Managing Our Time

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael A. Cavender
  • 117th Logistics Readiness Squadron Commander
"Time is what prevents everything from happening at once." - John Archibald Wheeler

Today's military is busier than ever. We deploy more now than ever before. There are requirements which must be met within specified times prior to deployment such as computer based training (CBTs) and other items on the out-processing checklists. There is reoccurring classroom & computer based training that must be completed annually. We have medical appointments for shots and physicals. We are required to enroll in Career Development Courses (CDCs) and Professional Military Education (PME) as part of our continuing education to progress in our careers. So many things that used to be done by other entities on-base have now been pushed down to the customer to do for themselves (Defense Travel System, Virtual MPF, Unit Health Managers, Physical Fitness Monitors, etc.). We have to attend meetings, prepare for inspections and practice for our fitness exam. Somewhere in the middle of this flurry of activity we must find time to actually do our jobs. Every day we decide what we will get done & what we will put off because there is simply not enough time in the day to complete everything we are tasked to do.

"Time is what we want most, but what we use worst." - William Penn

We tend to be most satisfied with what we do when we are successful at doing it. The biggest impediments to success in our jobs are procrastination and wasted time. No matter what we do, we cannot stop time, slow it down, nor can we speed it up. Thus, time needs to be effectively managed in order for us to be successful. Experts tell us that we should begin each workday with a time management plan. Schedule the events of your day from start to finish. Start with a simple to do list, prioritizing your tasks. Keep what has to be completed today at the top and longer projects and future projects at the bottom. Having a scheduled day puts you in control of what to do next instead of encouraging you to procrastinate. Schedule blocks of time to whittle down your to do list. As your day begins, develop a plan for blocks of time to complete tasks. Blocks should ideally be around 30 to 50 minutes. Some difficult tasks may require frequent breaks. It is okay to shorten your blocks if necessary, but don't forget to return to the task at hand! Utilize the break from a difficult task to catch up on e-mails, sign documents, make phone calls or file paperwork to maintain productivity. The key is to use "spare" time when business is slow or when current tasks are completed to prepare for busier times.

"All great achievements require time." - Maya Angelo

Postpone tasks or routines that can be put off until your first priority task is finished! This can be the most difficult challenge of time management. It is not unusual for us to meet unexpected opportunities that look appealing, but becoming distracted by them could result in poor performance. A task could be completed poorly if we had to rush the job to complete it by the deadline because we got distracted. Distracting activities will be more enjoyable later without the pressure of assignments, etc. hanging over your head. Think in terms of pride of accomplishment. Instead of saying "no", learn to say "later". Look for ways to maximize your time by "killing two birds with one stone". Take documents to be signed to meetings and sign them before the meeting starts or during portions of the meeting that don't pertain to you in particular. Try delegating everything possible and empowering subordinates. Get rid of busywork, and remember keeping things simple saves time.