Time Management

Compiled by:
Stefanie Keller (Ecosan Services Foundation)
Adapted from:
BENS, I. (2005)

Executive Summary

It is of prime importance to have the ability to effectively use the given time frame within a training course. Therefore, it is required to get to know some fundamentals of effective time management in order to keep the training sessions on track and achieve the envisaged training objectives. It is crucial to develop a detailed agenda ahead of the course as well as continuously taking process notes, process checks and to inform the participants about the next steps. However, effective time management must also allow for some deviations and be flexible.

Introduction

For trainers, time management is very important. They need to design training effectively to the needs of the learners.

Good time management is essential so that participants stay focussed. (CONRADIN 2009)

Good time management is essential so that participants stay focused. Source: CONRADIN (2009)

Effective time management is essential to keep the training course on track and to accomplish the envisaged objectives. The key to successful time management is carefully planning and then protecting the planned time – and still remain flexible to cover upcoming needs. Effective time management is about learning different time management strategies, increasing the productivity, getting organised and using the time management skills to achieve goals and get more done in the same time.


Useful Tips

Now given that a training session can last from one hour to several days, and it is concentrated time (when you are training, you are training, you cannot do anything else). How can we be expected to perform anything else?

  • Plan your work and work your plan: First, identify the times you will be in training/designing/evaluating. Identify the time you have outside this. Tasks that can only be done by you (e.g. training delivery, design)is your targeted time. Tasks that need to be done, but not necessarily by you is your maintenance time (e.g. administration, evaluation).
  • Take the straight line approach: Identify the quickest way to your objective and take it. Focus your energies on one thing at a time.
    A reason that we don't get enough done in a day is that we try to do so much at one time. Focus on one thing at a time and keep doing it until you have got to where you want to get to.
  • Know the value of five minutes: It’s shocking how much you can get done in a short period of time. For example, you get out of training and decide that "it’s too late to start anything now". Go ahead and start it, chances are you'll get further than you think.
  • Ask yourself the question: Ask yourself "what is the best use of my time at the moment?" Rarely, the best use of your time is mindlessly chatting to trainees. (Usually about how busy you are ironically enough!)
  • Take responsibility: You are ultimately responsible for the management of your time, not anyone else. You merely rent your time out to activities. If you find that your time is being taken away from you, stop renting your time out to that source.
  • Plan in extra time: There’s nothing worse than a thoroughly planned workshop where every minute is already planned in advance. You never know exactly how a workshop develops, what ideas come up, and which questions take more time than you expected. Plan in some extra time and be prepared to move away from your schedule, if you feel it is really important. Participants will feel much more that their interest are taken serious if you allow some deviation from your schedule – if it is for the benefit of all.

Time Management Within Trainings

1. Develop and Use a Detailed Agenda

Each training must have an agenda which has been developed ahead of time and ratified by the members of the team. This agenda should include:

  • the name of each topic, its purpose and expected outcome
  • time guidelines for each agenda item
  • the name of the person bringing each item forward
  • the details of the process to be used for each discussion/session

Learn more on developing an agenda.

2. Develop Step by Step Process Notes

When a training course is facilitated, there must be detailed process notes for each agenda item. These notes specify how the session will be facilitated. Furthermore, these process notes should specify which tools are to be used and how participation will be managed. More detailed information can be found in planning individual sessions.

3. Clarify Roles and Responsibilities

Effective trainings require people to play defined roles. In smaller training, the facilitator or teacher has do all jobs at the same time. In larger workshops, responsibilities might be divided:

  • Chairperson: runs the training according to defined rules but also offers opinions and engages discussion.
  • Facilitator: designs the methodology for the sessions, manages participation, propose useful tools, helps the group determine its needs, keeps things on track and periodically checks on how things are going.
  • Minute taker: takes brief, accurate notes of what has been discussed and the decisions made.
  • Scribe: a participant who volunteers to help the facilitator by recording group comments on a flip chart.

