Quality and Quantity Time: Groups Need Both

Growing up, I learned that quality time is much more important than quantity time.  This was one of the reasons my family often played games and assembled puzzles instead of watching movies.  My parents wanted our family to enjoy quality time together, and not just a quantity of time together.  Of course, the lesson is simple: quantity time doesn’t equal quality timeYou must be intentional to enjoy quality time.

However, in our increasingly fast-paced society, we’ve come to believe that quality time doesn’t require quantity time.   For parents, this means that the dad or mom who works 80+ hours a week can still carve out quality time for his or her kids, 20 minutes at a time.  For spouses, this means that simply engaging that one intentional, caring, focused, half-hour-long conversation each week can sustain the relationship in the midst of a crazy, busy schedule.  For teams, this means that quick, stand-up meetings not only substitute for longer ones, but also actually increase the team’s effectiveness because the participants must increase their focus.*

But here’s the rub: quality time doesn’t happen without quantity time – not for families, not for small groups, not for teams, not for anyone.

Quality time requires quantity time.

Study after study has showed – you won’t believe this – that healthy, productive teams spend a good amount of time together.**  They don’t rush through their tasks, and they don’t expect their group to function at an incredible level too soon (by the way, studies of group development indicate most teams take up to 6 months to mature to a productive level).

Instead, great teams take the time to, among other things:

  • negotiate vision, purpose, and goals;
  • establish team member roles;
  • discuss how they will work together;
  • plan out how they will solve problems and make decisions;
  • work through conflicts; and
  • get to know one another and each person’s relevant strengths and talents.

All of those activities characterize quality time for a team, but they don’t come without quantity time.  Just as my best conversations with my daughters don’t happen at predetermined moments, a team’s best discussions only occur in an environment where both quantity and quality time are valued.

Take a moment to reflect.  (Please share your thoughts in the comments if you’d like!)

  1. In what ways are you rushing the collaborative process?
  2. How could more time together (focused on the right things, of course) affect your team in positive ways?
  3. How can you ensure your team has enough time to accomplish its objectives?

 *This kind of thinking has been popularized in recent meeting management literature, such as Al Pittampalli’s The Modern Meeting Standard.

**For a great, research-driven, short, accessible, and practical book that highlights the implications of group development for teams, see Susan Wheelan’s Creating Effective Teams.

Image from: Clock of Grandmaster’s Palace, Valletta, Malta by Eric Bézine.



  1. Stephanie Contreras October 14, 2012 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    I heard you mention this topic in class and I fell in love with it for more than one reason. At first, it was because I was lacking quantity time with the person I was dating, and now because I am trying to work with my dad to grow his construction business and the one thing we lack is quantity time. Of course, as a family, we settle for whatever time and call it quality. He and my mother work a crazy amount of hours, and now that I am older, it seems like it is so normal that I don’t expect the quantity nor quality time. It’s actually very sad.
    However, I spend my time trying to find things that will speak a million words to my dad when I find the time to present them to him. I spend time finding blogs, like this one, that will help my dad see that it’s not just me thinking certain ideas about how to do business. I have a hard time getting through to him because obviously he has more experience than me, but I have so many desires to grow in a way he does not even imagine because all of the studying I have done has opened my eyes to things I am sure he does not even imagine. With his great achievements, he probably thinks that all this internet stuff doesn’t have the potential.
    I guess I have a lot to say. But I appreciate this blog, and I love your passion about it as well.

    • Ryan Hartwig October 15, 2012 at 8:48 am - Reply

      Stephanie –

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Indeed, this issue of time applies to many areas of life. The key with any change effort is to make small, successful changes and use the momentum gained from those to enact even greater change. I’m excited for the possibilities that lay ahead in your family’s business.

      All the best –


  2. Shubham Surana May 9, 2015 at 8:57 am - Reply

    Hope u find my views in full of spirit. I am very much inspired about the quote that the quality which we gave to our time will definitely be coming out like a diamond shining in the groups of coal.
    Where ever we goes it totally describes how much efficient we are in doing the activity.
    Quality time + Discipline + honesty= SSuccess!!

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