Leadership Inspirations Facilitator Content

Managing Time Effectively

To understand how to better manage and use time with groups

Time is a critical aspect of any facilitation. You will often need to work within given time constraints to achieve your group’s goals. Managing time involves having a clear understanding of where you are beginning your session and where you are trying to end it. Time is bound to change and will be affected by any number of variables. Being able to be flexible and work within your time frame to achieve your desired end state is an absolutely critical skill for facilitators.

WORKING WITH TIME

As the leader of your group, you will be the master of time. When you are planning your session (yes, you should always have a plan!), prepare accordingly by mapping out how much time each aspect of your facilitation will take. This is not always easy and will require you to estimate. Sometimes these estimations are correct and other times they need to be adapted to make sure that they can adhere to the needs of the group. You should always be watching the clock and make sure to adjust your plans according to the group’s needs and time constraints.

Knowing that time is variable means that it is likely to be affected by something and change. For this reason, you need to keep your eyes on the time. If you as the leader of your group lose track of time, your session or facilitation might begin to slip out of your control. This will make it much more difficult to accomplish your goals in the amount of time you have left.

While you can try to predict the time needed, at some point that time frame will not be able to support what you want to do. In these situations, the key is being able to effectively adapt to your situation. Adaptability with time comes from preparation. If you have your facilitation planned out but also build contingencies into your plan you will achieve success. This means that while you should have a plan to help you achieve your objectives, having a few other activities or ways to use time are also important in case something you do goes too long or ends too short. Stay flexible and adaptable with your group so you can adhere to the group instead of putting them on a time schedule that may not be appropriate for the group’s needs.

 

FACTORS THAT AFFECT TIME

The times that we provide on each of our activities are minimum times for the average group, their actual playing time will vary depending on different factors:

Group Size
Your group size and time will be directly related. Larger groups generally take more time than smaller groups will. A safe way to prepare time for your group’s size is to give larger groups an extra 1/3 of the time you have allotted for the activity or facilitation. From the same logic, smaller groups may take significantly less time than larger groups. Accounting for additional activities or ways to use extra time is also critical for working with small groups.

Complexity
Activities or goals that are complex and that require deep thinking and reflection will often take much longer than sessions that focus on much simpler questions and issues. Experiential activities with a debrief for instance may be more complex than a game and will generally require additional time to complete. This should be considered up front to allow enough time for the group to finish their activity.

COMMON CHALLENGES

My session ended too early…
Your group starts a 45 minute activity that you have planned for them. Within 25 minutes, they have completely finished the activity and are now looking to you for what is next. Having spare content or activities planned is ideal for these types of situations so that you can fill in the time with a related and meaningful experience. Other options include, having them repeat a variation of the same activity that incorporates more difficult or complex rules and challenges. You can also lengthen your debrief by breaking up the team into small groups and having them discuss and share out. Sometimes, you will need to mix and match a few of the above strategies to stay on time and keep your group progressing.

My session is taking too long…
If your activity just continues to linger on and the group does not seem be able to reach the end, you need to be able to stop it if you are running out of time. If you abruptly end the experience then the lesson might be lost, so it is critical to have the activity or experience end quickly, but also as naturally as possible. If you are using an activity, then adding in rules or time limits that help the group get to the end faster might be an option. You can also be more lenient on the rules if they are the barriers that the group cannot overcome. If the group is in a discussion or content related experience, it is important to find a natural stopping place for the group so you can resume where you were later on without confusion or disruption. If your group really needs the time (and it’s possible for you to do so), it’s better not to cut them off and remember this time isn’t ‘wasted’. Find a place in the remainder of your plan to make up for this overage. However, if this happens at the end of your session – take caution, generally ending a few minutes over can be tolerated, but running far past the session time should be avoided out of respect to the group members.

Some event or circumstance has just taken away some of my precious time….
This is the variable that often is the most unexpected. You have planned the perfect session and it is going along without a hitch. Then, you suddenly get a message that says you have to cut your session short. This situation is all too common and facilitators need to be able to adjust their plans midstream to suit the needs of their group and the circumstances surroundings the sessions. If you need time to devise a new plan for the group, have them engage in a small icebreaker, energizer, or discussion while you strategize.

Flexibility and adaptability will help you to effectively manage time for your group. This will allow you to get the most out of your activities and workshops together!

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