Soft Skills Blog: Self-Direction

image source: John Spencer,

Looking to jumpstart your productivity and motivation? You’ve come to the right place. Read on to find out what it means to be self-directed, why it can help you, and what you can do to improve your skills!

What the Heck is Self-Direction?

Picture this: you’re writing your to-do list for today. You jot down 3-4 reasonable tasks. Suddenly, you remember that you need to go to the grocery store, walk your dog, deposit a check at the bank, and finish that history paper you’ve been dreading. As you think of more tasks, your to-do list becomes an “Oh-My-Gosh-I-Don’t-Know-Where-To-Start” list. Instead of feeling motivated to check off those tasks, you give up and go back to bed for a Netflix marathon.

Sound familiar? Looks like you could use some self-direction. Self-direction is the ability to motivate yourself to complete tasks efficiently and effectively. It allows you to beat procrastination, conquer your to-do lists, and boost your productivity.

Why Do I Need It?

Self-direction helps focus your time and energy to reach your goals personally and professionally. All work and no play makes life hard because it’s much harder to play when you don’t delegate time to finish necessary tasks. Putting off things you NEED to do for things you WANT to do creates more stress than ever. If you plan on finding and keeping a job, brush up on your self-direction. Employers search for people that take initiative and get the job done. Motivating and disciplining yourself when necessary keeps the quality of your work consistent, no matter the job.

“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.”

Jim Rohn

What If I’m Not Very Self-Directed?

Good news: self-direction can be learned! The first step is understanding the difference between motivation and discipline. Motivation drives you to finish things you WANT to do, while discipline holds you accountable for finishing something you HAVE to do. For example, no one is motivated to do their homework, but they have the discipline to finish it because they know it will benefit them later.

Self-direction does not work without other soft skills. Organization and good time management can help you keep your schedule in order. Keeping a planner and setting aside time to plan your week is an easy way to stay organized. Additionally, a positive attitude will make the hard tasks easier and boost your mood when plans change. Being self-directed means having the flexibility to easily transition into new plans as setbacks arise, and a good attitude will definitely keep your spirits and your coworkers’ spirits high. These soft skills allow a self-directed person to thrive in the workplace.

Here are some ways to improve your self-direction!

  • Keep To-Do Lists Short
  • Try the Pomodoro Method
  • Take a Walk or Exercise to Increase Blood Flow to Your Brain
  • Limit Your Social Media Use

Putting Self-Direction to Work

Most self-directed people work well without outside direction and encouragement. Your employers are looking for employees that they don’t have to “babysit,” so do your best to complete your work with the directions they give. They want to trust you with important projects without having worrying over whether or not you will meet the deadline. However, ask for help or more guidance if you need it, since this will save you a lot of trouble later!

Let’s Recap!

   Self-direction is the ability to motivate yourself to use your time and energy to reach your goals. It’s important to use this skill  as a student, employee, and as a human in general. Pushing off necessary tasks creates stress and keeps you from enjoying the things you want to do. Employers actively seek out employees that show initiative without extra encouragement. Want to improve your self-direction? Try the Pomodoro Method, keep to-do lists short, take a walk, and limit social media use. Self-directed people manage time well and are inquisitive, creative, and adaptable.