“How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss
We’ve all experienced it. There are not enough hours in the day to conquer all of the items on our to-do list. It’s not unusual to come across candidates in the Alliance Careers training program that wrestle with completing the courses in our syllabus in time for their transition. I can identify with that struggle. Admittedly, it has been many years since I was a JMO — I was low-crawling through the Worm Pit at Ranger School before most of our candidates were crawling on the floor for the first time. Nonetheless, I can still vividly remember the long days I put in as a company commander. My entire day was consumed by training, meetings, soldier issues, putting out fires, as well as those unplanned requirements that always seemed to be a top priority for my boss. I have to admit that while I greatly enjoyed my Army career, one of the things that kept me in for so many years was that I didn’t think I could spare the time to find a real job on the outside.
After much reflection and having taken the Clifton Strengthsfinder, I now realize that part of my “problem” was that I have a high sense of Responsibility. In Clifton’s words: “Your Responsibility theme forces you to take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and whether large or small, you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion.” It should come as no surprise that “Responsibility” is one of the most commonly found traits of the officers in our program! Because of this sense of responsibility (while part of a rapid deployment unit no less), I felt it very difficult to maintain a good sense of work-life balance.
So, if you also find yourself struggling to balance military, family, and transition commitments, here is my recommendation: Make your transition preparation part of your duty description. In other words, take “psychological ownership” of your transition. As a military officer, I’m guessing you adhere to some sort of a “Battle Rhythm” or in other words, pre-scheduled events and meetings you are committed to doing at specific times during the day and the week in order to complete the mission and keep the boss happy. And life is just moving from one mission to the next. It’s always mission, mission, mission. How about this: Instead of focusing on the endless stream of calendar events, consider your successful transition as part of your mission statement. In so doing, you change your perspective from mission, mission, mission to one that includes your own needs as a transitioning JMO. I know that can sound very self-centered, but remember that you only transition from the military one time. Do you want to be on the wrong side of the statistic that says 50% of JMOs fail in their first transition?
If you are married with children, it may seem an even more difficult balancing act. That may be true, but don’t you owe it to your family to have the best transition possible? Consider the alternative of how a bad transition might negatively impact your family. It’s sort of a “pay me now or pay me later” scenario. I would encourage you to strive to make an extra effort to force some “Me Time” into your weekly battle rhythm.
So what does “Me Time” look like? Maybe that means devoting 45 minutes for an online class every week, an hour of professional reading 5 nights a week, or listening to a business podcast during your daily commute. Whatever works for you. The point is, if you make it your mission, it will happen. Experience tells us that those who devote the time to their preparation have the most favorable outcomes. Or, conversely, in the words of Ben Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”