Audit Advantage: Self Management - me, myself and I



'There is no such thing as time management; there is only self-management’, Rory Vaden.

Work overload, productivity, managing time and work life balance are perennial hot topics for auditors and accountants. We’ve covered all of these, in depth, many times on these pages. But the tough truism remains: with all the very best time management techniques in the world you can only ever be as good as you let yourself be. It all comes back to how you manage yourself! 

‘Control yourself or someone else will control you’, Anon.

Self management is one of the four fundamental quadrants of Emotional Intelligence, which is as, if not more, important to personal success than IQ. According to Daniel Goleman, self management refers to managing one’s internal states, impulses, and resources. He describes self-management as a cluster (the others being self-awareness, social awareness and relationship management) containing six competencies:

  • Emotional Self-Control: keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check
  • Transparency: maintaining integrity, acting congruently with one’s values
  • Adaptability: flexibility in handling change
  • Achievement: striving to improve or meeting a standard of excellence
  • Initiative: readiness to act on opportunities
  • Optimism: persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks

Try this quiz on to evaluate your own Emotional Intelligence, paying particular attention to your scores around ‘self-regulation’.  Your results will give you an indication of your personal quota of self discipline, self control and ability to self manage and stay on track. Many of us need to work on this area, so read on for some tips and techniques. 

‘One way to boost our willpower and focus is to manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us’, Daniel Goleman.

Without a doubt we live in a permanently ‘switched on’ environment. Staying on task is hard enough contending with our own internal mind chatter but constant external interruptions from the plethora of hot communication channels (not to mention old fashioned flesh and blood) can be an excruciating force in fragmenting our attention still further. We recommend learning mindfulness to counter the internal chatter while the external enemies need some more immediate practical defensives. Make it easier on yourself by courting single focus as opposed to multi-tasking, switching off all communication channels for dedicated periods each day and setting yourself daily targets for which you hold yourself accountable. (‘Finish writing up audit of inventory by 5pm’ – didn’t do it? – well why not? You need a timely post-mortem. What happened to stop you doing it? What choices did you make? Where these the right choices or should you have one something different?)

‘Procrastination is, hands down, our favourite form of self-sabotage’, Alyce P Cornyn-Selby

Chances are that you didn’t complete the inventory audit because you put it off to do something else. Perhaps something (or someone) shouted louder or you found an activity that was more satisfying or maybe easier? In the Auditor’s Guide to saying No we took you through techniques to evaluate your choices and tough it out with others to stay on track with your highest value activities. But oft times it’s to yourself that you need to be saying no. Work through the Plain Principles of Prioritising to remind yourself why and how you should be effective (doing the right things) over merely efficient (doing things well) and get back to your prime focus areas (however unpleasant they may be!).

Deadline: a line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners were liable to be shot (Oxford dictionary)

External deadlines tend to be highly valued and reverently respected; who flouts a group audit timetable or a regulatory cut-off date? But our own deadlines…now that’s another matter! Perhaps we’d be less glib if we reminded ourselves of the historic definition of the ubiquitous deadline. Yet self-setting budgets, boundaries and deadlines are all highly valuable self-management techniques – but only if you hold yourself accountable!

In his book, Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want, Michael Hyatt exhorts ‘Making appointments with yourself and scheduling other things around them is key to proactive self-management’. These are simple techniques but often misunderstood, under-utilized or even abused. We all have a calendar, a diary or an electronic scheduler. Without a doubt your third party appointments, deadlines and meetings are deferentially documented. Now is the time to use the same approach for your own tasks and priorities from specific project tasks to more strategic concerns and personal commitments.  Once scheduled, with the time ‘budgeted’, you should approach any deviation from plan with the respect that you would an external obligation. Challenge any consternation with this approach by returning to Plain Principles of Prioritising

One’s greatest challenge is to control oneself’, Kazi Shams.

Self management sounds simple but it’s not easy. And it is fundamental to all the other time leverage techniques we can offer you. It’s really about developing, building and maintaining self-trust. When you can rely on yourself to stick to your own schedule, consistently deliver without an outside accountability partner and ultimately trust yourself that you are doing the right things at the right time – only then can you call yourself a successful self-manager. 

Which topic would you like to read about next month? Look over the list of topics in the original Audit Advantage article here and let us know your choice for the next topic we should cover.

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