With technology now able to keep us in touch with one another while on the move, it’s little wonder that many employees view their daily workload as a 24/7 rather than a nine-to-five affair.
Martin Dufficy, managing director at training and consulting firm TMI, claims that about 50% of its customers requesting time management courses want it related to Outlook or Lotus Notes training – mostly the former – because they want time management applied across the corporate e-mail network.
One reason for the growth in time management training is our failure to use systems such as Outlook to their full potential, according to Warren Wint, managing director of training provider Total Success.
“Microsoft Outlook is the one thing that can allow us to manage our time effectively,” he says. “But a lot of people still only use it for e-mail. They probably only use about 5% of what it can do.”
These training courses tend not to be about software tuition – knowledge of the package is usually a prerequisite. Instead, the emphasis is on learning how to get the most out of the time management functions on the system, such as e-mail, tasks, shared calendars, contacts and meeting planners.
In fact, the majority of time management courses now cover technology – both in terms of maximising its potential and learning how to control its ability to keep you in corporate play.
“The emphasis is on taking back control of your diary and managing interruptions,” says Hedda Bird, managing director of 3C Associates, a company that offers time management training by telephone, as well as classroom-based courses. This may include setting strict times for checking e-mails, or turning your mobile phone, laptop or BlackBerry off at a pre-arranged time each day, so that they do not encroach on your evenings and weekends.
Dufficy says technology can become a time management problem as well as a solution. “To be fully synchronised with your office, you need a remote access or handheld device, but it can feel as though this technology is driving you, rather than the other way around.
“The issue with e-mail, particularly when you have hand-held access 24/7, is that it is quite disruptive and sometimes quite seductive. It can easily distract you from priority tasks – especially if you have it set to ‘ping’ [where new messages pop up on your screen].”
Peter Green, course director at Filofax, famous for its paper-based organisers, says the key to incorporating technology into time management is in setting boundaries. “Our training focuses on helping people make the best use of new technology, while avoiding the time pitfalls. People need to establish their own boundaries of ‘connectivity’.”
And – good news for Filofax – paper-based systems remain popular, according Dufficy. He says that in line with the increase in technology being used and taught, TMI has seen an increase in the number of people using paper-based systems.
“Everyone now uses a networked calendar and e-mail,” he says. “But what you can’t do on a computer is be creative. Paper is here to stay.”
Green agrees. “Everyone needs a system – be it paper or electronic. That system is a personal choice often based on trial and error,” he says.
Time management is the ultimate priority, so while companies may be keen to get everyone making use of what is available across their networks, there is no great pressure on employees to trade in their notebooks just yet.
Time management training has moved on from the desk-diary days. Nadia Damon reports on how technology is changing the face of this training staple.
CASE STUDY: KBR
KBR is a global engineering, construction and services company. After deciding that its staff required time management training with Microsoft Outlook, it set up a one-day in-house course.
Twelve people attended the course, which covered:
- planning and prioritising
- developing a personal sense of time
- dealing with essential priorities
- managing e-mail
- managing deadlines
- organising meetings through Outlook
- writing e-mails
- managing other peoples’ promises
Joanne Hinds, building services office manager, believes the attendees now seem to manage their time much better.
“I have noticed a difference in my staff,” she says. “It has definitely helped me – especially with managing my e-mails, and I don’t feel like I am fire-fighting all the time.”