How To Tame Time Like An Air Traffic Controller

They say the job of air traffic control is telling pilots where to go, and this for the most part, correct.  That definition, of course, includes a tongue-in-cheek double entendre which makes it fun!  However, behind that privilege and responsibility is another skill:  Telling Time Where To Go.  Air traffic control is the ultimate in how to tame time.
From the first day of training, we learn to live our lives, give control instructions and enter data into the system with a “plus or minus three” minute margin.
The plus or minus three is the allowed gap for time interactions to travel within the system.  In other words,  allowance was made for information to travel via, voice, data and other modes of communication and information exchange.
These days, with GPS, synced clocks and other technology, this margin may be overkill.  Nonetheless, there remain some situations where the plus or minus three is necessary.
 With this rather slim allowance in time ingrained into one’s daily work rhythm, over a 30 year period, focused time management becomes second nature.  Built into daily life on position are:
  • split second decisions,
  • constant data analysis
  • woven into immediate application,
  • precise communication, along with,
  • minute by minute adjustment of “the plan”.
All of this within “plus or minus three”.

How To Tame Time ALL The Time

This cannot help but flow into off-work hours.  Appealing to a love of saving things, time being no exception, I used my work related skills to shave off minutes doing daily tasks and decisions, constantly adjusting for the variables life tends to throw at you.  In ATC there are systems and tools provided to operate effectively and to interact with fellow controllers.  However, in my off-work hours. and now, in retirement, I built my own systems and tools.
Fundamentally, this telling time where to go is the same idea many use in sound budgeting skills of telling you money what to do before it arrives.  In other words, you project the amount of money coming in and then spend it all on paper before the budget period starts.  In telling time where to go, you set up daily routines for repetitive items.  For instance morning and evening routines.

The Value Of Routines

We all have them.  We get up, and…..so begins the list of what we do every day to prepare for the day.  In this facet of telling time what to do, or spending time before it arrives, I simply:
  • articulate what I do each morning,
  • figure out the amount of time it takes
  • allot that time in my daily planning
Do I adjust or deviate at times?  Of course, but this provides a baseline from which I work.  This in mind, when something unexpected happens or I choose to alter my routine, I know the impact it will have on my day and adapt accordingly.
I have these little routines and systems built into every day, week and month.  I even have an ideal work week.  At this point it is almost work of fiction.  More of a dream:
  • if I had all the help I would like
  • when I need it
  • things are stable and..
  • life did not interrupt on a regular basis
Even though this ideal week rests in the desire zone, it has value.  It provides a baseline, a scaffold on which to hang real life on a weekly basis.  It also ensures the margins I have built-in for rest, personal priorities and growth do not get eroded.  If they do, I am aware of it and can recover them at the earliest possible moment

How To Tame Time – Why?

You do not have to be an air traffic controller to learn this skill of telling time where to go.  Of course not!  Redeeming time is a worthwhile endeavor for anyone.  It is one of the few commodities we all get the same amount of.  Spend it wisely by telling it where to go before it takes you for a ride!
What tips can you share on time-saving?  Is there one thing you will implement this week to begin this process?

I am a former air traffic controller, pilot, Aircoupe owner, married 42 years to a great guy. We live in a 125+ year old historic Victorian, enjoy cats, vintage anything, precious friends. My passion is Giving Lost Stories A Voice – Giving Found Materials Fresh Form and Purpose!

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