To maintain a high standard of work and avoid stress, time management is essential. However, many professionals feel that they are already too busy to take a chunk out of their schedule to learn time management.
In fact, this is a recipe for disaster. Time management is a skill that you need to acquire; it never just “comes naturally.”
How Do You Teach Time Management?
The best way to teach employees is through time management activities. It’s worthwhile dedicating time at least once a month to some structured learning. When activities are fun and lead to deeper insight, they won’t make employees feel like they’re wasting time.
Just spending 5 minutes on time management activities can be enough. After finishing a project, though, take advantage of the opportunity to spend a bit longer. This can help your team become prepared for the next big challenge.
Time Management Activities for Employees
There are time management activities you can try whatever the size of your team. Some activities are only suitable if you’re all at the same location, whereas others are applicable to remote teams. Many are time management group activities, whereas others involve working individually.
Stop thinking about time entirely and consider money. Ask everyone to imagine they’ve received $86,400 and need to spend the entire amount in one day. Give employees a few minutes to write down how they will use the money. Once they’re done, discuss as a group why they all made the decisions they did.
What’s the reason for the number 86,400? That’s how many minutes we have in a day. By thinking in terms of dollars, we see how important it is to consider how we use each individual minute. Ask your employees to use this lesson to make the most of every moment of the day.
2. The Mayo Jar
This next activity is particularly good for big teams, as you can split up into smaller groups. Each group receives a large container (the mayo jar) along with some rocks, gravel, sand, and water. The challenge is to fit everything into the jar.
Once each group has filled the jar, talk about their decision-making processes. How did they decide what order to put items in the jar? Did they have a system at all or did they do everything at random? The only teams that will have been successful are those that started with the rocks, followed with the gravel and then the sand, and ended with the water.
Use this task to teach employees how to organize their tasks for the day. It shows the necessity of beginning with the crucial tasks, then completing the necessary but less-pressing work, and ending with the least important activities. This applies to everything in life, not just work.
Icebreakers are a great way to introduce everyone when forming a new team, especially at the beginning of a long meeting or conference. Turn the opportunity into a valuable time management lesson with this activity:
Split the group into teams. Each team needs to collectively carry out a number of random tasks. These tasks can be anything from finding out information to making something — or even doing five jumping jacks. Get as creative as you like. The point is for each team to complete as many tasks as possible.
At the end of the 10 minutes, talk about what decisions employees made to finish as many tasks as possible. They may have worked together or completed two of the simpler tasks at the same time. Talk about how they can apply these same strategies at work.
4. Measure a Minute
Ask everyone to close their eyes. When you say “go,” start a timer. Once employees believe that exactly one minute has passed, they should open their eyes. You’ll find that everyone opens their eyes at a different moment.
Use this as a teaching moment to talk about how everyone perceives time slightly differently. Discuss how time seems to move faster or slower according to how much you are enjoying an activity — and how such activities vary from person to person.
5. Jigsaw Puzzles
Divide the group into small teams, giving each team a bundle of pieces from a jigsaw puzzle — but without the box. All the puzzles need to be different and reasonably hard. Give employees just a few minutes to put together as much of the puzzle as possible.
At the end of the activity, teams will likely have made some progress, but they’ll have struggled to make any sort of picture. Ask them why they think this is. The answer should be that, without the picture of the final result, it was difficult to know what they were aiming for. Talk about how they will face the same struggles when working without a final goal in mind.
6. Find the Ace of Spades
Give two employees a pack of cards each and ask them to find the ace of spades as fast as they can. What they won’t know is that one pack is shuffled to create a random order of cards, whereas the other is organized by suit. This will mean one employee will find the ace of spades almost immediately and win the game.
The activity should lead employees to voice that one player had an unfair advantage. Point out that in terms of time management, it makes sense to give yourself an advantage. Discuss how planning before diving right in can improve productivity.
7. Things in Common
For big groups of many people who have never met before, a useful activity could be to find things that they have in common. In a set period of time, everyone needs to talk to as many people as they can to find a characteristic they share. Use the activity to discuss how spending just a short amount of time on communication can yield vital information to improve productivity.
8. Desert Island
This activity is actually a twist on the classic desert island game. Instead of telling employees that they can bring three things to a desert island, participants need to think of all the items they’d need to survive. Give them just a couple minutes to come up with a list. Employees receive one point for every essential item they name.
Then, compare this to time management. Just like naming more of the necessary items leads to more points, focusing on essential tasks leads to better results. In contrast, simply filling your time with anything that crops up may not lead to any value.
9. Circadian Rhythms
Provide each of your employees with a calendar for a single day. Each hour on the calendar should be a separate block. Over the next 24 hours, ask employees to write down how they are feeling at each hour. Give them around five to nine options to choose from to make the task easier and more comparable. For instance, you could have options like:
- Slowing down
- Raring to go
The next day, return to the calendars. Talk about which times of the day employees are most motivated for work and when it would be best to take a break. Discuss how they can use this knowledge to create a schedule that fits around their energy levels and takes into account differences with others on the team, particularly for collaborative activities.
10. What Are Your Priorities?
Give all your employees a list of tasks that relate to their work duties and personal lives. Ask them to color code the activities to express the priority of each task. Red means urgent, orange is highly important, yellow is quite important, and blue is unimportant. Then, compare what your employees have chosen.
This activity shows how people perceive priority differently — and some employees may need to change their priorities. It could also explain conflicts when collaborating on a project.
Time Management Tools
You can support employees further by providing them with time management tools.
1. Remember the Milk
Stay on track with Remember the Milk. This app manages tasks, sends you reminders, and share your to-do lists with your team.
Find out how you’re spending your time and see where you could make improvements. RescueTime tracks time and sends you a report every week. It also has features to block distractions, set daily goals, and provide additional time management training for teams.
Stop using email to communicate within your team — you’ll instantly become better organized if you use Asana. Assign tasks to different projects, track your progress, and improve collaboration. To get the most out of Asana, learn some pro tips.
Use Quire to better manage your time. Change your own workflow and priorities according to the needs of your team as a whole.
Your employees need support if they are struggling to meet deadlines, spending long hours working but seeing low productivity, or feeling like they have no time for personal commitments. By using time management activities, you’ll see dramatic improvements in your team’s scheduling and organizational skills.