Friday, May 8, 2009

Managing Time Wisely -- What our Troops Wish we Knew

Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.

-- H. Jackson Brown

Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its shortness.
-- Jean De La Bruyere

I don’t know about you but…it sure seems like we are getting less than 24 hours in the day. I can’t seem to keep up! Lately, I have been struggling with time management. I’m falling behind at work, in my relationships, with my chores at home. I’m spending too much time on things that are not important and neglecting activities that are critical to mission accomplishment. I have been getting home at the end of the day wondering if I am making a dent in the mountain of things I need to do. I know I could definitely improve in this area of my leadership. What better way to do so then…to blog about it!

Time Management in the military

In the military, I know that leaders have the critical responsibility of acquiring and allocating resources to accomplish the mission. And I have learned that perhaps no resource is more critical than time. There is always more to do than time will allow. In constrained environments, military leaders are tasked to insure that they and their subordinates have adequate time to plan, to prepare themselves and their own units, and to execute the mission. And they must balance competing demands, build in time for rest, reconstitution, and learning, and make the most of every available minute.

The best military leaders that I have worked with recognize that the skillful, disciplined management of their personal time increases their combat effectiveness, keeping them razor sharp and alert during extended periods of high stress and the demands of combat. More importantly, when they implement measures to enable the effective time management of the entire team, they set the conditions for sustained battlefield success.

Combat leaders who fail to manage their own time live an unbalanced life of high stress, continuous crisis, poor decisions, and personal disappointment. Just as important, those who cannot manage the time of the teams they lead see the mismanagement of this critical resource as a major source of anger and frustration with the troops and a principal cause of mission failure.

Time management in the workplace

I’m sure we can all agree -- our workplaces are loaded with those who simply cannot master time. Projects are routinely delivered late or incomplete. Short term successes are off-set by unplanned, long term mission failures. Every day is another crisis, another round of “urgent” tasks, and another series of poorly synchronized activities. Work days are painfully long and largely unproductive. (All this despite the best input and coaching money can buy from time management books, articles, gadgets, and “gurus!”). And people universally complain about not having enough time to get everything done. Gosh those quotes at the top of this post are haunting me!!!

Just as is the case in sports, the leader’s poor “clock management” has a “trickle down” effect that ultimately hinders the entire team. Those of us who work for these leaders generally lack time for strategic planning, training, inspections, synchronization, and personal and professional development – all enablers of successful mission execution. These leaders are so often characterized by a catastrophic unbalance between personal and professional obligations. Burnout is the shared pain of this group and, too often, those like us whom they lead.

Time is a finite resource. How we manage, prioritize, and allocate it – for ourselves and for our respective teams – may be the best predictor of personal and professional health and sustained organizational success. Perhaps by examining time management over the next several posts, we can – I can – quit making excuses for the shortness of our days and make better use of the time that we have. Time management is…Leader Business.

For more in this series, read Part 2 here and Part 3 here!

Image courtesy of


Anonymous said...

That is great. It is important to realize the effect personal time management has on professional time management. But you didn't mention what to do about it. Why haven't all the "gurus" fixed the problem yet?

Tom Magness said...

Hey Anon. Thanks for stopping by. You are right...the "gurus" still haven't helped most of us do better with this most precious of resources -- time. For more on what I think we can do about the next two posts in this series. Good luck! TM