Finishing up the garden work before the snow flies, I’m preparing things so that they are ‘better than ever’ when spring arrives. Then my thoughts turn to teaching and training material, do they need some maintenance too?

Those of  you that know me will know that I don’t like domestic preparation work. I like to paint, I don’t like to ‘prep’. I like to cook, I don’t like to chop. [And the list goes on…]

The exception is pruning.

I love pruning bushes and trees. To me, it is both therapeutic and creative.


One of my specialties is trimming our mulberry bush so it can ‘breathe’. Mulberries have a tendency to grow prolifically and they can start to look like ‘Cousin Itt’.  I start close to the tree trunk and trim branches that did not sprout any leaves. While I may not follow any horticultural pruning guidelines, my design point is to create that airy feel you get when you are standing under an umbrella tree.

This same discipline should be applied to the maintenance of training course material. For each segment, exercise and story ask yourself, “Is it necessary?” and “Is it outdated?” Ultimately the material should pass a values test: “How does the material contribute towards the objectives?” and “Is there a negative impact if you get rid of the material?” By doing this, you may find that that ‘less is more’.

Another technique I use when pruning is to step back and really look at my tree (or bush) from all angles. I check how it looks when I am down the street, across the street and inside my house. I’m then positioned to make a decision on whether or not I’m finished pruning. (Unless of course, my husband has already taken the shears away from me.)

When maintaining your training material, you should consider all angles (i.e. all audiences). Will pruning impact any of your audiences or results? Ask others for their opinion on what needs to stay as your core material and what could/should be cut. And whatever you do: don’t go out on a limb and continue to cut without thinking of the consequences.

While tree pruning tends to be an annual activity, pruning your training material is different: you can even can prune on the go! Gauge the level of expertise from your audience if they don’t need the introductory material either ‘cut it down’ or ‘cut it out’. Think: Custom! Your audience will appreciate this approach as this may free up time to spend on material that is more important to their business.

Oh, and one last thing. Unlike pruning a bush where ONE CUT can be permanent, you can always adjust and add more content or more learning experiences. Home Stagers ‘prune’ and gradually add items back in order to accentuate the positive. You can too!

So add looking at your training material to your fall maintenance list and let me know what you’ve been able to prune…


Flickr Creative Commons Image by Kyle Stern