Self-Monitoring – The Art of Checking In On Yourself

Self-monitoring is a great practice we can all implement in our daily lives. But what does self-monitoring entail? And why should (and how can) you do it?

Self-monitoring can help you to keep check on what you are doing at any given moment.

For instance, is what you are doing really what you are supposed to be doing or is there something holding you back? Are you getting distracted, or are you hungry or in need of a bathroom visit? Or have you simply been sitting in front of the computer too long without taking a break? Now that is something I really struggle with when I am in hyper-focus mode!

Many of us struggle with executive functioning and can be distracted by both internal and external influences.

What are Internal Distractions?

Internal distractions can be something like when an unexpected thought pops into your head. It could be a creative thought. Or it could be an anxiety provoking thought such as ‘have I forgotten an appointment?’ or ‘did I forget about the eggs boiling?’ Hmmm I did wonder what that burning smell was…

And who hasn’t gotten caught up in daydreaming, especially when doing something you really, really didn’t want to do like work … The thing is we have to work to pay the bills as that allows us to do the things we daydream about!

Daydreaming can happen easily when you have your workstation set up to look out a window and into the world beyond. That’s when the window becomes an external distraction that encourages the internal distraction. Now there’s a double whammy right there!

Shot of pretty young woman working with laptop and documents in the kitchen at home.

What are External Distractions?

External distractions are things like having the TV on in the background, pings from notifications on your phone or computer, the smell of someone cooking – not burning – food in your kitchen, and the neighbour pulling out the mower just as you are getting into your work groove.

All of these distractions can affect your productivity, which is often something we don’t realise until we check in with ourselves to find out what has been slowing us down or preventing us from getting something done.

Regularly practicing self-monitoring when working can be a game changer, especially these days where many of us are working from home and in unstructured environments.

A simple question to ask yourself when working

When working, it’s a good idea to ask yourself a simple question:

Am I being distracted?

A simple check in, this can help you to find solutions to reduce and hopefully prevent many of the distractions you experience.

For instance, set aside blocks of time to focus on your work and nothing else. You could also close your home office door and let others in your household know that you will be working during these set hours and that you do not want to be disturbed. Furthermore, why not ask your family members or housemates to use headphones if they want to watch a TV show while you are working?

Are you are concerned about internal thoughts popping into your head? Try to get into the habit of checking your diary before you start work so you know what is ahead of you for the day.

You could also set timers and use apps that will prompt you to take a break, to stand up and move, to think about what your body needs i.e. to go to the bathroom or to eat some food, and even to refocus and check in on yourself again later in the day.

These are just a few tips on how you can self-monitor, check in and identify how to work towards creating an environment that will support you to be productive in whatever it is you do.

One Last Tip

I recently set up a sit-stand desk in my home office and I highly recommend it. If you have a neurodivergent, hyperactive, super-sonic driven mind like me, but forget that the body needs to be active too, this is a great way to get yourself moving whilst working. Just remember to set yourself a reminder to actually remember to change your desk to standing, otherwise it will end up being a very fancy seated desk…

Now it’s over to you to check in and check out what you need to change. It is totally worth it!

About Barb Cook

Barb is Director of NeuroEmploy Pty Ltd, is a registered Developmental Educator, Autism and Neurodiversity Employment Consultant and Life Coach for neurodivergent adults (ADHD, autism and dyslexia). Barb holds a Master of Autism (education) degree with focus on employment from the University of Wollongong, where she is also a researcher and co-project lead in the area of self-determination and self-advocacy for adults on the autism spectrum.

As a Developmental Educator, Barb focuses on developing individualised learning strategies, tools and supports with positive outcomes for individuals across the lifespan. She embraces a collaborative approach by working with health and educational professionals, support staff, employers, employees, families and caregivers to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding of a person-centred approach in fostering positive support and enhancement of life outcomes.

Barb has extensive experience in working with people on the autism spectrum, ADHD and dyslexia, especially with adults in creating pathways in attaining life goals in the areas of education, employment, health and interpersonal relationships.

She identifies as neurodivergent, being diagnosed mid-life with ADHD, autism and dyslexia in 2009, and promotes a strength-based and person-centred approach in her work and life.

Barb is founder of Spectrum Women and editor and co-author of the internationally acclaimed book, Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism. Barb is a prolific writer on neurodivergence and employment.

She is also a published researcher with her latest contributions to Sage Journal: Autism, Listening to the autistic voice: Mental health priorities to guide research and practice in autism from a stakeholder-driven project, and Interventions to address health outcomes among autistic adults: A systematic review.

Barb is a passionate motorcyclist, and enjoys riding the love of her life, Ron Strom Burgundy, a Suzuki VStrom DL1000, who assists her with good self-care and an effective anxiety reducing and depression busting practice.