Self-Management Skills for Personal Success

We all know a person who seems to effortlessly complete tasks, both personally and professionally. They have no problem staying motivated and staying on track. They appear disciplined, prepared, and ready to take on the world. But what skills exactly do they have that enable them to work effectively? 

These people could be said to have great self-management skills. Self-management skills are those that help you to control yourself and your responsibilities. Self-management includes emotional regulation as well as practical skills such as goal-setting. Self-management skills overlap with soft skills, such as time-management and adaptability. 

In relevant research self-management is defined as “the capacity to regulate emotions and behaviors particularly when stressed or distressed” (Stallman & Muncey 2019). These skills are directed at the self in order to manage various tasks, deadlines, and obligations. This type skill can be helpful in academic, professional, and personal settings. 

A 2019 study looked at self-management skills of social work students who are requesting an extension for assignments. It was found that “the primary reason for extension requests in this cohort was poor self-management skills, specifically time management and coping” (Stallman & Muncey 2019). A lack of self-management skills can lead to disorganization and missing deadlines. 

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Examples of Self-Management Skills

Here are some examples of self-management skills that may be helpful to you in both a professional and person setting. 

Time Management

In your professional life, it is important to complete work when agreed upon or required. In your personal life, it may be important to be punctual to important events, such as birthday dinners. Finally, it is also always important to schedule self care time for yourself. 


Being able to adjust to new conditions or situations is helpful at work and at home. Life is always changing and we have to be flexible, whether dealing with uncertain work situations, or learning work tasks, technologies, and procedures. It is normal to be resistant to change - but how do we learn to go with the flow?

One way to improve adaptability may be to increase emotional intelligence. A pilot study was aimed at improving the adaptability of third-year nursing students through increasing emotional intelligence. At the end, all of the subjects showed significant improvements in adaptability and proactivity over 6 weeks (Guseh, Chen, & Johnson 2015). For example, physical and environmental adaptability included the ability to find exam rooms and adjusting body movements based on clinical settings. Interpersonal adaptability included remembering team members’ names and greeting others without a reminder. Cultural adaptability included the ability to identify the correct team member to ask for help. 

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Emotional Management 

Emotional management is another example of a self-management skill. Emotional management is the ability to control your thoughts and emotions, therefore controlling your behavior. The ability to “keep your cool” has shown to be helpful for individual and team performance in the workplace. 

A study from the University of Valencia in Spain demonstrated that a “team emotional management intervention, on the one hand, increases synergy effects, which produce enhanced team task performance and have a positive effect on the motivational processes within the team, thus leading to more team engagement” (Holtz 2020). In this research, synergy effects refers to when group performance exceeds the combined performance of individuals and “represents an effective use of the team’s resources” (Holtz 2020). 

The emotional management intervention consisted of 2 individual sessions and 2 group sessions. In the sessions, team members were given information and exercises to help them identify, express, and regulate emotions as well as how to use these skills in a virtual work setting. Some topics covered were “strategies that can turn any situation around, offering rewards for efforts, acknowledging the contributions of others, support, and motivation to achieve the team goal” (Holtz 2020). 

These exercises can also be found in self-management app LIFE Intelligence. For example, users can open the app, identify an emotion like “frustration,” express what made them feel that way, and find science-backed information and coping exercises to communicate or problem-solve in that situation.

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Self-discipline is the ability to overcome temptations to achieve a goal. This is a very important skill in completing personal and professional goals. Self-discipline in adults is measured as part of executive functioning. Rate the following statements from  (0-rarely or not at all, 1=sometimes, 2=often, and 3=very often): 

Self-discipline can be improved by increasing physical activity, blood glucose levels, self-compassion, and self-awareness. Self-discipline related to achieving goals can also be improved by using “if/then” statements. LIFE Intelligence also teaches both self-compassion and self-awareness. It also covers a variety of other information and exercises on self-discipline, like goal-setting, distractions, and time-management

Goal Setting

Setting goals and achieving those goals is another important self-management skill. Goals are a vital part of measuring progress. It is useful to set goals for academic, health, and professional purposes. A 2019 study involved small business owners from Medellin, Colombia. The “results show that the mere act of establishing a goal plays a large and significant role in individual outcomes.” Groups that set goals achieved “40% more goals than subjects in the control groups” (Aguinaga 2019). 

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Why are Self-Management Skills Important? 

Emotional Management Improves Productivity 

As discussed above emotional management can improve workplace interactions. Teams with emotional management skills work better together. Individuals also work better when they have emotional management skills. 

A study from Chung Yuan Christian University in Taiwan focused on emotional, intellectual, and spiritual intelligence in relation to employee performance. 107 employees were included in the study and emotional intelligence was measured through a questionnaire. The findings demonstrated that “emotional intelligence influences positively and significantly the employee’s performance” (Lee 2020). Managing emotions in the workplace can have a profound benefit for the organization. 


