Time management is a concept that many people have become preoccupied with over the years.
There are dozens of books available on the topic and many bases offer professional development courses on how to effectively manage time. However, when creating the professional development curriculum here at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., we intentionally omitted this lesson from our schedule for a single reason: Time management simply does not exist.
Granted, that statement is somewhat rooted in semantics, but allow me to explain. Consider for a moment that one of our Air Force’s greatest strengths is diversity. In addition to our various pay grades and specialties, we all come from different places, have different faces and we have all been shaped individually through our experiences. But as we come together collectively to accomplish our respective missions, there is one single thing we all have in common: time.
No matter where we are from, a 24-hour day is something that we all share and despite our best efforts, it cannot be altered. Yet, consider these popular statements: “This day is taking forever,” or “Will this meeting ever end?” Now, compare those with the phrase, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” Does it really?
I assure you, there was the same amount of time in that dreaded one-hour meeting as there was in that 60 minutes of your life that you were having so much fun, you found yourself asking “Where did the time go?” So, if the continuum of time is the one constant we all share, what is the difference in those statements?
Simply put, time management is about attitude and perception. The reason that time occasionally “flies by” is because those moments were framed in a positive mindset and consequently, when you looked at your watch every two minutes as the meeting seemed to “drag on and on,” it was because you chose to frame the meeting negatively. If you want to “manage time,” start by setting your clock with a positive attitude. I am not suggesting that every day will be Skittles and rainbows, and yes, some of “those meetings” are required, but always remember that we are all solely responsible for our attitude.
Task management on the other hand can be improved upon, so prioritize your objectives and pursue your passions. Ensure you include your personal well-being and your families in that equation. Once prioritized, complete the most critical tasks first and attempt to do so perfectly. The pursuit of perfection, such as excellence in all we do, will lessen the likelihood of you having to re-accomplish tasks.
Once you have mastered your craft, continue to seek out other opportunities. Projecting a positive military image and being involved in our local community is paramount to being a well-rounded Airman; however, do not “waste your time” and volunteer for the sake of volunteering, otherwise it will feel like a “long four hours.” Instead, find something you love doing and get involved with initiatives you truly enjoy being a part of.
In closing, there is another appropriate phrase: “Time marches on.” Just ask anyone who has watched their children grow in the blink of an eye or listen to a retiree as they reflect on their service and they will both tell you that although there were long days, the years flew by. This is made possible by being positive and finding joy in the things you do, including work. Unfortunately, we cannot “make time,” but you absolutely can take it. So, as you prioritize, please remember to take time for you, your Airmen and your wingmen because, God willing, each of us will be afforded 86,400 seconds tomorrow, so make each one count.