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How To Manage Yourself

Strategy & Tools For Self-Management & Productivity

Vanja PetreskiVanja Petreski

Successful people make plans, organize their time and tasks, take notes and manage themselves for the purpose of achieving their goals and creating their future.

To manage yourself you need a strategy/process and tools. On the other hand, its really important to make that process lightweight and easy, because idea is that process/tools serve you and not vice versa – that you are a slave of a complicated tool, spending too much time/effort for management process.

That’s why I have minimalistic and simple, but powerful, approach.


Everything begins with a vision. If you don’t have idea, vision and plan what you want to do, what you want to create and what you want to become, then there is nothing to be managed. I believe that if you can imagine something in your head, then you also can create it and make it real.

At the end of every year I sit down without any distraction and ask myself two things:

After doing that retrospective, it’s time for action. How to organize things to make the vision reality. And it comes to time and task management, taking notes, being agile and finally being disciplined and work hard.

Time Management

Time is critical component, so we have to manage it well. First step is to define wakeup and bed time, to have enough quality sleep and get accustomed to the routine. I set up wake/bed time in my iPhone with reminder, 45 minutes before sleep, so I can prepare properly for sleep:


When I wake up, I need one hour to get a shower, take a breakfast and coffee, read my emails, messages and notifications. Then around 8am, it’s time for action and I first open one of my favorite tools – Google Calendar:


You can create one-time or recurring events, have different colors for different categories (work, gym, etc), invite people or be invited for events, have birthday and holiday reminders, see your hotel and flight bookings, etc.

In the screenshot above you can see my default setup for the week. This is just the starting point, as you will see. Also, it’s really important to leave some space for free time and/or unpredictable events and adjustments.

One of the first things is to have standup/sync meetings/events about the projects you are on. Can be work related, can be personal goals. Idea is to reflect and see where you are – what did I do yesterday, what I am going to do today, are there any obstacles? Within reflection, you fine-tune and adjust your calendar for that day. One side effect of that is that your weekly calendar won’t look so ordered as planned, but that’s OK, we have to adjust and be agile. Remember that initial setup is just a skeleton, it’s perfectly fine and desirable to adjust as needed. And then you start, as I say, digging – meaning doing hard work. And when it comes to work, it’s all about task management.

Task Management

To accomplish your projects you have to split work into smaller units – tasks and organize them into components/categories, set deadlines, describe them, apply workflow and communicate. I use Jira tool for project management. Jira Software for IT projects and Jira Core for my personal projects.


In the screenshot above you can see my current personal projects. Vanja Plan is my personal project where I keep track of my TODO list and things I want to do on personal level. Then for example you can see another one Petreski Cartel which is the project related to my and my brother’s operations and goals in Colombia. And there is one blurred, top-secret project 😛 Let’s see how it looks when you open one of the projects:


There is a board with simple workflow: todo, in progress, done. In todo column you keep your tasks yet to be done, in progress contains tasks you are currently working on and done is for completed tasks. You can see title of the task and due date. You can drag-and-drop task on the board. When you open some specific task it looks like this:


You can set priority, components/categories, description, due date, status, etc. Jira offers many complex features, but only with this simple usage, it’s enough to manage yourself successfully.


Along the way you need to take notes, write and share documents and I use Dropbox, Confluence and Google Drive/Docs for this purpose. Dropbox is my favorite because: a) it syncs automatically between devices; b) using Spotlight on Mac gives me quick access to my Dropbox documents; c) it allows offline usage on mobile devices; d) I can share easily.

Discipline and Work

All your plans and organization don’t mean anything if you are not able to follow the plan and be disciplined and work. You have to learn to say NO and make sacrifices. That’s the only way to succeed.


In this dynamic world it’s impossible to make blueprint of the project and follow it blindly. You have to be agile and ready to change, adjust and pivot. But always keep in mind your vision, to be sure you are on right track.


As you can see, it’s relatively simple process, but very effective. I like to keep things as simple as possible, so this works for me. If you manage yourself, what is your approach? 😉


Software Engineer & Digital Nomad

Comments 6
  • Ryan Chartrand
    Posted on

    Ryan Chartrand Ryan Chartrand

    Reply Author

    Great post, Vanja. In particular you touched on 2 of the most important points (beyond just tools) — vision and discipline. For me, I can’t get anywhere without those two. You could invent the greatest to-do app mankind has ever seen and I still won’t get anywhere without vision and discipline.

    I also find that once you have that vision, a way to help build the discipline around moving toward it is something as simple as post-it notes on your desktop. A daily reminder of what that vision is and where you’re headed. It’s not much of a sexy tool, but discipline is built through reminders of what’s important and what you want from life. It’s incredibly easy to forget vision in a world that moves at 100 MPH and is filled with distractions.

    Best of luck to you on your 2017 vision 🙂

    • Vanja Petreski
      Posted on

      Vanja Petreski Vanja Petreski

      Reply Author

      Thanks for a great comment Ryan, I totally agree!

  • Diego Rodrigues Ferreira
    Posted on

    Diego Rodrigues Ferreira Diego Rodrigues Ferreira

    Reply Author

    Awesome post Vanja, powerful message
    I only have one response to this –


    • Vanja Petreski
      Posted on

      Vanja Petreski Vanja Petreski

      Reply Author

      Thanks Diego, glad you like it and there are like-minded people 😉 Nice video! 😀 /fives

  • Jacek Ławniczak
    Posted on

    Jacek Ławniczak Jacek Ławniczak

    Reply Author

    It is very good that you have your routine and work management all figured out and even better that you share your experience with others! And I agree with this sentence : “[…] idea is that process/tools serve you and not vice versa – that you are a slave of a complicated tool, spending too much time/effort for management process.” – this can be applicable in any area and it’s very smart to remember. Great job!