Ambitious goals, tight resources, broad roles, constant change…

Start-ups are pressure cookers for time management challenges. But does time management training actually help?

While the term ‘time management’ can get groans and eye-rolls, making the most of what you’ve got just makes sense. Done right, you’ll build the awareness, skills and culture to kick goals on the job, and have a life outside it too. Plus you’ll up the chances of keeping your team, with growth opportunities and work/life balance the best levers for staff retention in start-ups.

I often hear “we just need to work smarter, not harder.” But what does that look like? How do you get the smarts, and translate them into lasting behaviour change that benefits your team, individually and collectively?

How do you know if it worked?

Measuring the effectiveness of learning and development (L&D) is difficult, particularly for soft skills. We’ve all written some nice comments on a trainer’s feedback form, but what’s that worth? Who’s actually checking whether that training changes how you operate in practice?  And will those changes stick?

At TimeBeings, participants track their time for 7 days before and after their coaching to measure change. Combined with questionnaires for context, it’s a really effective progress gauge. But it relies on data collection before the L&D starts, and not many businesses think to do that.

What have academics found? In a robust study, researchers questioned participants and their line managers in the months after taking various time management courses. 89% of participants reported better time management in those months, with 95% manager validation.

Sounds like a great result.

But what about those that didn’t see improvement? Here’s what we can learn from when time management training doesn’t work.

Problem #1: Leaders don’t buy-in

Have the feeling that training was a tick-box exercise?

  • Leadership didn’t attend
  • There were no enabling resources
  • No offer for follow-up or accountability
  • Leadership doesn’t walking the talk themselves.

Solution #1:

If the broader business isn’t committed to change, why should you be? Research continues to highlight the importance of leadership support to ensure learnings are implemented in a workplace. Chat with the top team to ensure it’s the right time, and the right change, for them to really get behind, role model and support the business through.

Problem #2: Individuals don’t buy-in

Autonomy is such an important motivator. If attending training is mandatory, chances are you’re less motivated to engage with it. Low motivation leads to low engagement and low knowledge creation.

Behaviour change requires effort, and therefore psychological readiness. There could be a host of factors in someone’s work or personal life that means they can’t invest in change. If this is the case, requiring them to attend a training is a waste of time.

Solution #2:

For lasting, positive behaviour change, your team members need to opt-in to L&D. Provide the resources for them to make an informed choice, then leave it up to them to attend or not. If an individual is struggling with systemic change readiness issues, supplementing change programs with individual coaching has been shown to help.

Problem #3: It’s generic

How we work is so personal. The best way for you to spend your time is influenced by your:

And in a start-up, those factors may change quite frequently.

Any L&D designed to provide a one-size-fits-all solution is really going to fit very few.

Solution #3:

To target specific needs, you’ll need data.

The most effective time management training will seek to understand the range of individual factors at play across the team. Individuals should be guided to develop their own strategies to target their unique needs.

Teams should be encouraged to exchange perspectives and experiences to develop empathy across the group. Only then can shared challenges be explored to find approaches that consider the realities for that particular team.

Problem #4: Communication’s one-way

Ever been to a workshop that actually requires you to do some work? Despite the name’s implication, workshops are more often passive content presentation, perhaps broken up with a few games or worksheets.

In most cases, start-ups do not need instruction on processes, like writing to-do lists or prioritising tasks. Start-ups today are grappling with more complex time culture challenges like availability expectations and diversity-supporting flexibility practices. These topics just cannot be explored effectively with one-way communication.

Solution #4:

Research shows that active learning is more likely to lead to ingrained knowledge and application. Active learning means directly addressing the team’s problems, exchanging and challenging ideas, and considering how potential solutions would be applied in the real world. It makes the content relevant and engaging, and therefore more likely to trigger behaviour change.

We’re talking about bringing your team together for some real culture-defining work. An independently-facilitated workshop is a great way to create a safe space to raise difficult questions, negotiate conflict-ridden territory and drive a team towards concrete outcomes.


Jenna Polson

TimeBeings coaches start-up leaders and teams to improve productivity, work/life balance and staff retention.

  • You drive our goals, facts drive our strategies
  • We empower individuals and unify teams
  • Your personal time is as important as your professional
  • We’re with you for the long haul
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Ready to explore options for your start-up? TimeBeings offers workshops, individual and team coaching packages customised to your needs. Book a discovery call to chat with Jenna about your vision of time well spent.