Recognizing skills, time management aid resolutions

Feb 3, 2015 by Alene Keenan

I read an article in “Self” magazine recently about New Year’s resolutions and how hard it is to maintain the momentum to create lasting change in our lives. The essence of the article centers on the “21-Day Time Makeover” (the January issue,

The premise is that at the beginning of a new year, people come up with resolutions for transforming their lives. They make an ambitious attempt to learn a new language, quit smoking, or pursue some other lofty goal, but by the end of the second month or so, they fizzle out.

I have abandoned a fair number of resolutions myself over the years, and I have to agree with the article that the failure to succeed may be due less to a lack of motivation and more to the failure to manage time well.

I’m land-based now, and this year, I want to transform my life. What skills will I need? Looking back, I realize that the abilities I need to be effective in changing my life are exactly the skills I learned in yachting. There are dozens of tools and techniques stews and other yacht crew learn that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Those skills certainly fit into the bigger picture if and when yacht crew decide to transition ashore, whether still in some yachting-related job or out of the industry completely.

Here are three tips on time management that good stews already know. But seen in this new light ashore, it sure made me appreciate the skills I learned in yachting. Recognize these skills, and know they can help keep you motivated to meet whatever goals you establish for the year ahead.

1. Make a list. One thing that has become second nature to me from working on yachts is making lists. Yachties always make lists. We have daily, weekly and monthly lists. We have checklists for service, for housekeeping, for laundry. We have lists for under way, lists for at the dock, lists for in the shipyard.

When you decide to get out of yachting, you will have to decide what really matters to you. Make a list! Right now, whether your goals for the new year are to learn a new skill, overcome a bad habit, or pursue a passion, map out the steps you need to succeed and the tools you need to complete them.

The lists you create to meet your personal needs now will help you figure out what you require for work/life balance later on in life.

2. Set and meet deadlines. After spending many years on yachts, I understand the importance of meeting deadlines. By setting time limits and sticking to them, we are able to complete our tasks and get our work done with less stress and pressure.

On yachts, our deadlines are frequently set for us. The weather, the owner, the shipyard, the management company, the captain, and the heads of department all set them.

In a life ashore, you have to set your own targets and aim to meet them. The problem is, without someone else driving us, it can be difficult to muster up the discipline to do so. The key to being successful here is to sharpen your skills to sort out your main concerns and then plan accordingly. You are the head of your own team now, and have to find your own motivation to get things done.

3. Use your downtime. If there is one thing yachties are good at, it is using their downtime. With the limits we have on our free time, we tend to fill every spare minute. Spending time at the bar socializing with other yachties is frequently high on the list of things to do. However, don’t get too carried away. Using all of your downtime for partying with other crew can lead to damaged health and burnout.

Some of that time would be better spent if you would find ways to create solitude and take time for reflection. Use some of your relaxation time between periods of work to plan ahead by setting personal goals. Create an exit strategy for leaving the industry.

Once you get off yachts your focus will have to shift and you’ll have to create blocks of time. There are many things you can do whenever you want to and you have to find a way to make space in your schedule to do just that.

Things look different to me now, down here on terra firma, as opposed to how I looked at the world from up on deck. This time of year, I am still fired up about creating lasting change in my life, and I think I have what it takes to persevere.

Harnessing time management skills is one of the best ways to achieve dreams and goals. Life ashore can be overwhelming, but  the incredible skills I learned in yachting are helping me make my dreams come true.

This year, harness your duties onboard into second-nature skills that will serve you well ashore, if and when you get there. Commit to learning to manage your time and setting yourself up for success.

Alene Keenan has been a megayacht stew for more than 20 years. She teaches at MPT in Ft. Lauderdale and offers interior crew training through her company, Yacht Stew Solutions ( Download her book, The Yacht Service Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht, on her site or Comments on this column are welcome at


About Alene Keenan

Alene Keenan is a veteran chief stew, interior training instructor/consultant, and author of The Yacht Guru’s Bible: The Service Manual for Every Yacht.

View all posts by Alene Keenan →

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