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How to wisely manage your time

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Jake Woller
  • 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Group
We all have looked up at the clock at the end of our shift and asked ourselves, "Where did the day go?" It's easy to get distracted at some point during the day and never really be able to get back on track. Procrastination, laziness and lack of motivation are all enemies of productivity. Because we're in a career where our daily efforts ultimately contribute to saving and safeguarding American lives, we can't undervalue our time.

"Yeah, I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I'd say in a given week, I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work." If Peter Gibbons from Office Space sounds like you, then here are a few tools you can add to your toolbox to help you burn through work like a machine.

First, write things down. Your brain can't hold everything you need to keep track of during the week on top of what you're thinking about eating for lunch and Rihanna's new haircut you saw on TMZ. I personally like to use the Sticky Notes Application on my computer to keep track of to-do's. I just post them to my desktop and add or delete things as necessary. If you work outside or in a shop most of the time, carry a little notebook and pen on you. Categorizing these to-do items can also be very helpful.

Second, prioritizing items will keep things from falling through the cracks. It's helpful to have an "immediately accomplish" list containing things that need to be done as soon as possible. My Officer Training School commander would always tell our class to "get the alligator closest to the boat," as a strategy for making it through training. It was a weird way of saying it, but it has stuck in my head ever since. Don't get caught up in projects that are way off in the distance instead of working things that are due tomorrow. Although this stuff may seem like common sense, there's no doubt about the impacts you will see when put into practice.

Third, organize your workspace! All those papers that have been sitting there for months are not doing you any good. If your work area looks like a landfill and smells like a foot, put the shredder and some air freshener to work. Clutter will only create distractions. Only keep what you really need in your work area and you will be more focused on the work at hand.

Writing things down, prioritizing, and organizing will go a long way in making you a more efficient and productive Airman. You don't have to burn the midnight oil staying late every night to get things done. You would be surprised how much time you can save by being more efficient during the day. Finally, although it may be hard to see sometimes, don't forget the impact of your efforts. With a little less wasted time and a little more productivity, our individual efforts will carry much further in creating a more proficient Air Force.