9 Self Management Tools Used Recommended by a BOEING 787 pilot

9 Self-Management Tools Used by Pilots

It is widely known that pilots have one of the toughest jobs in the world. Since they operate in precise and pressured environments, their need to be accurate and in control is crucial. They are attentive to detail, extremely observant, critical thinkers, persistent and independent.

If these seem like qualities you’d like to develop, feel free to use the 9 self-management tools recommended by Mohit Anil Chandnani, the BOEING 787 Pilot I interviewed for this article. He shares how these tools can be used at home, in the workplace and while travelling. Ready to learn how you can increase your productivity, efficiency and effectivity?



1. Use a Checklist

Did you cringe upon hearing the word checklist? Believe it or not, pilots (have to) make use of checklists for all of their procedures at work. It’s how they keep everything in the cockpit running smoothly. But did you know you can do the same at home for managing routine and non-routine situations? At home e.g., these checklists can be helpful for traveling or relocating, such as a packing checklist or a to-do list before leaving your home for the day saves you time and energy.

In the workplace, checklists can enable us to complete mundane or difficult tasks without missing out on crucial details. A checklist is extremely beneficial if you are forgetful or tend to easily panic, especially when draw up for a fire drill or evacuation plan in your home or office building. You can stick these in key areas of your home/office so that everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency.

2. Always Have a Plan B

 A pilot’s job is to get passengers safely to their destination via a pre-defined route. They also plan for an alternate airport should they be unable to proceed to the designated destination, however. How many times have we seen that plans made in our personal life don’t go as thought?

This could leave us feeling desperate or clueless, whereas by having a plan B, we can increase our self-management by staying calm and collected. For commuters e.g., a Plan B can be used to jump on alternative methods of transport. This comes in handy when public/private transport options are not available or if one misses their flight at the airport.

Having a Plan B is useful for achieving your business and personal goals. If you are thinking of launching a new product or service, having a backup plan in case something doesn’t work out is a great idea. Plan B should ideally outline what you will do differently in case the situation changes. That means no more getting caught off-guard!

3. Take the Time to Handle the Situation

We all go through difficult moments or situations. But we humans often have the tendency to react impulsively, making hasty decisions without thinking of the consequences. When time is not a factor, pilots are trained to resist this urge of acting on the first sign of trouble. They call this: Taking the time to assess the situation by sitting on your hands.

Think about a time when someone was rude to you. Or you were at the tip of losing your control in an argument with your partner. Instead of yelling at or insulting them, you can take a few minutes to breathe and reassess the situation before taking action. Could they be right, perhaps? Have they had a difficult day at work or gone through something painful recently?

The caveat with this tip is the time factor. When we have time to assess a situation (like in an argument), we can afford to sit on our hands. When faced with a life or death situation, however, you should take immediate action. This self-management tool will help you keep calm and prevent impulsive decision-making.

4. Use a Decision-Making Model

Pilots are taught to use decision-making models to structure their decisions due to the complexity of their work. T-DODAR is a famous one which you can apply for self-management. It stands for Time, Diagnosis, Options, Decision, Assign and Review. You start off by analysing the time available, followed by a Diagnosis of the problem.

Next, you must ask yourself: “What are my Options? And only then Decide which option you will choose. The next action involves Assigning the tasks, i.e. What needs to be done and by whom? The last step here is to Review: is this still the right course of action for me?

Say you are on the road, and your car dashboard indicates an oil filter failure. You know that time is short, as driving on for more than a few minutes will probably cause irreversible mechanical damage.

Your next step is to assess if the road has a hard shoulder for emergencies, or if there is a garage nearby where you could stop. If the garage seems too far away, pulling up on the shoulder and calling a towing service is a better option.

Your task is to pull up, and then, if you are travelling with someone, delegate them the task of calling the towing service. If there is no towing service nearby, or if it will take them hours to get there, see if you can hitch a ride while locking your car safely.

Lastly, you must review what happened: was it just a random oil filter failure or did you miss something more serious? Is there an immediate danger to your care or can you leave it parked on the street overnight? See how easy self-management is once you use this model as a reference?

5. Don’t Overdo Deep Thinking

Sometimes we find a complicated solution to a simple problem, even though the simple solution is right in front of our eyes. “Don’t think deep when shallow will do” is the pilot’s mantra here.

How often do we have the tendency to meddle with something in spite of it already working? Say your washing machine is running fine, but sometimes there is this odd sound. So, you may think: let me unscrew the drum to check what’s wrong. However, you end up breaking something else in the place by doing this.

The key here is: If a process, machine or lifestyle works in a certain way, don’t unnecessarily mess with it. This often causes more harm than good. Now, how many areas in life, at work, or in a relationship can you apply this to?

6. Update Your Skills and Knowledge Regularly

Pilots are regularly subject to simulator training to ensure they remain proficient at all times, and maintain the confidence to deal with non-normal situations. In personal life, you can do the same by regularly reviewing your learnings and keeping your skills alive through practice and training.

Being up-to-date can mean anything from practising an instrument, attending seminars or listening to podcasts in your areas of interest, pursuing extra education, and keeping abreast of the latest technology or developments.

Updating your skills and knowledge has become increasingly important in a world that is becoming heavily AI-driven and where workers are being replaced by bots like ChatGPT.

7. Go Beyond Your Goals

It’s tempting to think about our goals, right? But thinking about how you will get there is what makes them happen. Pilots use this self-management tool during an approach and landing, because there are various ways to conduct these operations. They are taught that the “how” is as important as the goal itself.

Suppose you want to lose weight. You’ll not only have to assess how many kilograms/pounds you’d like to lose but also have to look for methods to get there, such as: seeking nutritional advice, setting calorie goals, choosing exercise methods and your exercise frequency. The HOW is quite important.

8. Set Priorities to Succeed

Prioritisation is the key to self-management. “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate” is yet another mantra pilots swear by. Let’s dive further into what these 3 words mean:

Aviate: know your responsibilities and carrying them out in the order of urgency.

Navigate: once your immediate priority is dealt with, assess your capacity and handle the tasks you side-lined at first. Ask yourself whether you are still achieving your goals

Communicate: keep everyone else in the loop. Communicating with your team is essential to ensure everyone knows what has happened and what has been done, as well as any further actions required.

You can use this self-management tool at home too e.g., if you have plans to travel abroad next week. The first things to do would be making sure your reservations are in order. Then you can proceed to packing, booking a cat/dog sitter, and asking someone to water your plants in your absence etc. The last step would be to communicate with friends, family and colleagues to tell them about your plans.

9. Adhere to High Standards

A pilot’s job is governed by standard operating procedures (SOPs). They are assessed by the extent to which they comply with these SOPs, indicating a standard of professionalism.

In life, this could translate into helping out with or doing something before it becomes hazardous. When you see something wrong, you can pretend it doesn’t exist. Or, you can do something about it. Doing something about it means you wish to change it. Accepting it means you are okay with the way things are.

The decision to take or refrain from taking action comes down to whether you care about what is right versus what is easy. Easy often equals not doing something, whilst the right (and usually hard) thing is to do something about it.

Suppose you see a neighbour’s window left open, and you see them leaving the house for a trip abroad. Would you be proactive enough to let them know it is open? Or would you rather not bother, thereby increasing the risk of robbery in their absence? In sum, this self-management tool suggests that if you can help, you should.

Note: This article was originally posted in Dutch on WOmagazine.nl.

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