Top 10 Time Management Tips for Army NCOs

Time is our most precious asset.  In the ARNG and Army Reserves, NCOs have to do the same things as their Active Duty counterparts, even though they only have two days to do it!  In order to manage your time wisely, I’m going to share my Top 10 Time Management Tips for Army NCOs.

# 1 Do the Most Important Thing First

Let’s face it, sometimes we are asked to put 10 pounds of rocks into a five pound bag.  There’s always so much to do and you can never get everything done.  You need to learn how to identify the most important things and do them in order of importance.  Learning this one skill will help you rise to the top of any organization.  Anyone can be busy, but successful people are productive.

# 2 Use a “To Do” List Every Day

You should have a written “to do” list every single day at drill weekend and in your civilian life.  Your “to do” list should have all the tasks written down.  Next, they should be prioritized in order of importance, and they should be marked whether or not you will do them yourself or delegate the task to someone else.  Start with the first (most important) task and don’t go to the next task until the first one is done.

# 3 Use the Big Three

During my time in Company Command, I had what was called the Big 3.  These were the big three tasks I hoped to accomplish for the day and/or for drill weekend.  I tried to teach my subordinates to come up with their own Big 3.  In my opinion, if I got the Big 3 things done it was a successful day.

# 4 Understand the 10/90 Rule

The Pareto Principle is the popular 20/80 rule which states that 20% of the work you do will produce 80% of the results.  I think the rule is more like the 10/90 Rule which means that 10% of the things you do produce 90% of the results.  If that is true, make sure you focus 90% of your time on the top 10% most important things.

# 5 Doing it Yourself vs. Delegating

I’m the type of guy who likes to get things done.  That is good is some respects, but when I try to do everything myself, I limit myself.  As leaders, we can get paid to get things done through other people.  On the other hand, we don’t get paid to do everything ourselves.  If you can delegate a task, do it!  Even if someone else can only do the task 80% as good as you can, let them do it!  That’s your job.

# 6 Plan Your Drill Weekend Ahead of Time

Failing to plan is planning to fail.  Several nights prior to drill weekend, take out the training calendar and training schedule and plan your drill weekend.  What are the big things that must get done? What are the implied tasks that you must do to complete the big things?  What must your Soldiers do?  Come up with a game plan and “to do” list for each day of drill weekend.  This will save you lots of time.

# 7 Have Realistic Expectations

No human being is perfect.  Sorry if that comes as a shock to you.  You are not perfect and neither am I.  You need to have realistic expectations about what you can accomplish and what your Soldiers can accomplish.  Don’t set unrealistic goals and expectations and then punish your Soldiers if they don’t meet them.

# 8 Go to The Unit Before Drill Weekend to Get Organized

While I was a Company Commander, my best leaders always visited the armory a few days before drill weekend.  They did their PCC/PCIs, positioned equipment, conducted inventories, staged items and got ready for drill weekend.  This saved them lots of time during drill weekend.  You should do the same thing.

# 9 Know Your Deadlines

You must know your deadlines.  If you are given suspense, write it down.  And give yourself a reminder a few days (or hours) before the suspense is do so you do not forget.  You want to be proactive, not reactive.  Use a simple Suspense Tracker Worksheet to track your suspenses and the suspenses you assign your subordinates.

# 10 Use a Day Planner or Calendar

Every leader should have a day planner or calendar.  Whether you use your phone, MS Outlook, or a traditional day planner is irrelevant.  Just find something that works for you and stick with it. Write down your deadlines and plan your days ahead of time.  Whenever you are given a task and deadline, write it down so you don’t forget.  Try to break down your day into blocks of time.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading my Top 10 Time Management Tips for Army NCOs.  None of these tips are a magic pill or instant solution, but if you implement them, you will do a much better job managing your time.

What are your thoughts?  What do you do to manage your time effectively? Leave your comments or suggestions below.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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8 thoughts on “Top 10 Time Management Tips for Army NCOs”

  1. This is a good post. I love your number one point. I cannot always start with the most important thing on my to-do list, (there always seems to be a fire of some sort that needs to be put out) but when I can, my days are so much more productive. I hate to get to the end of the day and feel exhausted, but realize that absolutely nothing of importance got done. I have learned over the years that accomplishing one important or meaningful thing over the course of the day is so much more valuable than marking all of the easy tasks off my list, because sometimes those easy tasks did not make a bit of difference in my life.

  2. Suzanne Bowen

    I make my to do list at the end of each day for the next day. I look at yesterday’s and rewrite or mark out and add new. I highlight the ones I have started and have not finished. Sometimes I phone myself and leave a VM of deadlines. There are better ways, but so far, this works for me. Time management is crucial in every walk of life.

    The following you noted in this post reduces stress on the job and in life, too: Go to The Unit Before Drill Weekend to Get Organized.

  3. Neil O'Donnell

    I try to begin each week with a plan of action, which I then write down in my planner. To me, that has always been the best way to prioritize my responsibilities and get them done in time. At the end of each day, I review my responsibilities and what I accomplished thus far. I make adjustments from there. As for delegating, there are times we must have faith in others to complete tasks; we need to learn to let go no matter how hard it is.

    1. Good for you, Neil. Having a plan of action is very important. It’s equally important to “reflect” on your week or day and analyze what went right and what went wrong. Spending 15 minutes a day to this will help immensely.

  4. The delegation vs. doing it myself (as mentioned above by Kevin) is a problem for me in everyday life…sometimes it seems that, even though the task gets completed, it just isn’t what it would be if I did it. I have a hard time letting that go! I think I would be a totally anal retentive leader, if it were me…in fact I was usually pretty anal retentive when I kept my classroom together and was working with time management.

    1. I have also run into that problem, but that is where we have to pull the person that we delegated the job to to the side and explain what we were seeking. Sometimes we have to do it with them watching so they can see the proper way we want it done. Sometimes we just have to realize that no matter what, people may not get it done the way we would, but it is done and is passable. We just have to delegate at times to get duties completed in the timeline they need to be done in.

  5. Doing it yourself vs. delegating is an important one for me. You may be expected to delegate certain things, but it shows great initiative and ability to just do certain things yourself. That can really show a lot to those around you.

  6. Thanks for the comment. Being well rounded and organized are very important skills for effective leaders. I’m well rounded but my organization skills are a bit sub-par. I consider myself a work in progress though and just try to get a little bit better every day I am alive.

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