Getting Things Done - GTD

The Matrix of Self-Management

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
tags Engage Reflect Perspective Work-flow Decision Making
"If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else." ~ Yogi Berra

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The Matrix of Self-Management

There are two key elements in self-management: control and perspective. These two concepts interact with each other but are achieved using different approaches.

Control is what allows you to manage the day-to-day smoothly and consistently. You can achieve productive daily behavior through the five stages of the daily workflow.

Perspective is what allows you to have a clear vision of your priorities, both personal and professional, in the short, medium and long term. You can be aware of this concept by using the six-level horizon model.

When you manage to keep these two aspects of your management at a good level, you feel the peace of mind of having everything under control and the ease of focusing on what is important at any given moment.

It is not easy to maintain a good balance between control and perspective at all times and in all your areas of interest, but it is possible if you use an appropriate personal management system and a map to help you assess the state of that balance.

Going a little deeper into the concept of a personal productivity map mentioned in the previous article, the Self-Management Matrix is a tool that can help you know where you are at any given moment and, above all, how to get back to the right place when you lose some control or perspective.

the self-management matrix

The ideal situation is to have a high level of both control and perspective (being the “Captain & Commander”). However, being in any of the other three quadrants is not a negative thing in itself. On the contrary, it is quite normal for you to move temporarily through these other quadrants. You may also have some of your areas of focus or projects under control, but not others.

The problems do not come from being temporarily in one of the suboptimal quadrants, but from remaining in them for a long time.

The objective of this tool is to help you detect when a deviation occurs so that you can correct your course as soon as possible and move towards the optimal quadrant.

Let’s look at the meaning of each of these quadrants, their symptoms and the positive and negative aspects they entail.

Little control and little perspective: Victim or Responder

The lower left quadrant describes a person who has very little control and very little perspective.

In its negative form, it is a “Victim”, a person who is driven by urgencies, always dealing reactively with the latest crisis, not paying attention to things that are not yet a problem.

This situation occurs when new things are constantly coming into your life and you do not process them properly. The accumulation of undefined things makes it difficult to focus on what is important and it’s easy to find refuge by focusing on the urgent, the new or the flashy.

When you’re in this quadrant your only concern is to stay afloat, and it seems impossible to find time to get organized and find a better way to get things done.

Many people live in this quadrant indefinitely, without even realizing it.

But you can also be in this quadrant temporarily, some days or at some times of the day, without it being a bad thing.

In its positive form, “Responder”, being without control or focus at any given moment may occur simply because something unplanned comes up that you need to respond to forcefully. You may even want to move into this quadrant when you spot an opportunity that you want to seize at the moment.

The difference between a victim and a responder lies in their ability to regain control.

Too much control and too little perspective: Micromanager or Implementer

If you normally work with a high level of control and lack of perspective, you are in the profile of the “Micromanager”, a person who focuses on organizing things more than necessary. Ironically, this over-control may lead nowhere if you don’t make the right sense of it.

We all go through this type of situation at some point. Over-planning and over-perfectionism are often the symptom of another problem: avoiding doing something we don’t want to do.

On the plus side, there are times when you will need a certain level of structure to execute everything your brain has been previously designing. At these times you are simply an “Implementer” trying to get things done. This is a good thing because you have to alternate between thinking and doing to keep projects moving forward. It’s normal to lose some perspective when you choose to focus on executing one or more projects.

The key here is to know when to switch horizons, and to be able to return to the optimal quadrant when this implementation phase has served its purpose.

Little control and a lot of perspective: Crazy Maker or Visionary

If you have a high component of perspective but little control, you would belong to the “Crazy Maker” profile — very creative people with difficulty to concentrate for a while on any of their ideas, so they always have the feeling that there is too much to do.

This quadrant translates into a state of great distraction and an inability to concentrate on a given job for a period of time, and occurs when you have accepted more commitments than you can manage — from other people or from yourself.

On the positive side, being a “Visionary” is necessary. You cannot and should not stop imagining the future, nor should you stop having ideas. Moving into this quadrant temporarily is important to create things. Sometimes it is even advisable to move into this quadrant to relax and not end up burned out by the constant execution of work.

A lot of control and a lot of perspective: Captain & Commander

This is an ideal situation in which you achieve the right balance of control and perspective. When you are in this quadrant, “Captain & Commander”, you are in a state of flow, where your organization and your focus are in harmony. In this state you feel good, you have no sense of overwhelm, and you don’t even need to distinguish between personal and professional matters. You are connected and involved with what you are doing.

This quadrant also has a downside: such a “comfortable” state can be deceptive and can hypnotize you so much that you come to believe that you don’t have to think about the future, especially future problems and future crises. An excess of complacency can blind you to the changes that are taking place.

Francisco Sáez

Francisco is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a Software Engineer who is passionate about personal productivity and the GTD philosophy as a means to a better life.

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Commented 2 months ago Sammy

Absolutely nice 👍 materials, I enjoy .....eeeevery article very educative. Indeed Facile Things, Cheers !

avatar Sammy

Absolutely nice 👍 materials, I enjoy .....eeeevery article very educative. Indeed Facile Things, Cheers !

Commented 2 months ago Francisco Sáez

Thanks, Sammy! ☺️

avatar Francisco Sáez

Thanks, Sammy! ☺️

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