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A weekly ComputorEdge Column and Podcast by Douglas E. Welch

The Art of Managing Yourself

August 6, 2004

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If there is any secret to a successful high-tech career, it could be the ability to self-manage your life and your work. If you can manage to get things done even when you feel you have too many bosses, or too few, you are already ahead of many of your peers.

Getting Things Done

The truth is, most of you already know what needs to be done. You see problems, both large and small, every day. Self-management means that, not only do you recognize these problems, you do something about them. If you find yourself constantly waiting for the next piece of the puzzle, the next task, the next project milestone, you could be in the danger zone.
Managers want people who make their life easier. Identifying and solving problems on your own definitely places you in this category. If your managers feel they have to spoon-feed you each and every step in a process, they are going to start turning to those people who don’t require so much handholding. You need to be able to take a basic set of guidelines and run with it—returning to your manager only when you need clarification or official approval.

Where to Start

So how do you start on this path to self-management? First, you have to start thinking like a manager. You need to gain a better understanding of what your manager is trying to accomplish. Is she being pressured by her manager to complete a certain project, decrease support response times, or roll out a new version of Windows to everyone’s PC? If you can’t tell exactly what your manager’s priorities are, ask. The more you know, the better you can manage yourself to help the company obtain its goals.

Next, whenever you can, start attacking those small, yet annoying, problems that plague every company. Does it take forever to print a purchase order? Is a manufacturing process not automated, when adding a little technology could save hours of time? Killing off these small annoyances can generate tremendous goodwill for yourself and your department.

Management of Others

The truth is, if you ever want to manage others, you first need to manage yourself. Taking initiative, automatically finding the “next step” in any project or process, and solving problems without being asked are true signs of a good manager. Not only can you manage your own work, you can help to teach others how to manage theirs.

Self-management creates a rising tide of goodwill, higher productivity and better business, if you can get the majority of your peers to practice it. You know what type of person you would like to have working for you. You should strive to become that person for your manager. In this way, you will better understand what to require from your staffers when you are a manager yourself.

Self-management is more than just doing the basic necessities of a job. Self-management means taking a deeper interest in the goals of your work and what your managers are trying to accomplish. Once you gain an understanding of this, it is much easier to tailor your work into the most productive tasks, even when your managers are not providing step-by-step directions. The ability to keep projects moving forward, even without someone pushing you from behind, will help to ensure the ongoing success of your high-tech career.

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