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Work Smarter Not Harder: Self-management and Professional Development

By Michael Crump | 20 January 2014

Managing others is one thing. Managing ourselves is another entirely. As our careers develop, addressing self-management and professional developmentbecome more important if we and the business are to flourish. There is a direct relationship between self-management and professional development; when we’ve mastered one, we’re better placed to achieve the other. The good news is these skills can be learned. Here are seven tips to get you started.

Protect Your Time

Improving your own working practices will have a ripple effect on your team. Set time boundaries and protect them as far as possible. If that means roping off a slice of uninterrupted time each day or week to work through tasks that demand your full attention, or spend time working out a forward strategy, it’s time well spent. It’s not the same thing as being unavailable to people: it’s being available to the business and your future in it.

Do Today What You Think You Can Put Off Until Tomorrow

Non-urgent tasks have a way of becoming urgent if we don’t spend time with them before the deadline.

Know Thyself

Can you be objective about your strengths and weaknesses? Do you over-value your ability to manage time and delegate effectively? Do you under-value the skills you bring to the business? It’s not easy to make these kinds of judgement about ourselves when we’re multi-tasking, meeting deadlines, and thinking about tomorrow’s priorities, next year’s and the year after that. We need to be clear-eyed about strengths and weakness. Make the most of what works, and find strategies to improve.

Learn The Way You Learn

Some people thrive on theory. Some are best learning experientially. Some find a happy balance between the two. Think back over what you’ve learned and how you learned it; did a week-long course with lots of role play work for you? Did an online course combined with real-time workshops make the difference? Professional development happens when you learn effectively, in the way that suits you.

Action, Not Reaction

A golden rule of self-management and professional development: don’t react: act. Reacting to a situation is vulnerable to the vagaries of chance; there’s often no time for second thoughts or a measured approach. Find time to take the long view. Where is the business heading? What did the last problem tell you? If it happened again, what would you do differently? When you make time to interrogate these issues, you’re more likely to act rather than react.


This is a seriously useful way to achieve lots of business objectives and your own. Whether you use a pen-and-paper approach or a software tool, make time to record your next steps. If the objective is project-related, use it to think ahead and see where self-management can make a difference.

Ask Yourself the Important Questions

Stand back. Take the long view into the future – and back into the past. Are you heading in the direction you want to go? What were your dreams and ambitions when you first started out? What would you be able to tell your teenage self? Don’t ask what you would have done differently: ask what difference you can make to your self-management skills and professional development now.

Studying self-management and professional development may just be the very best investment you could make. Learning how to make the most of what we bring to a business and how to get the best from others is the cornerstone of achieving our goals. A Diploma in Business consolidates what you know and makes it better, across a wide range of professional business skills After all – however effective we are in our professional lives, we can’t do our best if we’re standing still.

Take a trip back to your first day. What have you learned that you wish you’d known then? Share your learnings to your younger self here.

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