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The concept of Google time is perhaps one of the greatest discoveries I made in my previous job. For those of you not familiar with the term, Google time is a perk that employees have while working at, you guessed it, Google. Workers are allowed to spend up to 20% of their time on the job to pursue special projects of their own choice instead of their usual workload. Google claims that a large number of their best projects came from workers pursuing them in their Google time.

My last job afforded me a decent amount of spare time. As an instructor, when we had courses coming through it was busy. What to do when there weren’t any courses to teach? Sure, there was some admin work to do and things to get squared away, but on top of that there was also plenty of dead time. I absolutely despise busy work – that is, stupid pointless work for the sake of doing work. So instead, I started using this time as my own Google time. I wasn’t necessarily pursuing my own special projects per se, but I was using the time to explore different aspects of my work that I wouldn’t normally think about.

We have a lot of ebooks available on our servers, so I started reading them. I read management books, books on computer programming (being a tech workplace, I wanted to get inside the heads of programmers and understand what they are like), marketing and innovation. We also have a corporate blogspace where people from all over the organisation wrote about what they were doing, what complaints they had, solutions and so on. I even had access to partner organisations so I could get a pulse on what was going on there as well.

After just a couple of months of me taking Google time I had read multiple books, knew who the thought leaders were in our organisation, I knew what was really going on in the organisation, I could compare ourselves to partner organisations and I was even writing and putting my own ideas out there. For the first time, I felt well and truly engaged with the entire building, not just my tiny little corner of it. It helped me make new connections too – a couple of my current mentors I met during this time. Where it helped me the most, however, was in my job. I read quite a few books on management at the time which helped me gain new perspective in my role as an instructor. I began to see the job as a holistic approach – not focusing purely on the job but learning how best to relate to those I was teaching to get the most out of them.

My teaching methods also improved significantly. I began to constantly ask myself what I could be doing better. I went over our curriculum and results again and again. I started reaching out to people I knew at other teaching institutions to see what they were doing. As a result of this, by the end I was doing what was once thought impossible with my students – I was graduating them in half the time people were accustomed to and they had greater knowledge and ability than previous students. Not only that, taking Google time energised me in my work when I was feeling in that can’t be bothered kind of mood. It would get my mind’s juices flowing with ideas which I would then put into my work. I’d then take time to get more ideas and so on. It was a virtuous circle.

I think a lot of managers struggle to see the value in a concept such as Google time. Perhaps they don’t trust their employees to use the time properly and instead expect them to screw around on Facebook or something. They might also not be able to think long term and just want quantifiable results right now. This doesn’t mean you can’t still take your own Google time, it just means you have to be more discreet about it. You know those points in the day when you seem to spend an hour doing something that should take 10 minutes? That is your Google time. Get stuck into something that energises you for that 50 minutes, and return to your work refreshed and full of mental energy.