Neil Staker is founder of PeopleSmart Solutions and a Master Certified Trainer in Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer Training.
I’m really struggling with time management in my classes. I always find myself thinking, “I wish I had more time!” I skip over things I don’t want to skip and rush through section and exercises I really shouldn’t rush through. I would really appreciate your suggestions on improving time management in the classroom.
Thanks for the great question! Time is my nemesis. I plan wonderful stories and activities for my classes and time steals them away. I have a way to go in my trials with time, but I’ve learned a few practical helps.
The clock is half full
After I said “I wish we had more time,” a participant once told me: “When you stress about time, it makes us stress. Focus on the benefit of the time left. If you focus on the time we don’t have, it undermines the productivity of the time we do have.”
Add, don’t subtract
When you have significantly less time than you need, it’s better to add than subtract. If you start with the full training and whittle it down, you end up frustrated at what you can’t include and usually cram in too much. Start from scratch and add things that you’ll have time to do.
Rushing to slow down
Lessons begin with a problem, a solution/skill follows, then end with practice and application. Problems are fun to talk about and generate stories but this is not where you want to spend time. It’s better to rush through the problem so that you can slow down on the skill, practice, and application.
If you’re behind in Crucial Conversations for example, you could get right to the STATE skill by asking, “Who struggles with sharing tough messages?” All hands go up and then you ask them to write out their tough message. Transition straight to STATE with, “Turn to page XX, and we’ll learn the skill masters of dialogue use to share tough messages.” This saves 15 minutes you can use for practice and application.
Brain speed over mouth speed
If you talk really fast and cut out discussion, practice, etc. you can train a two-day class in one day. Don’t. People need time to absorb the content and integrate it into their world. Where will they apply this? How will it work? What words feel comfortable for them? It’s better to cut an entire lesson than rush through two in the same amount of time. Cognitive overload without interaction and application becomes a useless lecture.
Deceptive time wasters
- Too many stories and stories that are too long. Get to the point and use stories to highlight key skills.
- Don’t debrief as a class what groups have already discussed. It kills energy and wastes time. Instead, try: “Wasn’t that great insight from your group? Let’s move on.” or “Each group give me one quick idea. Go!”
- Our comments on the training or participant’s comments add up. Comments show we’ve learned the tools, we want time for them to learn and do the commenting!
- Discussion time should match the topic. For a fun introductory idea try, “Take sixty seconds and come up with at least three ideas.” Save “take ten minutes in your groups” for practice and application.
Ron McMillan once told me to talk slower when I’m behind. It works. It keeps me and the class calm and helps me focus on key points instead of cramming.
Time trials taught me an important lesson. Time is my friend.