Values x Time Management – Part 1

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BLUF – If you don’t align your actions towards your values, you are wasting your time.

During a monthly round table with our wing commander, one of my fellow squadron commanders asked her to review her values. The reason why is because he wanted to ensure her values were integrated with his and shared throughout his squadron. That sounds fairly standard, but then he ended it with “Values are integral to shaping time management. If our actions throughout the day aren’t aligned to our values, we are wasting time.” I immediately stood up in my chair, probably said an audible “huh”, and here I am writing about it. The quote struck me that hard in nailing on the head what is the optimal, yet still difficult, way to shape how you spend one the most precious commodities we have: time.

From a professional perspective, I shape the time for myself and our squadron by publishing a monthly operations directive that contains three lines of efforts LOE: Fight Tonight, Defense in Depth, and Mission Sustainment. Under each LOE there are sub-tasks in priority order for the month which serve as our focus items. The list should not be viewed as a serial list, i.e. complete 1 before moving on to 2, but rather a method of applying weight of effort. Those at the top should take up the majority of our time, yet the smaller tasks in between can be completed should time allow. Key is that I expect leadership at all levels to make that decision, and there isn’t a wrong choice. The only thing to be aware of is that if you are working on something that isn’t contained in the directive, you are probably wasting your time. Time during the duty day is valuable, so working towards things that aren’t part of the team goal can be detrimental to everyone. As the commander, I owe it to our squadron to transparently list my priorities so they can adjust their workloads accordingly. In addition, the directive lists the strategic priorities of our functional leadership and local leadership. From multiple levels of leadership, strategic alignment is maintained to continue to streamline our efforts. All of our collective words and guidance are conveniently consolidated into one document so that everyone has a chance to consistently review and stay on task.

We also publish our operations battle rhythm that explains the purpose of specified meetings throughout the month so that everyone knows when and where to discuss tasks, provide updates to tasks, or where to obtain decision points to move out on tasks. As a commander I only chair specific meetings that are appropriate for my level…which is maybe 10% of the overall meetings. The remaining meetings are run by different levels of leadership whom we have empowered to make progress against our LOEs. When personnel try to get my attention/decision on certain issues, I fall back to our battle rhythm to see if that discussion can happen at an existing event as opposed to creating another meeting. This shapes everyones time management to ensure they have all of the information ready for us to a fast, well-informed discussion where I can make a decision. I value my time highly and don’t want my schedule to be “nose-to-butt” with meetings where I don’t have time to think or communicate upwards with my leadership.

Part 2 will cover how I integrate my personal values into my time management. Stay tuned.

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