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Louise Doyle - Design Narrative for Time & Priorities Workshop

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Louise Doyle
27 March 2016

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I have a long-standing relationship with this particular university as an external trainer/ facilitator for a range of staff development activities. This includes designing, developing and delivering workshops, predominantly but not exclusively for non-academic staff.


A large UK-based university delivers an open programme of one day training workshops accessible by all staff on an annual base. The programme is based on identified training needs fed in to a central training unit by departmental and faculty managers. This is an output from the internal staff appraisal process. The requirement for training in techniques to develop individual skills in managing 'time and priorities' is regularly prioritised as a training need. Whilst delegates come from a wide range of different roles, they can be broadly split into a) research support staff and b) academic programme support staff. Over 70% are educated to degree level.


The task was the design of a one day workshop to be delivered three times per year to staff. The desired outcome is those delegates attending the workshop are better equipped to manage their own workload when back in the work place. 

The workshop had been delivered in the past. The evaluations were not particularly positive with comments focusing on the content being 'dry' and with few new ideas. Success is measured using evaluation sheets completed online by all delegates asking for comments on the content, design, facilitator and the impact back in the workplace.


  • Completed a short design brief outlining objectives and outcomes for the workshop for discussion and sign-off by University staff
  • Researched subject matter with a view to bringing new ideas. This was initially problematic for me. I found the information available to be dull and uninspiring. 
  • Revised design brief to focus on a) managing attention (rather than time) and b) continuous improvement techniques (basics of lean) to help the delegates think more broadly about value-add and non-value add activities
  • Decision to design at least half the workshop activities for personal reflective time, exploring existing habits and blockages. Decision made to build the workshop from development of a personal rich picture exploring the perceived problems associated with managing attention. Outcomes kept at a very high level to allow delegates to define their own personal outcomes as a result of rich picture development
  • Further research conducted; particularly around technology solutions to support time management. Drew on my own experience in group coaching, action learning sets and lean improvement.
  • Developed skeleton content to meet the objectives 
  • Identified possible activities to best facilitate the content delivery including online videos and podcasts
  • Developed detailed session plan, designing each activity in more detail, structure of each activity, resources needed and timing. Based on the session plan, agreed with the university to reduce the session to be a 3/4 day workshop (in the spirit of using time effectively and efficiently).
  • Developed supporting resources e.g. PowerPoint, written hand-outs including activity briefs. Initially unhappy with reliance on PowerPoint which did not fit with reflective approach to workshop. Reviewed and revised to reduce bullet point content.
  • Revised design of the day - in particular the ordering of activities to give better flow to the workshop and recognise likely peaks/ troughs in attention (pre/ post lunch!)
  • Pilot delivery of workshop complete with 16 staff with immediate feedback provided by the group
  • Revision made to rich picture activity to provide clearer guidance on how to use the technique and change approach to feeding back individual rich pictures (completed in pairs rather than as a group). Introduction of silent coaching session as final activity to ensure key actions captured in a clear 'next step' approach'


The pilot workshop feedback was extremely positive with agreements to adjust some activities in terms of both timings and a clearer briefing at the outset as delegates needed clarity on what was being asked of them and the purpose of it. The design emphasis of the workshop being predominantly one of reflection on own performance and what is within an individual's control was picked up on by all delegates. The inclusion of the silent coaching to conclude the day took this a stage further in confirming action. The group were split 50/50 about whether or not the workshop should be extended to a full day. For the moment I have made the decision to keep it at 2/3 of a day and reduced the time allowed for 2 exercises to allow for the additional final activity.


After my initial frustration with the subject matter, I was enthused once I could see beyond the standard 'how to write a better to- do list/ how to prioritise' type content. Designing and delivering the workshop is a good personal example for me of the best way to learn something, is to train it. I have improved my own approach to managing my attention at certain points in the day as a result. I would like to develop the content further to include more input on how technology can support people to manage their priorities. At the moment the workshop does draw on tools other people use (and has to be done so within the confines of what the university will allow people to use)  but I do feel it is a weak area in the workshop. 


Louise Doyle
20:14 on 27 March 2016 (Edited 20:09 on 29 March 2016)

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