By Dana Reinecke, PhD, BCBA-D

Have you ever set an alert on your phone to remind yourself to pay a bill, or waited to buy a new outfit until you lost a few pounds? Do you track your habits by writing them down, or keep a journal of your progress towards your goals? If so, you’ve done self-management. Successful people, from past presidents to superstar athletes, use self-management to reach their goals. Being skilled in self-management increases independence and success and improves confidence.

Self-management can be as simple as informally noticing and changing one’s own actions. We all do this all the time. When you are driving and notice you’re going a little too fast, you might slow down. If you find that you need to rush around in the mornings to get ready for work or school, you might start to set your alarm clock to get up a little earlier.

The ability to self-manage is associated with increased independence, because control of behavior change belongs to the individual rather than to other people. This means that self-management is a crucial skill set for individuals with disabilities as they transition to adulthood. Individuals with disabilities have been shown to be successful in self-management across environments including home, academic and work settings, and in social situations.

Self-management consists of four important skills: setting goals, self-monitoring, self-prompting and self-reinforcement. With proper supports, any young adult can learn these skills and put them to good use, making their own choices and guiding their own lives. Some key areas that might be important for self-management during the transition from high school to college or career include:

  • Personal care – getting up on time, staying neat and clean, seeking medical care as needed.
  • Socialization – making friends, reaching out to others, networking with peers.
  • Communication – connecting with professors or supervisors, staying in touch with family and friends.
  • Organization – knowing where your stuff is when you need it, being on time for classes or work and appointments, adjusting your schedule as needed.

Learning the basics of self-management can lead to independence and success across all these areas and more. The best part about self-management is that it stays with the individual, so these skills can be applied to virtually any set of personal goals. Check back on this blog often for self-management tips and news from the world of self-management research!