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Effective Self-Management For You And Me: An Interview with Thomas Mangold

We talk to Thomas Mangold about self-management and his work as a coach, writer, trainer, and keynote speaker in the fields of self- and time-management.

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    By Tiffany

    Tiffany studied Language and Economics, and now likes to write about business topics and conduct interviews with interesting people. She spends her free time looking after her plants and with her dog.

    The Viennese Thomas Mangold has always been very interested in self-management. Over the years he tested tips, tricks, and strategies on himself and wrote about them on his blog. This quickly led to his first books, video courses, podcast, and consultations. Today, he works as a coach, writer, trainer, and keynote speaker in the fields of self- and time-management. His podcast „Effizienter Lernen – Leben – Arbeiten“ is among the most popular German podcasts with 3.75 million downloads and his online learning platform “Selbstmanagement-Rocks” is super successful as well. We’re very happy that today he took his time to chat with us about his job and the secret behind his success.

    Hello, Thomas. It’s great to have you here, so I can ask you a few questions for our #mailbutlerstories interview. I’m looking forward to an interesting conversation, let's start right away! Your brand stands for time- and self-management. What do I have to do to keep my working life under control?

    Hello Tiffany, first of all, thank you very much for the invitation. The first important step is to plan properly. To get a measure of how much time I have available for my individual areas of life, projects, tasks, etc. Because only if I know this exactly, I can distribute tasks in such a way that they are finished by the end of the day. Unfortunately, most people take on too much, and therefore, the to-do list is growing constantly. That would be the first logical step for me.

    Then, of course, I have to get as many tasks done in as little time as possible, but in a relaxed state. I can achieve this especially if I work in a highly focused manner. So "focus times" play an important role for me. In general, I recommend dividing the day into 4 parts: 1. focus time, 2. communication time, 3. buffer time, 4. leisure time.

    So you already have a very good, basic recipe available.

    Could you briefly explain the 4 parts in more detail?

    With pleasure!

    Part 1: Focus time:

    During this time, I should be able to work while fully concentrating and, above all, without disturbances. No smartphone, no pop-ups, and no emails, but full focus on the current task or project. Studies have shown that after an interruption it takes up to 20 minutes to get back to the concentration level before the interruption. This is crazy and shows how important focus times are.

    Part 2: Communication time:

    Here I do everything that has to do with communication. Emails, meetings, telephone calls, messenger services, and similar. No matter what, this is when I take the time to communicate.

    Part 3: Buffer time:

    No day will actually run as I have planned, at least not usually. A customer comes with a problem, the boss with an unexpected new task, or a colleague with a question. If I don't allow myself a time window for tasks of this kind, it will be difficult to have all tasks completed by the end of the day. Buffer times are not as unpredictable as they seem. You only have to write down all unexpected tasks once every 10 working days and you will get a very good average idea of how much time these tasks take.

    Part 4: Leisure time:

    Having time for yourself and the other important things in life is incredibly important. Of course, this includes people like family and friends. If I don't set limits on my working hours, it often becomes difficult. If, on the other hand, I decide in the morning how long I want to work today, Parkinson's Law is prevented. It says, "Work expands to the extent that time is available for completion." But if my time is limited from the start, I automatically focus on the important things. And that's a good thing.

    So I think it makes a lot of sense to divide the day into these parts.

    On your website, you refer to a task that people like to put off as an "eat the frog task". How do you motivate yourself to eat the frog in the end?

    Good question! This was a big problem of mine in the beginning. Until I noticed that it can be very motivating to finish this task.

    Two exciting things happen then: First, you can work in a much more focused and concentrated way because this unpleasant task is no longer in your head.
    Second, you are much more motivated to tackle other things, because the hardest task is already done, everything that comes next is much easier.

    That's why the “eat the frog task” is always the first of the day, but fortunately, there is not a daily task like this in my working life.

    As an expert on the subject, can you explain to us the difference between time-management and self-management?

    Sure! I see time-management as a small niche of self-management. In my world, it is no longer enough to "just" manage your time. It's good and has many advantages, but there's a lot more to it now. How do I sleep? How do I feed myself? How do I regenerate? How can I switch off? How can I refuel energy? What do I have to do to be productive, efficient, and effective? For me, all of this is part of good self-management but has nothing to do with time-management.

    Therefore I can only recommend looking at the big picture, and not just separating out the time part.

    Thanks Thomas. It's super exciting to hear about this. How do you understand Erich Kästner (German author and poet) when he says: “Time-management is nonsense. You can't manage time, only your behavior"

    If you take it word by word, he is right, of course. Time itself cannot be managed. But it is exactly this behavior that is decisive. How do I plan? How carefully do I use my time? How much do I let time thieves into my life? I can influence all of this very well with my behavior.

    Time is actually the most equal good in the world. We all have 24 hours a day and 60 minutes an hour. You can't buy more time.

    However, you also have to consider that once time has been lost, there is no way to get it back. In this respect, I’m very motivated to manage myself and my time well.

