, and the need to change your profession every decade. To survive and flourish in such a world, you will need a lot of mental flexibility and great reserves of emotional balance. You will have to repeatedly let go of some of what you know best, and feel at home with the unknown. (Harari 2018, p. 265)
From this perspective, self-management is about finding personal strategies to navigate this new world while also retaining our emotional balance and caring for ourselves.
But we don’t just need self-management for managing the strangeness of the future. We also need it help us manage the complexity of the present.

Self-management and employability

In a recent report from Deloitte and Deakin, an analysis of job advertisements showed that self-management was one of the top skills in demand across industries.
graphicSelect this table to open an accessible PDF version.
Self-management in our daily professional lives is closely linked to the other top skills listed in these job advertisements (such as communication, problem solving and critical thinking). In other words, it’s about finding ways to deliver on what we have planned and setting goals to achieve this.
For example, we can’t manage our lives or our work if we aren’t efficient and creative problem solvers. We can’t manage our relationships unless we are good communicators and we can’t manage complex tasks unless we can think through processes reflectively and critically.
So self-management is often about creatively orchestrating those other skills to ensure that we achieve our short- and long-term goals.
It’s engaging in what psychologists call ‘meta-cognitive’ work: stepping back, observing ourselves and stitching together insights and strategies from a number of our different skill sets.

Your task

Think about the two aspects of self-management we have discussed in this step:
  1. The future-focused ability to adapt and change in the face of an increasingly ‘strange’ and uncertain future
  2. The present-focused ability to set goals and achieve outcomes
What types of skills do you think self-management requires? Do these two aspects of self-management require different skill-sets?
Share your reflections on these questions in the comments and respond to at least one other learner’s post that you find interesting.
© Deakin University
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