FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. — I’m about to make a big statement, so pay attention.
I believe anything physically possible can be accomplished with the right amount of money, manpower and minutes. That’s right. Anything. Just look at some of the amazing architecture and technology devised by the Romans, Egyptians and others throughout history. Look at where technology was 20 years ago (can you say “beepers” and “VHS tapes?”) compared to today and try to convince me anything possible is impossible with the right mix of people, cash and time.
However, the removal of any one of those three components will severely hamper the accomplishment of whatever goal we undertake. Take away two and it becomes nearly impossible; three and the word “impossible” must be added to our vocabularies.
We live in an era of less in the Air Force – less money, less people and, seemingly, less time – yet, we are still managing somehow to get the job done … for now. Our top leaders have been trying to warn our elected officials that all the fat and even meat has been trimmed and we’re now shaving bone. Sounds pretty doom and gloom, right?
At this point we have a choice to make: are we going to take the motivational-poster advice and not worry about things we can’t control and do something about the things we can, or are we going to give into the kind of despair expressed by Frodo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Return of the King and say with him, “The whole thing is quite hopeless, so it’s no good worrying about tomorrow. It probably won’t come”?
Most of us in the Air Force have little to no control over budgets or manpower. Sure, we can “Make Every Dollar Count” and try to be the best managers of manpower resources we can be (both of which are great ideas), but at the end of day we only have as much of those commodities as we have.
I know many of us also have little to no control over our schedules or the fact we have to “do more with less,” but our time is really the one third of the trifecta of possibility over which we have the most control. If you disagree, read on anyway. I hardly agree with myself.
We’re all bound to have those days every once in a while where all hell breaks loose and we’re running around like decapitated poultry from can ’til can’t, but what about the other “normal” days? What can we do to work on our time management skills so we become expert time users?
Here are a few things you might consider:
- Put the smart device down more often. It could be making you dumb. Admit it, you waste as much time as I do needlessly checking email, stocks, scores and updates. How many “TPS reports” could have been done or staplers found while you were working on that perfect play on Words With Friends? How many meaningful mentoring conversations could have occurred while we’ve been enamored with staring at a three-inch screen?
- Learn ways to multi-task. Try reading textbooks, promotion study material or other professional development books while on the treadmill or elliptical machine. It’s hard to get used to reading while in motion, and will probably make you go blind ten years early, but isn’t that promotion or degree worth it?
- Learn to delegate (and trust) your subordinates. It’s true, most Airmen are fully capable of doing so much more than we push them to do. Stop overtasking yourself and that one really good NCO and spread the wealth. You’re not only hurting yourself and the mission, you’re preventing those “untrustworthy” Airmen from earning your trust and learning how to replace you someday.
- Take a time management course. It’s well worth the investment.
- Don’t be lazy. Laziness is the number one contributor to wasted time.
The above suggestions are by no means scientific or found in an Air Force Instruction, but they are derived from real-world experience. There’s no perfect answer to how to better manage our time, but realizing we need to do it is really the first step. From there you can come up with your own snappy little list of steps (feel free to rip off mine).
Archimedes supposedly once said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” I say, “Give me enough money, manpower and minutes, and we can do anything. However, since we’re constrained by budgets and congressionally mandated manpower levels, I’ll settle for Airmen who know how to manage their time well.”
Keep making every dollar count and balancing manpower as best as possible, and let’s all see what we can do about maximizing the 1,440 minutes we get each day.