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Copyright © 1997, Sivasailam Thiagarajan. All rights reserved.

You probably have your own special techniques for saving time. In this fast-paced team game players to share a variety of time-saving tips.


To identify practical strategies for reducing the impact of different time wasters.


6 to 30


45 minutes to 1 hour



Prepare the time-waster envelopes. Select four or five major time wasters in organizational settings. Write a different time waster on the face of each envelope.

Andy uses this game as a follow-up activity to TIME WASTERS. He uses the time wasters that were identified as the top five in the previous game:

Flow of the Activity

Organize the players. Divide the players into 3 or more teams, each with not more than 7 members. Teams should be approximately the same size. Seat the teams in a rough circle to facilitate the exchange of envelopes.

Brief the players. Review the time wasters. Explain that the players should brainstorm appropriate strategies to eliminate each time waster, or at least to reduce its impact.

Distribute the supplies. Give one time-waster envelope and several blank index cards to each team. Refer to the index cards as time-saver cards.

Conduct the first round. Ask the teams to brainstorm strategies for handling the time waster on the envelope. These strategies should be recorded as short phrases or sentences on the time-saver card. Announce a 2-minute time limit for this activity and encourage the teams to work rapidly. Explain that the time-saving tips will eventually be evaluated in terms of both their quantity and their practical value.

Conclude the first round. After 2 minutes, blow a whistle and announce the end of the first round. Ask each team to place its time-saver card inside the envelope and pass the envelope, unsealed, to the next team. Warn the teams not to open the envelope.

Conduct the second round. Ask the teams to read the new time waster on the envelope (without looking at the time-saver card inside). Tell the teams to repeat the procedure of brainstorming and recording strategies on a blank index card. After 2 minutes, blow the whistle and ask the teams to place their time-saver card inside the envelope and pass it to the next team.

Conduct more rounds. If you are pressed for time, move to the evaluation round (see below). If you have ample time, conduct a few more rounds using the same procedure. Do not conduct more rounds than the number of envelopes minus one.

Andy conducts 4 brainstorming rounds (which is the maximum number of rounds with 5 envelopes).

Conduct the evaluation round. Begin this round just like the previous ones. However, the teams do not brainstorm more strategies. Instead, they open the envelopes and comparatively evaluate the time-saver cards inside. They do this by reviewing individual strategies on each card, and then comparing entire cards to each other. Teams distribute 100 points among the time-saver cards to indicate each card's relative practical usefulness. Announce a 3-minute time limit for this activity.

Present the results. At the end of the time limit, check that the teams have recorded the points on each time-saver card. Select a team at random to present its results. Ask the team to read the time waster from the face of the envelope and then to read the ideas on each card, beginning with the lowest-ranked card. The teams should progress from one card to the next, in ascending order of points.

Determine the winner. After all the teams have presented their evaluation, instruct the teams to place the time-saver cards on a table at the front of the room. Then call for the representatives from each team to collect their response cards. Ask the teams to add up the points on their cards to determine their total score. Identify the team with the highest score as the winner.

Debrief the players. Briefly comment on interesting patterns among the time-saving tips. Also comment on the similarities among the ideas from different teams. As a follow-up activity, ask each player to select a personal set of time-saving tips for immediate implementation.


Not enough time? Short each brainstorming round to 1 minute. Move to the evaluation round after two brainstorming rounds. Ask the evaluating teams to select the best time-saving card (instead of distributing the 100 points among the cards).

Not enough players? You can play this game with as few as three players. Ask the players to respond individually to the time-waster envelopes. If you have more time-waster envelopes than teams, repeat the game a couple of times with new sets of envelopes.

Too many players? Organize the players into teams of 5 to 7 members. Prepare several sets of the same time-waster envelopes so that more than one team responds to the same time waster.

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