Time, he’s waiting in the wings

Time, aside from being a stand out track on Bowie’s best album (not the best track, the title track has that honour), has been in my thoughts this week.  I’ve had 2 requests for time management training this week and my answer to this request is always ‘why?’.

You may remember I wrote a while ago about different kinds of participants at training events; if a candidate was ever a TBF, it’s on a time management course.  It’s an unlikely (perhaps extremely rare) occurrence that a candidate will nominate themselves for time management training.  It tends to be manager driven, usually following a critical incident of some kind.  How many people in L&D have had a conversation with a manager wanting to send an employee on a time management training course because they have punctuality issues?

I recognise that dyslexia and dyscalculia may prevent people telling the time appropriately, may have issues with ordering and priorities, and be unable to plan and review ordered tasks.  For those individuals, targeted, specific and individual  support can’t be beaten.  However, a quick search for time management training yields 277 million results and, in the most part these interventions are so similar as to be virtually indistinguishable.  It will contain any number of the following Mexican ingredients:

  • Time bandits
  • Personal Planning
  • Personal Goals (SMART or WISE, your choice)
  • Procrastination
  • Managing time in meetings
  • Managing Email
  • Urgent/Important matrices
  • Delegation (the art of)
  • Etc…

So, what’s an L&D professional to do?  In many cases it’s about adding almost all the above (and a few more) and selling it as the ultimate time management course.  The bad news for participants is that this is unlikely to support a change in behaviour; they learn the theory, practice one or two ideas and then rarely have the opportunity to put the principles into practice because they’re just too busy.

My approach is to coach the staff member in the first instance.  What are the symptoms of the area for development?  What are the effects on the performance, attitude and confidence?  What one area would the individual prioritise for development first?  What next?  And after that, etc.  It is then quite possible to identify the areas from the list above that require support and build an appropriate development plan from these.  No training course required in most cases.  It’s more learner centred, more specific to the individual, more measurable since the evaluation had been built at the start.  Those interventions could be reading appropriate texts, timed exercises, step change activities, action learning with other nominees, etc.

So why do we insist on peddling Time Management training as a magic elixir, a cure all for managing performance issues?

Comments, as always, more than welcome (especially if you disagree Moonage Daydream is Bowie’s best ever tune).

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