4. Set Clear Ground Rules

It is important to make sure that the group of participants has clear norms for behaviour and that those norms are created by the group itself (see also setting ground rules).

5. Make Periodic Process Checks

Process checking is a technique used during trainings to keep things on track. This involves stopping discussion periodically to redirect members’ attention and to show how and where the training is going. The purpose of this shift in focus is to engage members in a quick review in order to identify needed improvements. The 4 steps in process checking are:

  • Purpose: Ask participants whether they are still clear about the focus of the session
  • Process: Ask participants if the tool or approach being used is working or needs to be adopted or changed
  • Pace: Ask whether things are moving too quickly or too slowly
  • Pulse: Ask participants how they are feeling: Are they tired or energised?

6. Determine Next Steps

Never let a group leave a training session without clear next steps in place. This means defining what will be done, by whom and when. These action plans need to be brought forward at all subsequent trainings to make sure that the group is followed through on commitments.

7. Evaluate the Training

Evaluation is considered as being an important process of a training session in order to reflect, analyse and improve its effectiveness and efficiency.

8. Don’t Plan Every Minute

As stated above, allow for some flexibility. A training session can’t be planned 100% in advance. Stay flexible, try to find out the needs and interest of the participants, and allow yourself do deviate from your original plan if you feel that it is really necessary. The real art of time management is being flexible and still covering all that you want!

Applicability

Effective time management is crucial whether the training duration is only one day or even two weeks. Without the development of a detailed agenda ahead, it is almost impossible to keep the training sessions on track and achieve the training objectives efficiently. Yet, managing time successfully also means keeping a certain level of flexibility. Time management strategies cannot only be implemented in trainings but also useful in daily life of the lecturers and participants. It is therefore worthwhile to get to know some useful time management strategies and advice.

Advantages

  • Keeping the overview and the training sessions on track
  • Achieving of training objectives efficiently in the given time frame
  • Ability to change the time frame in regard to and embedded in the overall agenda
  • Participants are clear about the following step and its reserved time
  • No time delays in training or the need to skip training session in return

Disadvantages

  • Requires time for preparation (agenda)
  • Too restrictive time management may mean cutting interesting discussions and activities off due to restricted time – be prepared to be flexible!

References Library

RICH, L. (2006): Time Management for Trainers. Ezine Articles. URL [Accessed: 14.03.2011].

Further Readings Library

Reference icon

ALAMEDA COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DEPARTMENT (2007): Train the Trainer: Basic Training Guidelines. Alameda: Alameda County Public Health Department. PDF

An excellent training is nothing without an excellent trainer. This publication covers basic guidelines and tips to help improve your training skills. The following areas are covered: Preparation, Establishing Confidence, Setting the Tone, Facilitating Discussion, and Ending.


Reference icon

HEMING, R. (n.y.): Time and Meeting Management. Barrie: United Way of Greater Simcoe County. URL [Accessed: 17.05.2010]. PDF

This presentation describes in the first part how to manage your personal time in an efficient manner. In the second part the presentation focuses on how to manage time during a meeting.


Reference icon

REBORI, M. K. (n.y.): Time and Meeting Management Skills. Nevada: UNCE. URL [Accessed: 17.05.2010]. PDF

This paper gives an overview about how to manage the time efficiently during a meeting and explains for example how to set an agenda and ground rules.


Reference icon

STEINLIN, M.; WIDRIG JENKINS, C. (2010): Facilitation Handbook. Knowledge Sharing for Change. Designing and Facilitating Learning with a Transformational Impact. Cape Town: Ingenious Peoples Knowledge. URL [Accessed: 07.05.2012]. PDF

The Facilitation Handbook uses a particular approach to change processes, that builds on the idea of looking at social groups and institutions as complex systems. It contains various sections: starting with a brief general outline of how we believe we can deal with complex systems in a change context, it then draws practical conclusions on designing and delivering change events (such as workshops, meetings, conferences, …) – in particular in terms of the architecture of such events; it then creates an overview over methods and tools which allow to select and assemble them into a meaningful order that directs the event towards results.