The spring cleaning workshop

For an NGO, that I support with volunteer work and consulting, I have prepared a workshop. This workshop aims to help their staff to re-focus on the most important activities.


I meet the staff from that NGO around four times a year. Usually, we try to generate new ideas. We create new solutions to push their communication needs forward. But, the last time we meet we saw that there hadn’t time to put in place the ideas from the previous meeting. The staff told me that there were so many things that they have to do that they do not have time to innovate. This situation is one which we all live from time to time in our work. This meeting inspired me an article. In this one, I explained that it would be great to do some spring cleaning sessions from time to time. In those sessions, the staff would look at each activity. Then they would decide if they can delegate, delete or diminish them. To go even further with this idea, I have prepared for our next meeting a workshop. You can read the details of each step hereunder.


post-its and pens

For this workshop, you don’t need much material. Just a lot of post-its and some pens to write. 
To start quickly the session you can prepare the following post-its categories to display on a wall:

  1. To delete
  2. To delegate
  3. To diminish 
  4. Remaining

Step 1

List the activities and people

The moderator asks each participant what activities he works on. For each activity use a new post-it note. Write on it the name of the action and the initials of the team members who work on it. Here go quickly, there shouldn’t be any discussion.

Step 2

Sort the activities

Once each activity has a post-it, you will start to review them. Go through each activity and ask in which category it belongs. Should we stop doing that? Can it you delegate it to someone else? Can we diminish the work needed for the activity? These are the main three questions. Here be a bit pushy, and provoke people by proposing in which category an action could go. If the staff says that the activity doesn’t belong to any of the three first categories, then put in the last one.

Step 3

Sort the extra activities per investment

When you went through all activities congrats the team first. Then go through each activity remaining in the last category. Display the post-its on a horizontal line. A line which goes from «low investment» to «high investment». The notion of investment is here a large one. It includes the time spent on the activity, the costs or even how much it’s bothering people to do it.

Step 4

Sort the extra activities per results

You have all additional activities on a simple line. Now you can move the post-it notes up or down following the level of «results» the activity produces. If the activity in question brings a lot of outcomes, move the post-it to the top of the wall. If the activity doesn’t produce many results then keep the post-it in the lower part of the wall. Here the notion of results has to be hard. Always ask: how does this activity help us achieve our vision?

Step 5

Sort again the remaining activities.

Now you have a wall full of post-its with two axes. You have an investment and results axis. You can divide the wall into four squares. 

The square on the bottom left includes activities with less investment and few results. You can move these post-its to the category «To delete». If they are too emotional, you can move it in the category «to delegate». 
You should delegate the activities which are in the square on the bottom right part. You need a lot of investment for not so much results. So move these post-its to the category to «delete». 
The activities in the square on the top left part are quick wins. They need less effort for many results. You can keep working on them. 
The activities in the square on the top right part are strategic elements, but they eat too much of your time. You should delegate these activities. So move the post-its from this square to the category «to delegate» or «to diminish».

Step 5

Create a deadline with responsibilities

Now all your activities you have some order in your activities. But still there isn’t anything actionable yet. You have to decide for each of the three first categories when you are going to take action. Sort the post-its following a timeline. Once this is done for each category and post-it, you can write down who handles that work. For each post-it write down one, and only one, name.

Step 6

Write down your tasks

The last step is a personal one. Each staff member should write down his actions in his own task system or calendar. Everyone has another way to handle tasks. So let everyone do it with their habits and style. You don’t need to create a report for the whole team; it’s time lost. Give 20 minutes to write down the personal tasks and your workshop is super actionable.

Pro tip

Use a timer

A timer app one your phone or computer can also be a helpful tool to push the workshop further. You can learn more about the power of a timer in the following article: A timer for better ideas.