People are stressed.
According to one study from the National Safety Council, U.S. companies lose between $200-$300 billion per year due to absenteeism, tardiness, burnout, decreased productivity, worker’s compensation claims, increased employee turnover, and medical insurance costs resulting from employee work-related stress.
That’s a serious statistic.
But many of these issues could be alleviated with better time management.
And while there a number of techniques to help people better manage their time to decrease stress, it’s not always easy to incorporate them. Particularly when doing so feels like even more work.
Just because “time management “ has become one those trendy buzzword phrases lately, it should be taken seriously.
With media bombardment – social or otherwise – and the hectic pace of life these days, it’s getting harder and harder for people to manage their time effectively.
And as shown by the statistic above, it’s taking a toll.
Fortunately, the playful human spirit seems to always hunger for games. As such, there are a wealth of time management games available.
Many of these are online time management games that put you, the player, in the position of managing and running the business(es) of your choice.
Still, there’s something to be said for the traditional time management games that involve human interaction and have been used for decades to point employees and teams to the areas where they can make better use of their time.
With just a few easy-to-access supplies, these games can be played right in your work space.
Game #1 – How Long is a Minute?
A minute is 60 seconds. Duh.
But you might be surprised at what you perceive to be 60 seconds. You might be even more surprised at what your coworkers perceive to be that same amount of time.
This a good game to start with and it goes like this:
- Bring everyone into a room where all of the clocks are covered.
- Ask them to take a seat, put their phones away and remove their watches.
- Have them shut their eyes.
- Instruct them to stand up and then open their eyes when a minute has passed.
Obviously they will all stand and open their eyes at different times. And there will likely be a little laughter.
This demonstrates the way in which each of us experiences time differently. Some will perceive 60 seconds as longer than it is, others as shorter. Having the knowledge of your own perception can lead you to better estimate how much time an activity or project might take.
Game #2 – Race to the Ace of Spades
This one requires two sets of cards:
- Organize one deck of cards in order of aces to kings in the correct suits and all facing the same direction.
- Take the other deck and mix it all up. Have some cards facing forward and some backward.
- Gather everyone into a group and pick two volunteers.
- Give one volunteer the organized deck, and the other volunteer the chaotic deck.
- Have them race to find the ace of spades.
It should come as no surprise that the person with the organized deck almost always finds it much faster. The one with the mixed up deck might get frustrated or complain that it’s not fair, further emphasizing how good organization skills relate to time management.
Game #3 – Circadian Rhythm
On a work day after a day off, preferably, ask each employee to plot their day from waking up to going to sleep in hourly blocks. Then in each of those blocks they will identify if they were naturally:
- On Fire
- On Cruise Control
- At 70%
- Slowing Down
Recognizing that each of has natural energy levels that fluctuate throughout the day allows us to make better decisions about when to tackle the big important tasks, and when to do the more mundane work. If everyone posts their rhythm charts on a wall, it can be eye-opening for coworkers and teammates to recognize optimal working times for their colleagues.
Game #4 – Colored Blocks
Obviously you’ll need colored blocks for this one. The number of blocks will depend on how many people play this game at a time.
Place the different-colored blocks on a table and explain that each individual must pick up as many blocks as they can in one minute, with these ground rules:
- They must pick up with their non-dominant hand.
- They may only pick up one block at a time.
When the time is up, record their name and give a point for each block collected on a flip chart. Celebrate the winner, then spread out the blocks again. This time, assign values to the block colors (such as yellow equals 1 point, red equals 2 points) and repeat the exercise with the same goal of getting the most points.
Now they must think not only about the number of blocks, but also about the number of points for each block. This is an exercise that stresses the importance of prioritizing.
Game #5 – What I Did Yesterday . . .
Here’s how this one works:
- Bring everyone together and ask each of them to jot down 10 things they did at work yesterday.
- Next, on a separate sheet of paper, ask them jot down the 5 topics that they expect to discuss at their next appraisal/performance review.
- Have them look at the two lists together and mark in some way on the first list all the things which have a direct link to the second list.
The funny thing about this is how quick we are to try to justify our actions. Many people may try to make indirect links to do just that.
The real ‘aha!’ moment comes with the recognition that we spend time on things which have little or no impact or effect on our performance.
If you take it one step further and have them plot that list of 10 things on a grid that stresses importance or urgency, it requires them to sort out what’s truly relevant toward better managing their time.
This game clearly links performance with activity.
Game #6 – Time Squared
Over the course of this game, you will give the participants 3 pages printed with 24 squares that represent the 24 hours of a day. (For those who are more specific, you may want to have a few sheets that further divide the hour square into four quarters.)
- Hand the first page to them immediately and ask them to fill the squares based on the time they spend on routine activities of their regular day – things like sleeping (8 hours = 8 squares), bathing, eating, travel, TV time, etc.
- Hand out the second page and ask them to fill the squares based on the time they spend on non-productive time at their workplace – things like coffee-breaks, water cooler chats, personal telephone calls and emails, etc.
- Late in the day, distribute the third page. Ask them to collate the data from first and second pages onto the third Page. The empty squares represent their productive time.
Using the third page the participants can identify time wasters and time spent on routine activities and gives them options of where to mine for extra time.
Game #7 – “Big Picture” Puzzle Challenge
This one is pretty straight-forward (and the namesake for this post.)
Divide your group into teams.
- Give each team a puzzle with a similar level of difficulty.
- Don’t give them the “Big Picture” of what it will look like when completed.
- Push them to complete the puzzle as quickly as possible.
- Interrupt the process after about 3 minutes and ask, “What’s missing? What’s making this difficult?”
They will likely state that the absence of the completed “big picture” as a guide is making it very difficult. Once you give them the big picture, ask them to complete the puzzle and they will be able to do it much faster.
Having the clarity of the big picture helps in planning activities and projects much more effectively. If no big picture is available, then time is spent on urgencies, preferences and what others want one to do. And that is wasted time.
Check out the Hungry Chick Inn, available from the Trainers’ Library (www.glasstap.com). Teams are given the challenge to re-open an inn to receive guests in 13-days time, with a huge number of tasks and a limited budget. Success requires planning, organization, time management, teamwork, and project management. This one takes about 90 minutes to complete.
Another great source for time management activities, tips and advice is https://www.mindtools.com.
If time management is tough for you, don’t despair. You’re not alone. 43% of Americans categorize themselves as disorganized, and 21% have missed vital work deadlines. Nearly half say disorganization causes them to work late at least 2 or times each week.
But these time management games, in tandem with valuable time-saving software and other techniques, will get you well on your way.