A 2013 study looked at the difference in self-management skills for people who completed an online course compared to those who dropped out of the course. Researchers examined “support from family and work, academic locus of control, academic self-efficacy, time and environment management skills, and metacognitive self-regulation skills” and “the analysis showed persistent students had higher levels of academic locus of control and metacognitive self-regulation skills than dropout students” (Lee, Choi, & Kim 2013).

Students with self-management skills were able to preserve through the course. Self-management skills can help you work through situations that may be difficult. These skills could help you through a rough class or work project.  

Academic Success

Similar to being able to preserve, self-management skills have an impact on academic success. A 2020 study of 1,124 children in the NICHD Study of Early Childcare and Youth Development showed that “children’s work habits at first grade and the growth in children’s work habits from first to sixth grade (a) directly predicted their academic outcomes at the beginning and the end of high school, and (b) indirectly predicted their educational attainment at age 26 through their academic outcomes during adolescence” (Simpkins, Tulagan, Lee, Ma, Zarrett, & Vandell 2020).

Overall, self-management skills such as, time management and emotional regulation, can help in many academic, profession, and personal settings. Self-management skills are important for students and then become important when you enter the workforce. Self-management skills are necessary for completing tasks and achieving goals. 

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Improving Self-Management Skills with LIFE

LIFE Intelligence is a complete app for self-and-other management skills. It offers two main components. First, a 9-step course covers all the areas we discussed here: from self-awareness to goal-setting to time-management and communication skills. Second, an emotional management toolkit helps you problem-solve on the fly, with information and exercises to immediately address whatever situation you’re in. 

For example, Mission (topic) 1 is centered around managing your thoughts and retraining your brain with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This can help you quickly calm down in the face of anxiety or frustration, and is just one of dozens of free features in the app. 

The app also has a handy mood wheel that helps you understand and categorize emotions, as well as understand more about why those emotions arise. Then, the app gives scientifically-proven ways to address them, for example, self-compassion exercises for regret, hard conversation exercises for conflicts at work, or ritual exercises for grief. 

The LIFE app can also help with goal-setting. Mission 3 of 9 is aimed at helping you set and meet your goals. In this module, you will learn to become very clear about your goal motivations, plan your project, set metrics, and review progress. In a similar fashion, Mission 4 is designed to maximize your time. You’ll learn how to structure your schedule, prioritize effectively, and manage distractions. LIFE is one comprehensive app for full self-and-other management skills: so you can get out of ruts and get on with living your best life. Download LIFE for free today to start working on your self-management skills.

Alba Corney
March 25, 2021


Aguinaga, C. (2019). Raising achievement among microentrepreneurs: An experimental test of goals, incentives, and support groups in Medellin, Colombia. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 161, 79–97.

Barkley, R., & Murphy, K. (2011). The Nature of Executive Function (EF) Deficits in Daily Life Activities in Adults with ADHD and Their Relationship to Performance on EF Tests. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 33(2), 137–158.

Boniwell, I., Osin, E., & Sircova, A. (2014). Introducing time perspective coaching: A new approach to improve time management and enhance well-being. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 12(2), 24–40.

Guseh, S. H., Chen, X. P., & Johnson, N. R. (2015). Can enriching emotional intelligence improve medical students' proactivity and adaptability during OB/GYN clerkships? International Journal of Medical Education, 6, 208-212. doi:

Holtz, O. (2020). Virtual Team Functioning: Modeling the Affective and Cognitive Effects of an Emotional Management Intervention. Group Dynamics, 24(3), 153–167.

Lee, K. (2020). Analysis of the Influence of the Emotional, Intellectual and Spiritual Intelligence on Employee Performance with Work Motivation as a Moderating Variable. Management and Economics Review, 5(1), 51–67.

Lee, Y., Choi, J., & Kim, T. (2013). Discriminating factors between completers of and dropouts from online learning courses. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(2), 328–337.

Patel, S., Potter, R., Matharu, M., Carnes, D., Taylor, S., Nichols, V., Pincus, T., Underwood, M., & Sandhu, H. (2019). Development of an education and self-management intervention for chronic headache – CHESS trial (Chronic Headache Education and Self-management Study). Journal of Headache and Pain, 20(1), 1–13.

Simpkins, S. D., Tulagan, N., Lee, G., Ma, T.-L., Zarrett, N., & Vandell, D. L. (2020). Children’s developing work habits from middle childhood to early adolescence: Cascading effects for academic outcomes in adolescence and adulthood. Developmental Psychology, 56(12), 2281–2292. (Supplemental)

Stallman, H., & Muncey, P. (2019). Are extension requests an opportunity to support student self-management skills? Social Work Education, 38(2), 261–268.

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