Lessons in Time Management

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

If you know me or have ever met me you would know that I am a huge sports fan.  I am proud to be a part of a strong brotherhood as a Dallas Cowboy fan. I know many of you out there are probably booing me right now but that’s ok, I am used to it! When I think about time management the first thing that comes to mind is clock management. I’m sure that you have all seen that last second time out to take a game winning shot or field goal.

This makes me reflect back on a few of the games that the Cowboys played this season where they stood in the huddle, had a plan, and failed to execute. The plan seemed to diminish between the QB throwing the ball and the receiver making that last second catch on the sideline with no time on the clock. There have been many times in my career where I have failed to properly manage my clock. But, that does not mean that I wasn’t properly trained to do so. 

When I entered basic training in April of 1993, like many of you, every minute of my time was managed.  I was told where to be at what time, when to eat, sleep and exercise. This regimen was easy to follow and could be considered my first real lesson in time management. These skills stuck with me throughout my career but at times have been very hard to follow.      

Through mentorship experiences I’ve had the opportunity to create time management rules that I have found to be successful. I believe that each of these are equally important and are significant contributors to making any mission or task a success.

IDEA #1:  Write down every task that needs to be completed within a given day. I know that most of us have calendars created which contain this information already. At times we fail to stick to the plan.  Establishing a priority system could stop this from happening. This will force you to complete the urgent tasks first followed by the lower priority tasks. Reserving time that can’t be impacted by others will help to avoid interruptions and keep you focused.          

IDEA #2:  Sometimes you just need to say no! We all like to be helpful. And we all should be taking care of our wingmen, but there comes a time when your workload may not allow you to take on more work.  Learning this skill can be very effective but you must be open with your supervisor about your ability to complete your work tasks in order for this to be understood.

IDEA #3:  You have to find time to take a break. This will allow you to disconnect and reset your mind.  This could be as simple as taking a few minutes to meditate or taking a walk.

IDEA #4:  Make sure that you find time to reward yourself for all the hard work you do each day. This could be as simple as taking a day off when you are afforded the opportunity. This should be something that motivates you and recharges your batteries.

IDEA #5:  If at all possible try your best not to take work home. This may not be a popular thought but could do well to relieve stress and anxiety. This notion will do well in helping to create a work-life balance.  

After twenty three years in the Air Force I still find myself struggling with time management. I had no idea that it would be so difficult to juggle marriage, kids and the mission, let alone all of the other activities that we do on and off duty to support each other. 

A well-developed time management regimen can decrease the time spent on work and allows you to stay on top of long-term tasks. Setting priorities can help concentrate your focus on things that will have a significant outcome on the mission and lead to personal goal achievement. Understanding what is important provides clear direction and purpose which in turn energizes one to action to complete any task or project.