If you read the freshman year critical skills post, and How to Problem Solve, you know this is the second of the five critical skills: How to Manage Your Time. It may be second on the list, but it’s probably the most important.Every day, you are faced with more than you can get done. Studying, helping friends, sports practices, parties, dates, reading books you’d like to read–the list goes on and on.
At the Naval Academy, the administration always gives midshipmen more than they can handle in a given timeframe. This forces them to:
- manage their time
- work under pressure
Tell me, do you want an officer in charge of a ship full of 18-year old sailors who can’t choose which emergency to handle first? Of course not, and the Navy isn’t going to let that happen. So they start with who they select, which means you have to start in high school. You must create a track record of managing your time that they will see when they interview you. They have a bias for those who can accomplish a lot in not enough time. They want those who try everything, in a wide range of topics, and succeed.
Let’s take a moment to discuss success. What is that in Navy-speak. Sure it could be that you’re the Number One on the list, the valedictorian, the captain of the football team, the 2400 SAT scorer. But, if you look up ‘success’ in Webster’s Dictionary, that’s not the definition. It’s:
- a degree or measure of succeeding
- a favorable or desired outcome
- the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence
Want more? Here’s from Google:
- an event that accomplishes its intended purpose
- a state of prosperity or fame
- the achievement of one’s aim or goal
- the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors
- the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like
No where does it say ‘the number one’ word. So, let’s agree that’s not what you should aim for to be considered successful in managing your time. You prioritize jobs, complete what’s necessary with the required timeframe, and move on.
That sounds hard? Here are some tips:
- Make a list of tasks that must get done (This is done for you in Building a Midshipman–the book. It’s quite long, but you do have three and a half years to complete them)
- Come up with a time frame. Do they have to be completed today? This week? Before you graduate?
- Prioritize the list based on importance and urgency. This can be determined by:
- which tasks prevent you from moving forward with other tasks? If you must complete Algebra II to take Geometry, that’s a priority.
- which tasks are more important than others? You must take the hardest classes possible to apply for the Naval Academy (more on that later), but you don’t have to be in soccer instead of baseball. So, don’t prioritize both of those ahead of other items–just a sport. That means, if you don’t have enough time for both, you may have to pick. That’s what the Navy expects in their officers: That they can make difficult choices for the good of the goal.
- As you’re working the list, set time limits. Don’t keep doing something until you’re perfect (remember the definition of success doesn’t include ‘perfect’ or ‘number one’). Do the best you can in the allotted time (yes, you’re allowed to change the time frame if the item changes).
- Don’t be afraid to delegate. If you can get your list completed with help from others, go for it. All managers (and Naval officers) delegate.
- Don’t feel bad saying no to doing things others suggest. Keep your eye on the USNA logo and make the decisions that work for your goal. The basis of time management is, we can’t do everything so we make decisions.
The result of effective time management usually is you have more time than you expected. That means, you can pursue some of those other items that are way down the list or you lopped off entirely. Enjoy this outcome. You deserve a little free time!