Carter: Getting It All Done Requires a Bit of Time Management

One of my favorite analogies comes from the 1960 John Wayne movie, "The Alamo."  Do you remember the scene where Lawrence Harvey, as Colonel Travis, drew a line in the sand and then proceed to invite those who wished to stay and fight Santa Ana’s forces to step across and join him?

We in the fire service are much like those who stayed to defend the Alamo. In our own way, each of us has stepped across that line in the sand in our effort to serve our respective communities.  Whether we serve in a fire, EMS, emergency management or law enforcement capacity, the meaning is the same. Each of us has set ourselves apart to do good things for others. Think about the quantities of our time which are consumed doing these good works.

Let me suggest to a number of you that there is another line which you have crossed in pursuit of an even more laudable goal; the training of your peers. Those of you who have stepped forward to serve as instructors have crossed an even more important line. You have set yourself apart from your associates by taking up the mantle of the emergency service educator.

By now you probably know that there are both plusses and minuses to becoming an instructor.  Like most noble undertakings, teaching can be a royal pain in the butt.  It seems like there is never enough time to do everything.  To this I loudly shout, PISH-TOSH and FIDDLE-STICKS. There is always enough time.  What might be wrong is your lack of time management.

The key to making time for everything is to draw up a strict time schedule and stick to it. My wife has entered into an agreement with me regarding the sharing of our time out of the house. The rule is quite simple. The first person to write their request for a period of time on the big calendar in the kitchen gets the time. Woe be unto the husband who fails to play by the rules of the house. Those of you who know me can easily imagine the woe that I have drawn upon myself over time.

Let me warn you that if you fail to pay attention to what is going on around you, the days, weeks, months and years of your life and career can easily get away from you. This happens because you are might be failing to keep an eye on them. When you do not schedule the events in your life, you do not control your life. Instead, you are letting life control you.

Let me suggest that it is now time to get started on the right road. Write down all your commitments. Then, as you schedule your tasks on the calendar, you will slowly begin to take control of your time. While partitioning your time, you can take a studied look at the actual time requirements of your commitments. This knowledge will help you control how you spend your time.

Most of us get into trouble by double booking our time. I can remember one week that saw me in New Jersey on Wednesday, Maryland on Thursday and Pennsylvania on Thursday night. The first place was a work commitment, the second a speaking engagement and the third a convention of circus-music buffs. I had to write my plans down on the calendar to be sure I could fit them all in.  By scheduling things on my calendar I realized that I could even pick up my daughter from summer camp on the last leg of my trip.

You can also use a calendar to proactively manage your time. Please accept a word of caution. The one word in the English language that each of us has the hardest time pronouncing is no. There are a number of activities in my life that range from work, to volunteer firefighting, to community band concerts and so on. If the calendar in the kitchen were not a great part of my family’s life, I would probably be a raving lunatic. (Just ask my long-suffering wife.)

If it is your desire to make time for everything, start now by listing everything, then fitting the activities on your calendar. I do have a three-fold warning for you; you deviate from your calendar at your own peril; never make a commitment without your calendar at hand, and try not to use multiple calendars. I have gotten into trouble when I failed to reconcile my monthly minder, my office calendar, and the calendar in the kitchen which is the one reviewed closely by “She Who Must be Obeyed.”

Remember the old axiom: If you want something done, give it to a busy person.  Just be sure that the busy person you choose remembers to add your task to their list.