base information

Managing your most precious resource

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Ask any Air Force leader and they'll tell you: the Air Force's most precious resource is its people. In an era of declining resources and manpower shortfalls, the expertise each individual airman brings to his or her job is the most powerful force-multiplier the service has.

Okay, so you're one of the people that make up the Air Force's most valuable commodity. What resource is most vital to you? I would argue it is time. For most of us, there are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done: fitness, professional military education, advanced education, family activities. Let's also not forget the elephant in the room--the job.

For me, time management has been a life-long challenge. I've struggled with it in high school, college, and throughout my Air Force career. I've made a real effort to improve my time management skills over the years. I've read books, and I've even taken a time management course. I can't claim to be a time management expert, but I have adopted a few simple techniques that help me keep my head above water.

1. I make lists. I get more done when I've got my "to do" list prepared. It helps keep me focused and it prevents me from forgetting something critical. It also helps me sleep at night.

2. I prioritize. On any given day, one thing is certain I won't accomplish everything I want. Setting priorities helps me ensure I get the truly important things done. As you may guess, my boss' priorities usually become my priorities.

3. I allocate time. Actually, I try to allocate time. I'm not the greatest at this, but when I can make myself do it, it works. Setting a schedule and sticking to it helps me accomplish tasks within a set time period, thus preventing one of those tasks from expanding to dominate my day.

4. When I'm really pressed, I isolate myself. Nowadays, I have an office I can retreat to and with a door I can close. But back when I didn't have that luxury, I'd show up early to knock out work before everyone else arrived, bringing distractions with them. Similarly, I've often found the best time to hit the gym is in the middle of the day, when it's so easy to get sidetracked at the office I'm not getting much done anyway.

My techniques may or may not work for you, but if you haven't done so before, I recommend you take few moments to examine how you manage your time. It's a resource, and like any other resource, you can only optimize it if you have a plan. Improving your time management skills will not only make your life easier and less stressful, it will make you a better airman.