It can easily be established that to be in control of your time is to be in control of your life. We all have to balance and juggle multiple responsibilities in our professional and personal lives. There is increasing evidence through research and studies that today’s workers are overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all, seeing time as a scarce commodity that is difficult to come by. And when it comes to managers in the workplace, they must find a way to deal with their own day-to-day job duties while still overseeingtheir team’s productivity.
For many of us, the ability to successfully manage our time is not a skill that comes naturally. If we’re not careful, we become victims to the many distractions that pop up, instantly shifting our focus away from the activities that should be our priorities. There is always the undercurrent of immediacy to new demands that come our way and without firm control we can quickly become engulfed in the enormity of it all. Most people have a method that they use to maintain some control – whether it’s the to-do-list jotted down on a piece of notebook paper, or the cubicle walls that are decorated with hundreds of little post-it notes, or the more sophisticated calendars in Outlook, Gmail or Hotmail.
But no matter which way you slice it, to be effective as a manager one of the first skills you’ll need to master is time management. Time management can easily be identified as the most critical and even foundational competency for managers at all levels. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2009 results of the American Time Use Survey, on average working managers spend about 8.25 hours each weekday on their jobs. That same report outlines that on average, people sleep between 8 and 9 hours a day. These two activities alone account for two-thirds of your allotted 24 hours! This leaves you with just about 8 hours to take care of family responsibilities, household chores, leisure activities, civic activities and the like. Further, in April 2010, Intercall, a conferencing and business communication company, conducted a workplace study where 48% of the respondents reported that in today’s economic environment they are required to do more with less; 39% reported having to do the work of two people because of the recession and 47% of the respondents found it difficult taking time off from work.
Given these realities, there has never been a more pressing need to take back control of our most precious asset – our time. There are many great approaches to the teaching/learning of good time management strategies. A quick web search will reveal articles, workshops, blog posts, webinars and a host of tools that can all be effective. But today, I want to share an approach that is far from traditional. Yet in light of the current demographic makeup of today’s workplace we are likely to see this approach used more and more for training new skills. I’m talking about video games.
In an April 2006 article written for Chief Learning Office magazine, Nick van Dam writes:
“Current research suggests… that gaming can be an excellent preparation for business. Serious gamers are likely to be more skilled at multi-tasking, agile in making decisions, evaluating risks and managing dilemmas, flexible and persistent in the face of change, and highly skilled in social networking and team activities.”
Now before you blow this off, consider that the millennial generation is coming of age. They are graduating from college and joining the workforce. Whether we like it or not, this now requires new considerations across the board, not least of which include learning strategies and training. While there is still a place for the traditional techniques and methodologies that ensure all learning styles are considered and catered to, when it comes to attracting and keeping young talent, we have to be conscientious and embrace the need to do things a little differently.
Technology played a major role in the upbringing of this new generation of workers and it continues to be an important factor as they choose the companies they’ll work for, and the type of work environment they prefer. This new group of workers also values work-life balance, being less desirous of spending fixed hours in the office, yet being willing and capable of getting work done wherever they are because of their technological mobility.
One very easy way to foster the development of time management skills is through the myriad of video games that are available online. Some resources are free, but for a bit more functionality the paid versions can be considered. If you are an individual looking for a way to enhance your personal time management skills, this is an ideal consideration. What would be even better, would be for those forward thinking organizations to begin looking at ways to step up their in-house training programs with the use of technology that will keep learning fun and engaging. Ideas can range from using games that already exist and building a training program that incorporates those games, or if your training budget allows it, work closely with a creative firm who can design and develop a game specific to your needs.
Whatever the approach, remember that until we have complete control of our time, we really are just marching to the beat of another man’s drum. Learning to master your time will put you light years ahead of your competitors and prepares you to better handle the challenges that will inevitably be a part of your day.