Time Management Tips from Army Soldiers

Here are some helpful time management tips from Soldiers who filled out a survey I sent out.   Enjoy.  There are some real nuggets in here.

“The best time management tip that I could give is to make a ‘tentative plan!’ I have found with myself that if I don’t have a foundational plan when planning for drill, AT and even traveling to duty locations, I tend to be more unorganized. When I make a ‘tentative plan’ about two weeks before an event, I have time to adjust fire, because we all know that no plan survives first contact!” ~ Mike K. CPT, ARNG

“Do not look at the National Guard as a part-time position.  If you can’t separate yourself from your personal life long enough to get the job done any day of the month, you’re going to have a very tough time leading soldiers.  Set aside time daily to communicate with your unit, foster relationships with the full-time support staff and to take care of any administrative needs they have.  They will appreciate you for it and you won’t be marginalized for being ‘part-time’.” ~ Patrick D., CPT

“My best time management tip is to use backwards planning. I practiced this skill when I was younger, now I don’t even think about it. I also prioritize what tasks are a must-do and urgent, and on down until I get to what can be put off until the next day if necessary. I find that if I give myself ample time to accomplish tasks, I don’t feel as stressed out when the last minute changes come up (because they always do).” ~ Candace G. 2LT, ARNG

“Prioritize and complete immediate taskers first. Use your Executive Officers and Operations Officers for guidance. Develop training schedules for BTA/Drill periods and send them out at least one week before BTA. Learn to delegate and use your E4s to their maximum potential. Your E4s will be E5/Sergeants very quickly upon mobilization and must learn to take charge and utilize many skills to complete missions.” ~ JPO

time management dvd cover“I am at annual training now so time management is key. I have found that knowing what the tasks and what the priorities are can be key in managing your time. It is also important to be able to delegate tasks to subordinates because there is no way you can do it all yourself.” ~ 1SG Brian M., ARNG

“I am married, work full time, involved in a soccer league, and serve a local church as a worship leader and community group leader. Not only that, I set aside some time for myself for personal development. Due to having a hectic schedule, I came up with a solution to keep track of my daily schedule.

I have a giant calendar on my desk, where I have written down all my appointments, plans, and meetings. On my lap top, I have notes for critical tasks. Lastly, I have a small planner that I keep track of my daily schedule in details. Now this sounds crazy, but I am really used to it. Because of this system that I had created for myself, I never missed or forgotten anything important. (Not recently~) This might not work for you, but I encourage you to create a system for yourself.” ~ 2LT Israel K., ARNG

“Do not be afraid of working outside of drill.  The Army is hard and it only gets harder with more rank.  Whenever soldiers go to drill, they can tell which NCOs and officers do not care about the army outside of drill.  They are the ones that fail the APFT and come to drill clueless to what’s going on during that weekend.  Working outside of drill also means attending professional development schools.  I’ve met too many leaders that don’t go to their military schools and become comfortable “claiming” a position within a unit.  This de-motivates soldiers below them because they refuse to get promoted or change units.

Another small thing that’s helped me tremendously since becoming a Guardsman was investing $250 in a tiny notebook computer.  It’s small enough that I can carry it anywhere with a CAC card reader, an SD card, and all of my army forms.  Rather than waiting for a computer to open up at work or school, I just pull out very quickly to check my e-mails or work on documents.  It’s saved me a ton of time because I can work on information faster and respond to e-mails in a timely manner without having to go home.” ~ 1LT Moses W., ARNG

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that ARNG and USAR leaders must manage their time effectively.  Your job is much more than one weekend a month.  You need to learn how to get everything done efficiently and effectively, so you can have balance in your military, job and family life.  What are your thoughts?  What are your best time management tips?  Leave a comment and let us know!

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12 thoughts on “Time Management Tips from Army Soldiers”

  1. Of all of these wonderful tips submitted by your readers, I agree the most with (1) prioritize and (2) set aside some time for yourself. I am a list-maker, and everything that I need to do in a day winds up on the list no matter how trivial. It takes discipline to go through the list in order of importance, rather than cherry pick with I am feeling tired.

    As far as setting time aside for myself, I agree with Mara’s comment: sometimes I just need a little time to air my brain out so I can go back and tackle those larger tasks with a fresh perspective.

  2. Even though I am not a member of the Army I do feel that time management is important to get necessary tasks completed during the day. With how busy everyone is these days, it makes sense and is extremely helpful to manage what little time we have to get things done.

    Here are some more tips that I use to manage my time during the day:

    – I know the time of day I work best (which is usually in the morning after a big cup of coffee). After waking up I am fresh, renewed and ready to go. I am able to have a clear mind in the morning rather than going through the motions of the day and later sitting down to work, which this ends up leaving me with thoughts from the day running through my head.

    – I set boundaries. In this, I mean I explain to people that I have set a certain amount of time to sit down and get something done. By giving time frames to these people in my life, they are better able to understand when I am able to offer my time to them.

    – Get off Facebook! And turn off the TV! These are major distractions. Because I’m a writer I need time to think things through. If I am watching one of my shows I am more clued into that then the blog or article I am trying to write.

    – I am kind to myself. I don’t overwork myself or overload my work schedule. I take time out to take a break and let my “brain air out” a little.

  3. Time management does seem to be one of the most important elements of success. How many times have I realized I need to be more organized, but the tasks don’t give me time to get organized – a Catch-22. Wasn’t that book about the military? I’ve heard this: Never handle a piece of paper more than once – if you think you don’t have the time to deal with what’s sent in the mail, don’t open it. Good tip – schedule times to deal with email, rather than as you get a notice that there’s a new email. One of my favorite sayings when I was in college was “I’m so far behind I think I’m first!”

  4. One part of good time management is dictating when you will address certain tasks, not letting them dictate when you will address them. In a business setting, for example, reading e-mails as they arrive can be tremendously disruptive. I am the controller (chief accounting officer) for a multi-company organization, so I have to carefully allocate my time among several different companies. There’s a good 80% or 90% chance that an arriving e-mail won’t have anything to do with the company I’m handling at the moment, and a lot of accounting work can be detailed and tedious. Getting sidetracked (even if it’s by something that does indeed have to be handled at some point) can be a horrible time-waster. Instead, set aside specific blocks of time–once a day if you have that luxury (most of us don’t), twice a day, or even once an hour to review e-mails. If an e-mail is so critical that it can’t wait an hour or two for you to get to it, the sender needs to call you instead!

  5. Notice the word “prioritize” is a common theme in this post, and for good reason. There are only so many hours in the day, and you need to know what has to be done asap, and what can wait. I like Steven Covey’s time management quadrants, although I modify them sometimes to figure out the items in the grey area.

    One thing that I consistently read in good time management material is to start by documenting everything you do for a few days, noting how much time you spent doing it. You’d be surprised at how much time we can waste in one day. I did it years ago, and was dumbfounded at how much time I could gain by eliminating time wasters. I schedule my work time down to the smallest detail, otherwise I’ll get bogged down in that one little thing I forgot to write down.

  6. I’m not in the Army, but I do rely upon effective time management in order to earn the roof over my head. I use a lot of these same techniques in my own daily routine. From planning ahead with a rough idea of a schedule, being open to whatever little things can throw the schedule off course, and focusing on priorities first really keeps me on track and relaxed – ready to take on any contingency that life throws my way.

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