Time to learn self-management skills; now

Patrick AFB, Fla -- We all know it is coming, we just don't know when. That dreaded short-notice tasking that always seems to hit at the worst time. But you can't avoid it and usually the shorter the notice, the higher the priority. How do we deal with these and stay on top of our daily duties?

I recently heard a great term--self-management. It is defined as "methods, skills and strategies enabling individuals to direct their own activities toward the achievement of goals, objectives and tasks." By controlling what you can, when you can, you increase efficiency.

There are several ways to keep yourself organized and on task.

Make a list. At the beginning of each week, create a list of tasks. Prioritize them and complete the most pressing items first. When new tasks flow in, integrate them into your list based on priority. On Friday, review what has been completed and re-write your list to prep for the following week.

Ask questions. There is rarely a more frustrating feeling than going off on the wrong vector. If the expectations of a task aren't clear, define them before you spend hours on a tangent. A quick question or two can decrease the effort spent trying to decipher directions and save time.

Do it right the first time. This falls in line with asking questions. Although you may feel you are spending more time on a project doing it correctly, you will probably find the opposite is true. In the end you save time by not re-tracing your steps.

Finally, keep on top of your e-mail. It never fails that after leave or a TDY you return to an overflowing mailbox. Create a file system to allow the tracking of items and filtering by priority. Delete what you can and handle the simple items quickly. Then focus on the priorities.

General 'Hap' Arnold once said, "Offense is the essence of airpower." Keep ahead, stay organized and "self-managed" and you will be able to take in short notice tasks and turn them around with a quality product delivered on time and on target.