5 Practical ways to manage yourself & be more effective at work

By Palma Michel

Leaders face similar challenges: most of them feel they don´t have enough time and space to think, are busier than ever without the time to do what really matters. In addition the entrepreneurial life often has a high degree of uncertainty and volatility and comes with unique challenges.

As I am writing this article, I’m on my way to Munich. The stewardess just shared the safety announcement “before helping anyone else, put your oxygen mask on first.” This is true for leaders as well. Before managing others we need to learn to manage ourselves.

Managing ourselves in order to thrive and not just merely survive requires managing: your attention, your nervous system, your energy, your mindset and how you communicate with your team.

Managing Your Attention

A leader’s ability to manage her attention is crucial when it comes to creativity and business success. Yet in our 24/7 always-on culture, distraction tends to be the norm making attention a sought-after quality.  

  • Don´t start your day with email but thinking time and strategic work.
  • Switch off all email notifications.
  • The next time you feel an impulse to check your phone, make a conscious choice. Is it really what you want to do or can it wait?

Managing Your Nervous System

When we are triggered by a situation/person or feel mental, physical or emotional distress, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and we enter survival mode. In these moments we have no space in our minds. We might think we are making a choice, but we are actually not.  Our behaviour is automatic, habitual and reactive and we often say or do things we regret later.

  • The next time you feel triggered, calm down your nervous system with a short breathing exercise. Take a few conscious inhalations through your nostrils, inhaling deeply all the way into your abdomen and exhale through your mouth.

Managing Your Mindset

The Mindset of a leader can play a crucial role in motivating or demotivating a team. It’s important to be able to point out what needs fixing, but to put this into the context of the bigger picture. Rather than getting hung up only on the negative, it is about formulating a realistic but positive outlook.

  • Write down 5 things, that you appreciate about your company, your team and your industry. Repeat this for a month and see what happens.

Managing Your Energy

As leaders we often push, push, push and don’t take time to rest and recharge. Yet, when we push beyond a certain point, our performance goes down. Over a prolonged period of time we risk a burnout.

  • The next time you feel stuck with a strategic problem, take a break. If we continue thinking about a problem with our conscious mind we block our unconscious minds from producing those “aha” moments. Sometimes all that´s required is a good night sleep instead of another hour in the office.
  • Take one day a week completely off from work.

Managing Your Communication Skills

Most leaders I speak to believe they are good listeners, but from my experience many are just hearing to respond when they should be listening to understand. Truly listening is so important as everybody wants to be seen and heard. When we listen, we learn what motivates others and it is much easier to build trust, influence and gain buy-in for an idea.

  • Every time you have a meeting bring your full attention to the speaker. Listen with curiosity and compassion. If you notice your mind wandering to thoughts about the past or future or formulating your next question, bring your attention back to the speaker. Notice if you have a tendency to interrupt the other person or an urge to share your own experience.


About Palma Michel
Palma Michel is author of ‘The Authority Guide to Mindful Leadership: Simple techniques and exercises to manage yourself, manage others and effect change’.

Published by SRA Books as part of the Authority Guides series of pocket-sized business books.  www.authorityguides.co.uk  @SRA_TAG

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