Time management: Time lords it over us

It may be an evergreen topic, but specialists are trying to spice-up time management with fresh delivery methods and technology.

The perceived benefits of time management (TM) training make it a learning and development staple, but the desire for more convenient training methods means employees are just as likely to be found in a virtual classroom these days. Also technology, old and new, is making its mark on TM training.

“We conduct a large amount of TM training over the phone,” says Hedda Bird, managing director of 3C Associates. “It’s a time-efficient method of training, because it means that people don’t have to spend time out of the office travelling.”

As well as being a time-saving tool, Bird says phone-based TM training is highly effective over a short space of time. Telephone delegates, who are given the same exercises to perform as the company’s classroom-based TM candidates, usually perform better because there are fewer distractions, she says. 3C Associates’ Phone Delivered Training comprises two sessions of two hours and costs around £1,500 for 10 to 20 people.

Powerful

To participate, delegates join a conference call with up to nine other people and work from a course textbook. “Our trainer uses a number of techniques – such as role-plays and quizzes,” explains Bird. “People really engage because it’s an incredibly powerful medium. They deal with that pile of paper as soon as they get off the phone.”

TM training that extends to an individual level tends to mean coaching.

Peter Green, a TM expert who works as course director for Filofax, has launched an independent in-company TM programme known as Time Workshops, which feature one-to-one coaching on time management and other related topics. Coaching is conducted with an agreed combination of face-to-face, telephone and e-mail contact.

Green, who published a study in conjunction with Oxford Brookes University entitled Does time management training work? An evaluation, now plans to assess the impact of technology on people’s time.

While TM training will always be a cash-cow for learning providers, these day courses are much more learner-driven, with alternative forms of training being used more frequently, says Kay Buckley, director at The Development Company. She says that, in keeping with the trend for one-day courses (for which the company charges £197 per person per day), many companies are also calling for shorter bursts of training – such as a two-hour intensive training hit, or a half-day session, which she calls ‘acorns’. Buckley says a significant part of her time is now spent coaching individuals in TM skills by phone.

“With coaching available now, development doesn’t always have to be about time,” she insists. Acorn prices vary according to the number of people, the topic, the tailoring of the acorn and the length of training (although similar products offered by The Development Company cost about £90 per person).

E-learning

Another provider, Balance Learning, has launched an e-learning course for TM, which it claims can save employees up to an hour a day and reduce stress. Entitled Effective Time Management (ETM), the 90-minute course, which is available online or on interactive DVD, covers the TM staples such as planning, prioritisation and time-wasters, including handling e-mails.

Developed in conjunction with training provider Partners in Business, the course is an interactive version of a live seminar. It features a video presentation by TM expert Judi Walsingham, supplemented with interactive exercises, animations, anecdotes and examples of good practice.

It includes a printable 30-page reference book, which provides notes, summaries, exercises and examples to help users create their own action plan. Pre- and post-course assessment surveys are included, which measure attitudes, behaviours and effective use of time before and after the course, enabling organisations to benchmark their improvement rates.

The online and DVD versions of ETM are available under an annual licence based on the number of users or size of organisation, and the company claims this can be as little as £10 for each user. A multi-user licence for the iDVD is priced at £1,200. Until 31 January 2008, Balance Learning is offering an iDVD – an online pilot of Effective Time Management, for 20 employees – for £999.

Chris Horseman, managing director of Balance Learning, insists ETM isn’t a mass-produced tool. “It’s very different,” he says. “It’s hand crafted. We tried to create something that was very immediate and memorable, that provides an individual with some of the key concepts and skills to manage their own time, rather than using a specific system.”

Outlook

Companies interested in TM system-based courses will find a number of programmes available. Green runs Chartered Institute of Management-accredited open-courses for Filofax, which can incorporate the eponymous paper-based system if a company requests it. A number of other providers also offer TM software courses.

“MS Outlook is the one thing that allows us to manage our time effectively,” says Warren Wint, managing director of training firm Total Success. “People probably only use around 5% of what it can do. Most only use it for e-mail.”

Total Success runs a one-day Time Management With Outlook 2007 course, which teaches delegates how to use Outlook as a tool to manage tasks, calendar, meetings, delegations, contacts and e-mails. The programme also covers integrating new features with existing ones, using the RSS feature and the new ‘One Note’ function to organise work and personal projects. A one-day course will cost £345 (plus VAT) per delegate.

Technology means that people have to be more responsive, which in turn underlines the need for effective training, says Martin Dufficy, managing director of TMI, a company that has been offering TM courses for more than 30 years.

It runs a one-day TM with Microsoft Outlook course (£1,725 plus VAT per course for up to 15 delegates), and even teaches it to staff at Microsoft Europe.

“Employees need to be more self-sufficient and multi-skilled and people have lots and lots of small tasks and e-mails,” Dufficy explains. “The issue with e-mail is that it’s quite seductive and can easily distract you from priority tasks.”

This diverse approach to TM training extends to any level of manager – or role – says Dufficy. “In the current working environment, the issue of TM is less pertinent to the hierarchy and more relevant to the type of work people do.”

Make a date

Ikordo is an Outlook-compatible product that its supplier Volutio says can eliminate the diary ping-pong associated with meetings. It features a Google calendar and can negotiate dates and times using what IT heads call ‘natural language’ and what the world knows as English. Once dates are decided, Ikordo sends a text message (SMS) to participants confirming meeting details. It also has a time-zone feature that co-ordinates the diaries of participants globally. The basic product is free to use and can be downloaded from www.ikordo.com. But enhancements – and here’s the catch  will have to be paid for, and this includes the SMS function.

Further info

3C Associates

Time Workshops

The Development Company

Balance Learning

Volutio

Reader participation

Anyone interested in completing the Oxford Brookes survey (which comprises about 15 questions) should e-mail Peter Green at survey@timeworkshops.co.uk.

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