I often write in this blog about managing others through problems or crises because it's part of the day-to-day experience as a manager/leader. But what about managing yourself? You've probably found yourself at some point faced with a project or task that you have to tackle, but for whatever reason you can't seem to accomplish it.
Let's say you're trying to attain a certification such as your PMP, CPA, or a certification in ITIL or Six Sigma. Many organizations now are asking their managers to get certifications as part of their performance/growth plans and some are tying them to future employment or bonuses, the ability to advance in the organization, etc. In these situations, only you can learn the information. You can't pay someone to learn for you (no matter how much you would like to).
So what do you do when you're faced with a task like this and find that you're not progressing as you should or maybe even failing to accomplish the task? First of all, fight the temptation to beat yourself up over it. Manage your way through the situation.
Begin by creating a plan for yourself. If you feel like you're facing a mountain, climb the mountain by taking one step at a time. The point is to attack your own problem the way you would any other management challenge you've dealt with. Make your plan specific and identify milestones that you can accomplish that will give you a sense of moving forward.
When creating your plan, identify any and all resources you can take advantage of to help you accomplish your goal. You can't delegate the task, but that doesn't mean you can't get help, nor does it mean you can't delegate other tasks to give you the necessary extra time to accomplish your task.
Create an aggressive plan and stick to it! Follow your plan and schedule as if you were managing a project. You don't take excuses from others when they fail to handle key deliverables in your project plans, don't take any from yourself.
Divest yourself of as many duties as you can both at home and at work until you reach your goal. There are only so many hours in a day so you have to make time for yourself to work your plan.
There's also a limit to how much energy you have to expend. Making a super human effort to accomplish your task and not changing things around you isn't going to work. In fact, that's probably the reason you've struggled and are at this juncture anyway. It's not about burning the candle at both ends; it's about managing the burning of the candle in order to be successful.
Celebrate your milestones and build in some incentives for hitting them on time. You probably aren't shy about criticizing yourself, so don't be shy about rewarding yourself either.
Embrace your task. It's more difficult to be successful if you find your task repugnant. Embracing your task will help you move forward and energize you in the accomplishment of your goal.
Don't give your task a great deal of lip service. Create the plan, work the plan, and get it done. Whining will just help you procrastinate and aid you in giving yourself permission to fail.
Remember the goal of your plan and make sure your plan is realistic and flexible - yet always evaluate changes in your plan to see how it will affect your schedule.
Perform your risk assessment prior to forming your plan and throughout your personal project. You know what your distractions are, what your weaknesses are, etc. Identify all the things you can that may prevent you from being successful and then decide if you're going to try to mitigate a risk, avoid a risk, transfer a risk, exploit a risk etc.
Tackling a personal challenge is never easy. Employing your management skills to your own problems makes them less "personal" and more manageable.