Are you considering sending your employees to time management training in 2017?

You probably shouldn't.

Sadly, throughout my career, I've talked to many leaders who claim time management programs have little to zero impact on employee performance.

So why are employees returning from these types of courses, unable to apply the skills they've learned? It's not about bad attitudes or a lack of desire to do better.

Rather, it all comes down to brain science. As I've mentioned in previous articles, the brain can make or break a person's work performance.

Within the brain lies the "executive function" which allows people to process thoughts and ideas, focus on tasks, self-regulate emotions and take initiative. All of these skills are, directly or indirectly, linked to the ability to manage time effectively.

However, the executive function only works when it is energized. If a person feels rundown, overworked or depleted, their executive function shuts down.

In other words: No amount of training, skills or know-how in time management can help your employees if they are exhausted.

To be clear, I'm not saying to NEVER invest in time management courses. Time management is essential to one's ability to work more effectively and productively.

However, it is a wasted investment if your employees don't have well-functioning executive functions.

Here are four things business leaders can do to keep employees energized on the job--and able to use those time management skills effectively:

​1. Stop expecting immediate responses

Like any technology, the brain has a limited amount of RAM and will feel bogged down if consistently divided between multiple responsibilities. This can occur when employees feel forced to deal with each email or phone call as "immediate" or "urgent."

Rather than stretch employees so thin that they cannot produce any quality work, leaders should look at ways to help retain their focus on their tasks.

One way to do this is by not always expecting an immediate response--for example, create a guideline or policy where anything urgent is dealt with in person or by phone, and leave email to non-urgent messages.

2. Encourage regular meditation

When negative feelings arise--like self-doubt and frayed confidence--this makes employees less focused, less able to make good decisions, and significantly less productive. Why? Science shows the emotional part of the brain is much more powerful than the rational part.

But there is good news. Research shows we can retrain the brain to react otherwise to negative emotions--via meditation.

Meditation can "rewire" the anterior cingulate of the brain--the part between the emotional and rational parts of the brain. This helps people suppress and more easily control unwanted, unhelpful feelings--and shift from emotion-oriented to goal-oriented behaviors, such as time management.

3. Have two-minute conversations unrelated to work

Quality face-to-face conversation has the power to release high-performance hormones in the brain, deepen the leader-employee relationship, and elevate all parties' energy levels.

And remember--conversation doesn't always have to be about work. Take two minutes out to ask your employee what they are interested in lately. Pay close attention and acknowledge what they are saying, taking care to show genuine interest.

4. Challenge negative beliefs

If you believe you can't do something, you probably won't end up doing it. The emotional part of the brain is so powerful that it will ban access to other resources we need unless we are convinced that our actions are possible.

Leaders can help challenge employees' negative beliefs through short, simple "Energy Check" conversations. Ask employees what is energizing and depleting them in their day-to-day work experience. Then, work together to devise solutions to give them a bit more of what energizes them and a bit less of what depletes them.

This type of conversation can successfully help you identify and address employees' negative beliefs, creating a much greater sense of agency in your people.

Published on: Dec 13, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.