The designstripe Time Management Workshop: Our Process and Learnings

Here’s the process behind our time management workshop, along with what we learned from our team’s feedback.

Geneviève Rousseau
January 18, 2023
An image titled 'Time Management', displaying a calendar, stopwatch, digital clock and gantt chart.

Time management might not sound glamorous but it matters. If we’re not aware that we could manage our time better, the idea doesn’t seem necessary. If we know we could change things, it forces us to honestly critique ourselves and how we work. So for many of us, it might seem either pointless, or painful. But the reality is that we have to think about time to make better use of it in the future.

Managing our time to suit us helps us to get better results. It can give us more clarity. It can make us feel less stressed. It can help us own our work-life balance. But productivity feels different from one person to the next. There isn’t a single solution that works for everyone.

We recently ran a time management workshop with this in mind. We created it to help our team manage their time on a more personal level. Some of what worked for us might be useful for you, too. Feel free to take the bits of our process you like, or use our learnings to kick start your own exploration.

The Goals of Our Time Management Workshop

Time management is a personal thing. We wanted everyone to realize the importance of time management, and apply it to meet their needs. We needed to do a few things to make this possible:

✅ Give the team a framework they could refer to every week

✅ Center our focus on the tasks that create the most value

✅ Make our team aware of their energy patterns

✅ Make sure we could all step back and assess our current priorities

The Challenges We Were Facing

Before we hosted the workshop, we needed to pinpoint where the actual challenges were for our team. We asked for feedback from the team at our bi-monthly team meeting a few days before the workshop. Here’s what we uncovered:

- Prioritisation: If we’re unclear about what needs our greatest attention, we might focus on the wrong things. That can give us less time later to focus on the things that matter most.

- Context Switching: Most of us wear several hats. We often need to juggle multiple tasks. How we manage this can be a challenge.

- Computer Time: We can’t always be ‘on’. There are some moments when we should be away from the keyboard.

- Scoping Tasks: It’s hard if we don’t know exactly what we need to get a task completed.

- Unwinding and Refocussing: This can feel a bit like context switching. How do we get back to doing high quality deep work?

- Not Being a Blocker: “If I don’t do this today, will my colleagues get stuck without my input?” Time management gets harder if you’re blocked, and none of us want to block anyone else where we can help it.

How the Workshop Unfolded

Our workshop was based on 5 steps. With some preparation, you can run through this process in around 20 minutes. If you’d like to try it out yourself, we’re running a live workshop on the 19th January on LinkedIn, which you can sign up for here. Or if you want to go it alone, we’ve created our workshop using a tool called FigJam. There’s plenty of other tools too, though, which might be a better fit for you. Here’s how it works.

1. Assess Your Energy Patterns Throughout the Day

An example of three team members' energy patterns at 3pm and 4pm.

Plot out your day in hourly blocks, right from waking up to going to sleep. Describe each block using memorable and clear words/phrases such as “on fire”, “distracted” or “at 70%”.

This helps us to know when we should be doing our highest impact work, as well as the work that needs a little less intense thought.

2. List What You Worked on Yesterday

Just some of the tasks worked on the day before the workshop.

Write down between 5-10 tasks you worked on yesterday. Add each of these tasks to its own digital post it note. You’ll use these later to see how closely what you do compares to your wider objectives.

3. List Your Objectives

Two objectives that are part of my next performance review.

Write down between 2-4 objectives that you expect will be covered in your next performance review. Use one post-it for each objective, and choose a color that’s different to the tasks you’ve written.

4. Connect Your Tasks with Your Objectives

Tasks being worked on, connected to performance objectives.

Connect together the post-its of what you worked on yesterday to your performance post-its. This will help you to see how the tasks you complete contribute to your work performance.

5. Map Out Your Tasks on the Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix in action

The Eisenhower Matrix helps you to prioritize tasks based on how important and urgent they are. It gets its name from the former US President, who used it to get a hold on his priorities.

Anyway, that’s the history lesson over. The important thing is there's only four places you can place a task in the matrix. That makes it easier to see what is critical, what can wait, and what could be handed off to a colleague.

Prioritize your tasks in the matrix. Be honest here. Is there anything you could be delegating, or eliminating and picking up later down the line?

So what now? Set Your Priorities for Next Week

Here's the task list that's lined up for next week.

The end of the week is a good opportunity for full reflection. Looking back at what you completed will help you to understand how you can be impactful next week. With this in mind, you’re ready to prepare for the week ahead. List the tasks you want to work on next week that are urgent and important, so you can feel focused & productive.

Our Feedback from the Workshop

Whilst we had our individual takeaways, we soon learned that being more mindful about our energy patterns would help us do our best work.

Being intentional with managing our time against our priorities was helpful. We were able to see which tasks were moving the needle and which were less impactful, even if it felt good to get them done.

Many of the team mentioned that taking the step back was a good feeling, and something they should do more frequently. Some great learnings included doing the ‘big things’ first, to avoid prolonging stress and anxiety we don’t need. Another was to consider how a task impacts our end goal, to see whether it’s worth doing something more value-adding right now.

One Workshop to Help Us Find Our Rhythm

There are a lot of potential pitfalls for us if we’re not aware of the best ways to manage time to suit us. There’s bigger beasts which are more obvious, like stress and burnout. But there’s more sneaky things that can be disguised as productivity, when it might really be procrastination. Sometimes, it’s only honest reflection that tells us how impactful the tasks in our to-do list actually are.

Join Our Live Workshop on the 19th January 2023

Our team has gained a lot from this workshop, so we’ve decided to do it again live on LinkedIn.

It’s taking place on 19th January at 10am Eastern Time. It’s free to sign up and will last around 28 minutes (how’s that for time management? 😆).

Join here.

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Donec ac est malesuada, placerat sapien a, viverra mi. Duis pharetra sem dapibus condimentum gravida. Sed ullamcorper elit tellus, eu vestibulum mi elementum at. Cras in viverra odio. Proin et tempus elit, vitae interdum augue. Phasellus commodo pulvinar erat, sed fermentum tellus faucibus nec.

Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Suspendisse maximus ex in molestie mollis. Donec at ex et odio aliquam pharetra a vitae ligula. Nulla facilisi. Integer feugiat imperdiet varius.

Cras in viverra odio. Proin et tempus elit, vitae interdum augue. Phasellus commodo pulvinar erat, sed fermentum tellus faucibus nec.Pellentesque lacinia felis vel ligula pulvinar volutpat. Donec ultricies lectus nec turpis tincidunt, sed molestie sem gravida.

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