What are self management skills?

self management skills landing

Self management sounds like being your own boss, but it doesn’t mean setting up your own business. In fact it means taking responsibility for your own actions and doing things as well as you can. It shows you are able to organise yourself and offer your own ideas to any project. It’s about being the boss of YOU, not the boss of a team or company!

Build your self management skills

Self management is about making a choice to do more than you need to, and it is a great skill to build for life and work.

What are the top self management skills?

  1. Initiative
  2. Organisation
  3. Accountability

Do you know what these skills mean? Let’s look at them more closely:

Initiative is being able to work without always being told what to do. You can show initiative by thinking for yourself and taking action when needed. It means using your head, and having the drive to achieve. Initiative requires self belief, because you need resilience and motivation to go out of your way to solve problems or do things without being reminded or asked.
If you are organised in life and work it means you can plan your time and the things you have to do. You know what is most important, what should be done first and what will take the longest. It’s also about being prepared and having the things you need when you need them. So if you know you need certain tools or information to complete a task, you make sure you have them before you begin.
Accountability and responsibility are similar but they don’t mean the same thing. A manager at work could give you responsibility for a task but you could still look for someone else to blame if it all goes wrong, or you could decide not to put the effort in because you don’t really care about the results.

MORE ABOUT ACCOUNTABILITY: If you say to yourself that you are accountable, it means that you take ownership of the responsibilities that come your way. You take pride in your work and want to do it well to get the best results possible. You can be justly proud of the task’s success, and you accept responsibility if it goes wrong.

If a task you are responsible for doesn’t go well, you will make it your personal mission to look for ways to improve next time or find a better way of completing the task using your problem solving skills. This is still accountability. It’s not about the task being successful or not – it’s about your attitude to the task.

Self Management is one of 5 top Young Professional skills

The 5 top life skills are self belief, communication, self management, teamwork and problem solving. Employers love them and so will you. They could change your life! Whatever your interests and background are, sign up to the weekly Young Professional newsletter and start boosting these skills for free today.

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Why are self management skills important?

Self management can make a huge difference to your life. Here’s how.

Why is initiative important?

Employers often say they want staff who can respond to and deal well with problems. Highlighting to an employer that you can think for yourself or “show initiative” will be useful in many job applications and interviews. It’s a great life skill, too. Taking the initiative is what makes you phone a friend to clear the air after an argument you both regret, or decide you are going to take up volunteering, or do further education.

Why are organisation skills important?

From managing your time to prioritising tasks, and even having a tidy desk, being organised will help you improve your employability and also your life. An organised person will know what they need to do and when, where their pen is, and if it’s their turn to bring biscuits into the office. They make lists, have a calendar or diary, and are able to manage themselves in all areas of life and work.

As well as ensuring you don’t forget your lunch or turn up late to an important meeting, organisation will make you look more professional and help you get your job done more effectively. Employers really value strong organisational skills, as they know you will be efficient and do the work on time. Being organised also shows how much you care about your job. Arriving every day, being on time, and remembering everything you need is really important.

Why is accountability important?

Everyone loves to see you have a positive attitude and can be relied on to put the effort in when something needs to be done. If you’re in a sports team, other people on your team know they can rely on you to give it your all. If you’re working on a group project, going the extra mile to contribute – and doing it because you care, not just because you have to – means the project is more likely to go well and people will want to work with you in future.

At work, employers want to know that you will take the work they give you seriously and treat it as a chance to show you can be trusted with more important work in the future. Taking responsibility for yourself is a great way to get invited to work on really exciting projects as you build experience over time.

Self management skills in school and education

There are lots of ways to improve your initiative and accountability at school, and to get organised too.

  • You can show initiative by starting a project or activity on your own. For example, if you always wanted to start your own blog, then go for it.
  • You can volunteer for charity events and come up with great ideas to make them even more successful, whether it’s creating eye-catching display stands at the school fair or offering your unique skills or services (e.g. designing flyers and leaflets if you have a good eye for design).
  • If you’re doing a group project, as well as building your teamwork skills you can learn from someone else and contribute your own ideas so you both grow.
  • Volunteering at a charity shop or reading with your little sister every week shows initiative and also proves you understand the value of service to others.
  • Getting homework out of the way will leave you stress-free and with more free time on your hands – that you can enjoy without the shadow of homework hanging over you.
  • As an organised person you will keep your timetable secure so you can attend classes and lectures on time.
  • Making lists and study notes in advance can help you keep to a revision schedule and have enough time to revise trickier subjects.
  • Being able to break big chunks of revision into smaller bite-sized pieces will help you revise in a more productive way and feel like you’re in charge of your destiny during exams.

Building self management skills at school will help you:

  • Prepare for big events like exams (preparation usually means less stress)
  • Help you get a better balance of work, study and relaxation
  • Help you get more out of your school experience by volunteering ideas and time.

Self management skills in work

Strong organisational skills are demonstrated by planning your time and your workload effectively. Meeting deadlines will show potential employers that you are good at organisation, which is vital to do well in your career.

As well as ensuring you don’t forget your lunch or turn up late to an important meeting, organisation will make you look more professional and help you get your job done more effectively. Employers really value strong organisational skills, as they know you will be efficient and do the work on time. Being organised also shows how much you care about your job; arriving every day, being on time, and remembering everything you need is really important.

When you use your initiative you do things without being asked, solve problems that others may not have noticed needed solving, and go out of your way to continue learning and growing. You do extra research if required, ask questions, and seek help if you need to. It also means doing things for others. Going out of your way to help people shows that you’re willing to go above and beyond, which will impress employers.

