Do More With Less: Time

Can it be Done?

When you need to teach on a shorter time schedule, can you still set the conditions for the students to achieve the stated learning objectives?

Have you ever had to compress ten days of instruction into seven? Or reduce training days to five hours instead of eight? Looking at your curriculum and your new time line, how do you decide what stays and what goes? Occasionally we need to compress five days of training into four. The target audience doesn’t change, the curriculum doesn’t change, and the course goals are the same. What does change is our timeline. So, the question we face is this: after cutting out 20 percent of our instruction time, can we still set the conditions for the students to succeed?

 

Build Your Framework Now

The path to answering that question is clearly marked when you have already answered two other questions:

  1. what are the instructional goals?
  2. given the choice between the two, will you choose ‘doing’ or ‘talking’?

Answer those two questions with clarity and you have established a decision-making schema of curriculum delivery priorities and the intent of the instruction. Lay your question over this framework and you will now be able to answer your “can we do it?” question.

For us the decision-making process is a quick one. We have already established clear instructional goals and we choose ‘doing’ over ‘talking’ every time. With our decision-making framework firmly in place, we can answer our ‘can we do it?” question with a “yes!”.

From 1940 to 1953 the Marine Corps produced basically trained Marines using a reduced recruit training schedule. They learned that if they had to, they could cut material from their curriculum and still make Marines during an 8-week boot camp that would fight and win battles.

The Marine Corps did it and so can you.

OK, so now that you have decided that you can remove things from your curriculum and still succeed on your compressed timeline, how to you decide what stays and what goes?

 

We like Ike!

Dwight Eisenhower knew how to make that decision when it came to organizing his workload. In a 1954 speech to the World Council of Churches, Eisenhower said, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

Our 34th President relied on his Urgent/Important Principle to more effectively-and efficiently-prioritize his work and manage his time. The rationale behind the principle? Not everything has a high enough priority to merit your personal attention.

Ike matrix one

Like Eisenhower you and I need to develop a process for our specific teaching mission that helps us discriminate between what is essential and what is simply ‘nice-to-know’. Essential material is critical to helping your audience achieve the stated goals; nice-to-know material is helpful, but it isn’t critical.

So, all the content in your course is essential and must be taught as part of the curriculum, right?

Hmm…maybe not.

I have gotten much better at this filtering process over the past several years and I always start with the same question: what is the goal of the instruction? Make sure you have a firm grasp on that, then move on to question two: does this thing I’m considering play a critical role (i.e., is it essential) in helping students reach that stated goal? If the answer to that question is not a resounding ‘yes!’, then it might be simply ‘nice-to-know’ material.

 

A Complementary Approach…

So, you’re well on your way to making strategic reductions in the training material. If you had a lot of ‘yes’ answers to that second question, consider using one more reduction technique. Ask the question, “is that thing you’re considering more ‘doing’ or ‘sitting and listening’?” (remember, those students came to ‘do’, not listen. More on this in a future post…)

 

And an Intentional Bunny Trail

Once you’re done with this you will likely ask the obvious question: if we can do this because of a time crunch, then why don’t we do it all the time? The material that was left out had a lesser impact whether we had five days or four so why not permanently replace it with something more substantive? Now you are on to something (something better) that we will unpack in a future post…

 

The Big Finish

All curriculum should be designed to support reaching a specific goal or set of goals. But other ‘not critical’ material has a way of invading otherwise necessary training material. Sometimes well-meaning stakeholders want a specific topic added to the curriculum because it is important…to them. But when your allotted teaching time is reduced, the ‘rubber meets the road’ as far as identifying these invaders and keeping only the essential components of your training material. Develop your filtering process and your priorities now so when you have to make those choices they will be:

  • decisive
  • consistent
  • critical to your audience’s success

Your preparation will help you set the conditions for your students to succeed, and teach with a purpose so your audience wins.

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