Grey Matters June 18, 2024

Self-Management – Personal Application of Behaviour-Change Strategies

Self-management is a valuable skill that can be taught to individuals to modify their own …



Self-Management – Personal Application of Behaviour-Change Strategies

Self-management is a valuable skill that can be taught to individuals to modify their own behaviour that can support to increase independence, motivation, and competence. Self-management is the personal application of behaviour-change strategies that produces a desired change in behaviour. The strategies can range from a one-time application, or it can encompass a long, more complex self-managed behaviour change plan. Additionally, once taught the skills, the individual can implement specific components or entire behaviour change plans independently. The ability to select tasks and goals have demonstrated better performance for some individuals as opposed to having tasks and goals be determined by others. Overall, the use of self-management can increase productivity and make oneself feel good about having control of their own behaviour.

Self-management can be successfully implemented by individuals of different ages and cognitive abilities. It also allows for flexibility in that it can be implemented in diverse settings such as in schools, the workplace, in the community, and within daily life at home. Teaching an individual self-management not only supports them in enhancing their independence, but it can also reduce risks and behaviours of concern. Self-management plans that are specifically targeted to decrease behaviours of concern will work most effectively when the plans are selected based on the results of a functional behavioural assessment (FBA). Promoting the use of self-management is beneficial in that one skillset can be diversified and used for many more behaviours of a wide range. For example, the ability to observe and record your own behaviour can be used to increase on-task behaviour in an academic and vocational setting as well as to increase physical activity at the gym. These skills lead to being more effective and efficient in daily life as well as promoting the generalization and maintenance of behaviour change due to acquired skills such as increasing awareness, self-monitoring, self-reinforcing, and self-evaluating.

Self-management strategies can be incorporated as a small part of a program or it can be completely designed and implemented by the person themselves. Self-management strategies can be defined into two behaviours: 1) a target behaviour that the person wants to change, and 2) the self-management behaviours that will change the target behaviour.

Strategies for Developing Self-Management Skills

Self-management skills can take many forms, including self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and self-reinforcement. Below are some relevant skills that can be taught to enhance self-management. When incorporating these skills into a plan, ensure that it is adapted to meet the individual’s unique needs and goals.

Selecting your own goals. Selecting your own goals involves setting meaningful but achievable criterion for reinforcement. Refrain from setting expectations too low or making the criterion too high to ensure the goal is challenging enough while still setting oneself up for success.

  • Example: Todd currently spends 20 minutes on his nightly reading. He decides he wants to spend at least 25 minutes on his nightly reading every day before bed.

Self-monitoring. Self-monitoring is observing and recording your own behaviour and progress towards the goal.

  • Example: Todd uses a timer to track the amount of time he spends on his nightly reading each evening. He records the time on a note in his phone.

Selecting procedures. Selecting procedures is the ability to choose a method for changing your own behaviour.

  • Example: Todd breaks his reading up into smaller pieces and takes short breaks after every five pages. This keeps him focused and motivated. Additionally, Todd keeps a visual by his reading chair as a reminder of his goal.

Implementing the procedures. Implementing the procedures is following through with the chosen method, which includes self-reinforcing your own behaviour. If you are having difficulty with self-implementing the procedure, put someone else in control of delivering the consequences to ensure consistency. This can be faded out with time and mastery of the skill.

  • Example: Todd rewards himself for reading for 25 minutes each evening by playing a computer game for a set amount of time. He has also informed his partner to give him verbal praise when he finishes his reading.

Self-evaluation. Self-evaluation involves monitoring and assessing how effective the procedures are in reaching your goal.

  • Example: At the end of each week, Todd checks the notes on his phone to track his progress. He decides that he is ready to increase his goal to 30 minutes of reading each day.

Implementing Self-Management Plans

When implementing a self-management plan, provide materials that make the process easy. If it is difficult and time-consuming to monitor oneself, the plan can be ineffective and disliked by the individual. Provide materials that make self-monitoring simple and efficient such as the use of a smartwatch or a portable pen and paper.

Providing additional cues or prompts as a reminder for the individual to self-monitor can be helpful. This can include auditory prompts (e.g., phone alarms), visual cues (e.g., a note posted around the house), or a tactile prompt (e.g., a device that vibrates in your pocket). Overtime, the frequency and saliency of the prompts can be reduced once the individual masters the skills.

When determining what components of the behaviour to self-monitor, the component that should be measured should have the most direct and significant impact on the target goal. For example, when measuring weight loss, it would be more effective to measure the total number of calories that is consumed per day instead of the number of bites taken per day. Doing so can reduce the response effort of the individual and lead more meaningful data.

A fundamental component of self-management is the ability to implement the procedure and arrange for specific consequences to follow the occurrence (or nonoccurrence) of the target behaviour. When considering a self-administered consequence, it is recommended to select a small and easy-to-deliver consequence. Using large, elaborate consequences may quickly require too much effort, become too costly, and become time-consuming to administer. Alternatively, the chosen reinforcers should not be freely accessible or routinely enjoyed by the individual as it is less likely someone may work to earn such reinforcers. Instead, use alternative or more preferred items or activities for meeting the performance criteria.

Self-Management Strategies

Engaging in a behaviour that will increase or decrease the occurrence of a target behaviour.

  • Example: Skipping lunch to prepare for a dinner at an all-you-can-eat restaurant. Skipping lunch will increase the likelihood of being able to enjoy many different dishes for dinner.
  • Example: Eating a meal before going grocery shopping because this will decrease your desire of purchasing an expensive and high in fat meal at the grocery store.

Provide a response prompt that can later function as a cue or reminder for the desired behaviour. This can be visual, auditory, textual, or symbolic. The cues can be permanent, regularly occurring, or one-time cues.

  • Example: Placing post-it notes on your fridge door to cue yourself to remember to bring your lunch to work.
  • Example: Wearing an elastic band on your wrist to prompt you to go to the bank that day after school.
  • Example: Setting an alarm on your smartphone to ring when it is time to take your medication.

Removing materials or altering the environments that are required for an undesired behaviour in order to make this behaviour less likely to occur.

  • Example: Removing chips and cookies from the home to make it less likely you will snack in the evening.

Limiting undesired behaviour to a restricted situation or setting.

  • Example: You want to decrease nose-picking in public. When you become aware that you are picking your nose, you stop, then go to the bathroom to pick your nose. The bathroom is a designated space you can use to pick your nose.

Dedicating a specific situation or setting for a desired behaviour to occur.

  • Example: Allocating a specific space to study that is free of distractions and that you will not be engaging in other distracting behaviours.
  • Example: Allocating the bed for sleep. Other activities such as scrolling on your phone and watching TV are not permitted in the bed.

Self-instruction is talking to yourself that can function as a way to prompt yourself to follow through with targeted behaviours.

  • Example: Saying to yourself in your head, “Complete five sentences and then I can take a break.”
  • Example: Saying to yourself out loud, “Take three deep breaths before responding to this anger-provoking email.”

Habit reversal is a way to self-monitor your habits and interrupt behaviour chains as early as possible by engaging in an incompatible behaviour.

  • Example: You want to decrease nail biting. Each time you notice you are about to bite your nails; you clench your fists with your fingers tucked in for 1 minute

Christina Lam, Support Approach Consultant