Time Wasters

Time Waster: In between activities that require additional setup or discussion among leaders or coaches, participants stand around doing little or nothing.
Remedy: Ideally, better preparation will eliminate much of this, but some occurrences are inevitable. Try a “back-pocket activity,” a high-value activity that you’ve previously practiced to mastery and that you’ve given a distinctive name to. Participants engage in it while you make final preparations.
Example: You teach your soccer group a drill in which players divide into groups of four and two-touch the ball to one another using both feet. You call this drill “Barcelona” after the great Spanish club team. When you realize your cones aren’t set up for the next drill you say, “Three minutes of Barcelona in groups of four. Go!”

Time Waster: Participants spend more of their time waiting in line to practice than they do actually practicing.
Remedy: Subdivide into smaller groups or pre-practice in mini-groups. Or give participants an active role while they are waiting to participate.
Example: Your managers are practicing responding to defensiveness from their direct reports. In groups of six they watch one manager role-play a difficult conversation with an “employee” and give feedback. But participants spend most of their time watching. You insert a pre-practice where participants pair off and do two-minute mini–role plays on simple versions to “warm up.”

Time Waster: Leaders or coaches spend too much time explaining the setup of several unique drills or activities.
Remedy: Design a drill and name it (naming it saves time reexplaining it later). Whenever possible, reuse the same basic drill with multiple variations to increase the ratio of practice to directions. Example: You train new trial lawyers and have created a drill for your staff to practice making opening statements. You call it “Trial by Fire” because it is quick and pressured (but fun, of course), involving a combination of planning and in-the-moment responses. You can use it for opening statements and change the nature of the trial. You also adapt it for closing statements and questioning during trials. The lawyers know the drill: once you say “Trial by Fire,” they jump to their feet and get started.

Time Waster: Valuable practice time is lost because participants are having side conversations or players are bouncing balls.
Remedy: Teach your expectation from the outset. Explain the behaviors that you are looking to cue when you use your whistle, and reinforce those expectations.
Example: In a workshop, explain in the beginning the cue you will use to get everyone back. Express that you know that will mean cutting off some great conversations before they are complete but that it will save valuable time. When a group starts a side conversation, use a “self-interrupt” and cut your sentence off in the middle to cue that you need them to continue on with the practice.

Time Waster: Participants spend more of their time discussing, debating, or debriefing rather than practicing.
Remedy: Cut discussions short: when planning opportunities for discussion, plan for too little time rather than too much. Circulate during practice to ensure that participants don’t get mired in talk.
Example: After a session of practicing a presentation, participants get exactly two minutes to discuss with a partner their main takeaways. The leader takes no more than two comments to share with the whole group before transitioning to the next practice activity.