Doing more with less

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kathleen Mackey
  • 49th Medical Support Squadron
"Doing more with less" is a common theme in all businesses today, not just the military. With the economy in critical condition and businesses failing, companies have to perform more, if not an equal amount of production, with fewer resources. In the past couple of months, I have been struggling with the question, "How do I get all of this done?" I found the real question is, "What is stopping me from getting all of this done?" When I stepped back and really looked at my situation, I realized I was the obstacle standing in my own way.

My attitude was all wrong. I carried a negative attitude of being overwhelmed and never getting everything I needed done, accomplished. It was a barrier I had developed for myself. I wondered how this was affecting everyone else in my organization.

The first step in recovery is to admit your problem! My attitude needed adjusting. I realized I needed to look at myself and rethink how I was assessing what was most important on my priority list. I read several articles on time management and doing more with less. Then, I decided that there are two main challenges in doing the right things: identifying what the right things are and then actually doing them.

After reading the articles, I realized my approach to managing time and resources needed to change. I was managing my time reactively by putting out the small fires as they developed instead of proactively attacking the larger fires that was causing them. I needed to begin identifying what were the right things that would help push me toward achieving the outcome I desired.

This mindset also led me to realize that some things might not get done, and ultimately, that is okay. Prioritizing was going to have to be my strategy in order to ensure the things that needed to get done, were done efficiently. The things that would be nice to have done, could wait until one of the later moments when I received a breather from the chaos and time to tackle the less important tasks.

Once I had identified the right things, it was time to address the doing challenge. I realized that I needed to create an environment that would help me prioritize the tasks that were most important. This way, I would be less likely to waste my time on busy, unproductive diversions. I needed to prioritize, delegate, create better to-do lists and diminish senseless multitasking.

First goal: Stick to one task at a time. I was constantly disrupting what I was working on to read emails. I would go back and forth between projects and minor distractions that would inevitably cause my project to be prolonged. To prevent this, I decided to tackle the less pressing matters at a time closer to the end of the workday. This strategy helped me focus on addressing the most important emails and projects.

Second goal: Spend time appropriately. I did a calendar audit to see where I was spending my time. I realized I was not spending the bulk of my time on the highest priorities--such as people and strategic planning. I decided to overhaul my schedule. I needed to set five priorities for the calendar year and track the progress of each one once a month. 

Third goal: Preparation. I was not spending enough time on preparation for meetings. My end goal was to have more effective and informative meetings. More importantly, I needed to set aside enough time to properly prepare for my meetings in order to achieve that goal. This would allow me to get the input I needed to move forward and approval as needed. It starts with the attitude of "it can be done," then continues with learning effective prioritizing.

Personally, I am working toward a goal of better time allocation, and hopefully, some of my tips might help you when you find that time is not on your side during the workday.