The Self-Management Matrix

3 min readMay 3


In his book Making it all work, David Allen, creator of GTD (Getting Things Done), claims that there are two key elements in personal management: control and perspective. Or, as he called them in his first book, horizontal control and vertical control.

Control is achieved through the five stages that make up the daily workflow, the execution of every day’s productive behavior; while perspective is achieved through the six-level horizon model, which requires reflection.

Ideally, you should maintain a good balance between control and perspective at all times and in all your areas of interest, although this is not easy without a personal management system.

The Self-Management Matrix is a tool that can help you to know where you are at any given moment and, above all, to get back to the right place when you lose some control or perspective.

Although the ideal situation is to have a high degree of both control and perspective (being the “Captain & Commander”), being in any of the other three quadrants is not a negative thing in itself.

In fact, it is perfectly normal for you to temporarily move into these other quadrants. You may also have some focus areas or projects under control, but not others.

The goal of this tool is to help you recognize when this happens, so that you can correct your course as soon as possible and move towards the optimal quadrant.

Victim / Responder

This quadrant describes a person who has very little control and very little perspective. In its negative form, this is a Victim, a person who is driven by urgencies, always dealing reactively with the latest crisis, not paying attention to things that are not yet a problem.

In its positive form, Responder, you can be in this quadrant at any time of the day, simply because something unplanned comes up that you need to respond to in a forceful way. You can also purposely move into this quadrant when you spot an opportunity that you want to seize at the moment. The difference between a victim and a responder lies in your ability to take back control.

Micromanager / Implementer

If you normally work with a high level of control and lack of perspective, you are in the profile of the Micromanager, a person who focuses on organizing things more than necessary. Ironically, this over-control may lead nowhere if you don’t make the right sense of it.

On the positive side, there are times when you will need a certain level of structure to execute everything your brain has been previously designing. At these times you are simply an Implementer trying to get things done. And this is a good thing because you have to alternate between thinking and doing to keep projects moving forward. The key here is to know when to switch horizons.

Crazy Maker / Visionary

If you have a high component of perspective but little control, you would belong to the Crazy maker profile, very creative people with difficulty to concentrate for a while on one of their ideas, so they always have the feeling that there is too much to do.

On the positive side, you can’t stop imagining the future. You can’t stop having ideas. Sometimes it is even advisable to enter this Visionary state, if only to relax and not end up burned out by the constant execution of work.

Captain & Commander

This is the place you are when you are in a state of flow, when your control and perspective are in harmony, you have no sense of overwhelm and you don’t even distinguish between personal and professional.

The downside of this state, Captain & Commander, is that you can become so hypnotized that you come to believe that you don’t have to think about the future. Too much complacency can blind you to the changes that are taking place.

Originally published at




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