Using your initiative makes you a desirable candidate for jobs and opportunities as you are showing you can think for yourself, as well as proving that you will continue to develop and grow in your role. It allows you to get ahead of the competition and ensure you’re up to date with what’s going on in your career sector.

Holding yourself accountable for the work you do means you will inspire yourself to add extra passion to your working day. It’s not just a job for money – it’s work you care about and want to do your best in. It can result in you doing a better job, and being the kind of candidate employers will want working for them because they know you will be dedicated for all the right reasons.

Work offers lots of fantastic opportunities to organise yourself and make your daily tasks go more smoothly:

  • Make a list of things to do, and tick them off as you go.
  • Keep important documents like shared work calendars to hand, so you always know what to do and when.
  • Keep track of any meetings or calls you may be expected to join.

You’ve probably managed yourself and displayed initiative and good organisation skills in the past, as well as taking pride in your work, so try to think about what went well and what didn’t. You can use the STARRS method to do this.

Building self management skills at work will help you:

  • Turn up on time to important meetings and bring anything you might need (that counts for job interviews too!)
  • Take pride in your work and get recognised as someone who really tries and cares
  • Do your tasks better because you prepare in advance when you need to
  • Seek out opportunities for work experience, training and more.

Good self management skills will give you more chances to move forward in your career, too. People can see you as someone who can handle responsibility and puts extra care into what they do, going above and beyond what’s required. An attitude like this can help you get more opportunities, responsibility, training and promotions over time.

How to build and improve self management skills

Self management is about preparing for the future, owning your present and taking care in what you do – as well as learning how you could do better next time. Self management is a really important way to grow as a person, not just in the workplace. Babies are not responsible for anything they do. As we grow, we learn that it’s important to take responsibility for yourself because there won’t always be someone there to hold your hand with every step you take.

Here are some ways to build the three key elements of self management (initiative, organisation and accountability).

Ways to boost your initiative

  • Start a project – Having an idea and making the effort to follow it through shows great initiative.
  • Do a course in your spare time – Choosing to develop your skills and knowledge shows employers how motivated and willing you are.
  • Volunteering – Giving your time to a good cause makes you stand out and can help you to develop a range of skills. As an example, you could become a Youth Ambassador with Youth Employment UK.
  • Complete our Young Professional Training! If you haven’t done this yet it’s totally free, and doing the training shows you are already taking the initiative to build your life skills.

Ways to develop your organisation

  • Set yourself deadlines for projects – Plan how you will achieve your goal. When do certain tasks need to be done and in what order?
  • Use a planner – Use an online or paper tool that will help you manage your diary, tasks and important information.
  • Create a routine – Set a morning routine to make sure you are ready for the day ahead.

Ways to develop accountability

  • Own the task you’re given – When you are given a task by anyone (e.g. a teacher, boss or parent/carer) don’t think of it as a task someone gave you. Say to yourself: “this is my task. The passion I put into this task reflects on me as a person, and I am ready to take pride in what I do.”
  • Go the extra mile to do things as well as you can – If you have been assigned a task or activity and it is not going well, think about what extra steps you could take to make it better. Is there someone you could talk to? An extra action you could take? A new way you could look at the problem?

Here are some great resources to help you work on your self management skills:

Demonstrating self management skills

Creating a good CV and cover letter

Applying for work opportunities already shows initiative! Your CV is a great place to list achievements that show you are a self-starter. For example, you can list volunteering experience or events you have organised in the past. You can also record any training courses you have taken. These show that you are able to make the choice to take action.

In your cover letter, you can present any past examples of self management that are most relevant to the role (for example, if you know you would be working as part of a team, you can highlight any projects you started and encouraged others to take part in, or any volunteering roles where you took care in providing a great service to others).

Job interviews

To get to interview stage shows you have the initiative to seek work opportunities and present yourself well in your CV and application.
There are many ways to demonstrate your planning and organisation skills when attending a job interview. Your actions will speak volumes when you turn up on time, dressed appropriately and bringing anything you need with you.

Self management tips for job interviews:

  • Research the interview location and travel times in advance, so you get there in plenty of time with no need to rush.
  • Dress appropriately for the interview.
  • Research the company in advance – showing you know about the company tells employers you have chosen to find out more about them. This sends a signal that you genuinely care about the opportunity they are offering.
  • Think of concrete examples where you were organised and managed yourself that you can talk about in the interview. These could be juggling a part time job with exams, or taking on a course while caring for someone in the family. Think of examples where you were organised and took the initiative.

As always remember the STARRS method – it’s an expansion on the popular STARR method by one of our own Youth Ambassadors. It helps you think about what went well in a past situation, how you dealt with it, and what you learned from it.

Self management is a skill. You can grow it over time.

There are so many chances in life to make a choice to act and take responsibility for your actions, both inside and outside of work/education.

Next steps

There are a lot of websites, apps, and books about organisation and productivity, so it’s easy to do some research yourself and find some ideas that work for you.

Try asking a friend, teacher, or family member how well they think you have taken responsibility for your part in a project and ask if they have any pointers to help you improve.

SEE MORE on self management skills

Activity - test yourself!

See if you can think about the questions below. It’s useful to come up with examples from your own life and work experience if you can when answering the questions.

  1. Why are self management skills important to an employer?
  2. How could you develop your self management skills? Name an example.
  3. How could you demonstrate good self management skills? Name an example.


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