I hear from many people stepping into the role of the facilitator for the first time that they are stressed about managing the time smoothly.

The time monster.

I remember it.
Me too I was at times stressed by the race to end a workshop on time.

Luckily, I no longer am now.
Or at least much less.
I am more relaxed.

My workshops end on time and coffee-tea breaks are not canceled. Dealing with the limited and precious time became easier.

What happened?

Speed up to create focus

That sounds like a paradox, being relaxed about time management by speeding things up.

It’s not.

Taming the time monster is possible with shorter time boxes.

That’s precisely what happens when working with Liberating Structures (the small interaction structures from the Liberating Structures repertoire). Because the timing is different: faster and shorter.

In smaller groups with ‘small’ questions and within smaller time boxes the group proceeds in smaller steps. For the design and facilitation this means to glue a sequence of questions and interaction structures to a string together. Smaller and focused questions create some speed and as well as focus, depth and energy, and wonderful insights and results.

With shorter time boxes you have a better overview on the process, where the group is and where they might need more time. In that way, you can flexibly deviate the process. With a series of smaller questions, you are more flexible and relaxed.

Additionally, in online workshops, groups in breakout rooms are guided by the countdown timer, they can jointly share the responsibility for the given time box.

Speeding up is one solution. An opposite approach is to go slower and focus even more:

Slow down to simplify

If managing the time tends to get complicated it might be time to simplify the process and slow down. Because less is sometimes more. The group might need more time to explore a specific question or issue. That’s a wonderful opportunity to give group space to think together with an Unhurried Conversation.

I do my best to respect people’s precious time and invest it wisely. I know precisely how much time I was given from the time bank for a specific workshop.  I do not want to spoil it. I want to make the best out of it.

Here are my 5 ways to be fine on time and be in happy balance with the imaginary time monster:

  1. Create a clear and shared focus guided by the purpose
  2. Give it a rhythm and pace that works for what the group wants to achieve
  3. Structure interactions with Liberating Structures
  4. Go unhurried if needed
  5. Do less because in the end it will more

If you look for some more inspiration on how to deal consciously with workshop and meeting time have a look at the blog post “Time for comfort HERE and NOW – Time, the ever-present elephant in the room of our meetings (2/4)” shared by my friend  Ewen Le Borgne.

PS. For upcoming learning opportunities check: https://linktr.ee/nadiavonholzen