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At the beginning of every orientation session for mentoring programs, I ask the participants to write down any challenges they foresee regarding the success of their mentoring relationship. The #1 challenge, by far, is always time.  From business owners to triathletes, people are concerned about how to make time for the relationship. At the mid-program check-ins with participants, guess what the #1 challenge is? Not surprising – time. Even though we talk about it at the orientation, time continues to pose a challenge.

Let’s talk about time for a moment. Not having enough time is a common concern expressed by people about their lives in general. They invest in all kinds of time management tools, apps, training programs and fancy calendars to try and ‘manage their time’. The thing is, we can’t manage time. We can’t make it do anything different other than tick away at 60 seconds per minute.

What we can manage however are our priorities and how we prioritize using our time. Or better yet, how we INVEST our time. Because the clock keeps ticking at a steady pace, it’s up to us to pay attention to how we spend it. We use tools and techniques to be more efficient and effective with time however what’s most important is whether we’re spending it on the things that really matter to us. Are we investing in our priorities?

Let’s come back to mentoring. Participating in mentoring (whether a formal program or informal connection) is most likely voluntary. It’s something we choose to do either as a mentee or a mentor. Making that choice means it is a priority. That we are willing to invest the time and energy into the mentoring partnership. Our mentoring partners are counting on us to be available.

Time needs to be discussed, honoured and monitored throughout each phase of the mentoring process. One way to do this is through regular conversations about partnership agreements. More time may be required up front as you get to know each other and set goals.

Here are four tips to help make the most of time in your mentoring partnership:

  1. Schedule time in advance. Always have the next meeting on the calendar. If you need to postpone a mentoring session occasionally, do it, but make sure you schedule your next one right away. And make re-scheduling an exception not a habit.
  2. Spend quality time. Be aware of how you spend your time in the relationship because the quality is far more important than the quantity of time you spend together. When you are together, be fully present. Put your phones away. Be prepared. If using email, text or messaging, be clear in your communication. Plan to use time well.
  3. Monitor your time. How are you using your time when meeting with your mentee/mentor? Are your respective needs being met? At the end of each meeting take a few moments to evaluate the meeting. What worked well? What would make the next meeting even better?
  4. Notice the value. Take time to reflect on the outcomes of your mentoring partnership. What progress are you making towards your goals? What skills are you able to practice? What are you learning overall? What further feedback would benefit you?

What I’ve noticed about people who participate in mentoring of any sort is that they tend to be people who want to learn, who are constantly taking on new challenges and who tend to have a pretty full schedule as a result. Engaging in mentoring, whether as a mentee or mentor, is an investment in learning…and all learning means an investment of time.

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