    Which of your services or products would you recommend to Erich Kästner and why?

    Good question. If Erich Kästner is satisfied with himself and his life, none at all. Then I would congratulate him and move on. But if somebody is not as satisfied as Erich Kästner, then he is well served by “Selbstmanagement-Rocks”. There are now almost 40 self-study courses on the subject of self-management

    One final important thing when it comes to self-management: there is no one system or method that fits every person. You have to create the right system or the right methods for yourself. And “Selbstmanagement-Rocks” supports the participant.

    Do I understand correctly that “Selbstmanagement-Rocks” can lead to a more relaxed working life?

    Yes, absolutely. The goal of “Selbstmanagement-Rocks” is not to squeeze even more tasks into the day (I mean, if you really want to, you can of course do that), but I personally don't think that is goal-oriented. For me, it is more important to restore a balance and a feeling of well-being among the participants.

    It is not that difficult to do more tasks in less time and in a more relaxed state if you know how it works, and what you have to do for it. And this "time gain" that I win through this, I can put into the things and people that are really important to me.

    That is the main goal behind it.

    You are very successful as a coach. What is your recipe for over 2300 satisfied course participants, around 150,000 books sold, and 3.75 million podcast downloads?

    I simply enjoy it tremendously! Not only do I enjoy testing tools (such as Mailbutler), strategies, methods, and everything to do with self-management, but I also enjoy passing on my knowledge.

    It is just fun to see what is possible when people find the right methods and systems for themselves and put them together like a puzzle. So many great things can be created and it is great fun.

    I would say that this is simply my great passion, which pulls me magnetically out of bed every day.

    Where does this passion come from? 

    That's a good question. I have always liked to pass things on. In school, I gave private lessons to younger people (in mathematics) and I quickly became not only a footballer but also a football coach. I studied social pedagogy and then worked with children and teenagers with behavioral problems. So somehow a lot of what I have done in life has always had to do with this passion. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. The lowest common denominator is teaching things.

    Where this comes from, I can't say, but I know that I enjoy it and that's the most important thing.

    Wonderful, it's great when you have the opportunity to combine your passion with your job. Which time-management strategy that you tested did you fail, yourself?

    The Pomodoro Technique! I heard and read so many positive things about it that made me think it must be the greatest thing in the world, to work like this. But it wasn't, on the contrary, I got much less work done than before.

    At that time it was the first real aha-effect for me when I realized that there are different systems that work well for one person and not at all for another.

    In this respect, I failed with this method, but this failure brought important insights and so it’s also something positive.

    Would you explain to us laymen in 1-2 sentences what the Pomodoro technique is all about? 

    So with the Pomodoro Technique, you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. After that, the next 25-minute work cycle starts. This is repeated 4 times (so 25 minutes of work - 5 minutes break). Then you have a half-hour break before the next Pomodoro session starts.

    This was a much too rigid system for me, and the many interruptions did more harm than good to my concentration.

    Many thanks for the explanation! What else could you optimize in your time-management?

    There is always something to optimize. ? On the one hand, mistakes keep creeping in, which you have to correct again and on the other hand, I have to be careful not to work too much. As I really enjoy my job, I also enjoy working. Sometimes I catch myself sitting in front of the computer in the evening working. That is positive on the one hand, but on the other hand, it is also important to switch off. And since I'm working on a very exciting project at the moment, this is something I have to pay attention to.

    Would you like to tell us more about this project? 

    I'm working with a teacher in a program for students. We want to teach the students what they are unfortunately taught far too little in schools, mostly not at all: self-management. It will be about how students can organize themselves and find the right methods to learn more tasks and learning material, in less time and in a more relaxed state than most others. Ideally, they will not only do well at school but will also have more free time than they do now.

    Sounds like a perfectly sensible idea! Thomas, last question: How can Mailbutler help you to work more productively, efficiently, and effectively?

    Oh, Mailbutler has a lot of great features and I wish I had stumbled upon your great tool earlier. First of all, the team functions. Luckily, I'm not the only one who has to process my email, because that would be extremely time-consuming. Mailbutler helps enormously with that.
    I also send out important emails again and again, and I would like to be sure that they have arrived and been read, especially if they are time-sensitive. Mailbutler also saves me a lot of working wondering in this regard.

    And finally, I have a tool that handles signatures perfectly. This was a very nerve-racking process up until now.

    These are definitely my 3 favorite features of Mailbutler.

    Great! We are, of course, delighted to hear that. Thank you very much for the interesting interview, we’ll let you get back to your day now! Hopefully, Mailbutler will continue to help you “make the daily frog more digestible!”

    Dear Tiffany, thank you very much for the great interview. These were terrific questions. And with Mailbutler, you help me a lot every day anyway, so I will be happy to recommend your product to others. I also wish you a productive day, and a nice evening, and lots of a great time for the equally important things in life.

    Have you read the Mailbutler Stories interview with Craig Bowman yet? If not, keep reading this interesting article “Fostering Positive Social Change“.

    Register with Mailbutler now

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