Design Your Coaching Life in 2020!

by Stephanie, January 06, 2020

I love fresh starts: the start of a new school year, the start of a new year, the beginning of a new month and the promise of a new day. As I step into 2020, I’ve finally chose my one little word to guide the 365 days ahead: design.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines design as the ability to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan; to conceive and plan out in the mind; to have as a purpose. This year, I am getting much more intentional in how I design my life: my relationships with family and friends, my teaching and coaching, my reading and writing, the ways I connect in learning communities, my health and my personal well-being. And I love how the word design puts me squarely in control over all of it: harnessing ideas and experimentation to arrive at innovative solutions in all aspects of my life. Add a pile of sticky note sand colorful markers to the equation and my heart is happy. 

Most instructional coaches have the honor of working with multiple classrooms, districts and even schools to support instruction and learning. We meet diverse educators, collaborate across multiple grade levels and content areas, plan professional development for a range of teachers and learning goals and create personalized coaching cycles throughout the year. Whew!

Each of those varied roles requires planning, paperwork, materials and more: emails to send, presentations to create, materials to gather, meetings to schedule and more. The success of coaching depends on the success of our organization and management skills, but it can be HARD to juggle so many tasks and tools as we move about our days, let alone adding a busy family life on top of that. The power of design gives us the power to take back control over how and what we fill our days with.
There are three ways that I am designing my work life in 2020: my space, my technology and my day. And I invite you to join me with three small challenges:

Design Our Coaching Space:

It is absolutely essential coaches organize their coaching spaces, even if that space is small or portable. What we choose to surround ourselves with matters and these spaces should be welcoming, refreshing and organized.

You might start with your desk, but if you are a traveling coach, this might be a rolling cart, a canvas bag, or even a utility tote that perfectly houses file folders so you have the materials you need handy.

Spend some time cleaning off the surface of your work spaces. Actually sift through those piles of papers and find a home for them. Work through your desk drawers and discard items that do not serve you anymore. Showcase items that center you and bring happiness: a colorful jar for your pens and pencils, a free corner to house your notebook and book you’re currently reading and a picture frame where you can write an inspiration quote with whiteboard markers and change freely.

And don’t be afraid to indulge yourself either. I used to buy the plain notebooks, the functional supplies and limited ‘frivolous’ purchases, like velvety pens and colorful markers. Fast forward ten years and you will see my buying the largest set of Sharpie markers and the cute stickers to decorate my supplies with. I have learned that color and shapes bring joy to my life, and to others. Give yourself permission to design your surroundings with what makes you happy.

Design Our Digital Drives:

It can be quite easy to get lost in the sheer amount of information and resources we encounter and create for others. All too often, I find myself searching my Internet history to remember that fantastic new website I stumbled across (but did not save) or need to think carefully about what I named a particular file and where I saved it on my hard drive so I can email it to teachers. I imagine many of you can relate. To make sense of our work and to ensure that the many resources we find and create are easily accessible to our teachers (and to ourselves!), we must have a system for organizing and accessing them easily and quickly.

Consider creating Google Drive folders to organize your coaching materials. And design them to work for you. Maybe you create folders for grade levels or teachers. Perhaps you color-code them so they stand out in your long list of files. You can view them as a list or as icons, whichever works for you. Design your Drive so it works for you and not the other way around.

If you already use Google Drive, set a timer for one hour and spend those precious sixty minutes cleaning it up. You might rename all of those ‘untitled’ documents that need attention or sort your files by ‘last modified’ and delete old or obsolete files. You might be surprised how good you feel after that! Then, if you’d like to keep going strong, check out Kasey Bell’s tips for even more Googly organization.

Design Our Day:

This one is an important one. I know we cannot design our entire day exactly as we see fit. But there ARE portions of our day that we CAN control with some small changes and shifts in mindset. That starts with our morning routine.

I love early mornings and use those precious quiet hours to get a head start on my day, but if you’re like me, then you might be doing it all wrong. You see, the purpose of a morning routine is to fuel your mind and spirit to truly embrace the day ahead and live it to the fullest, not check of as many items as you can on your to-do list before your day even begins. So, how could you design your morning to start the day off right based on what matters most to you? Could you start with ten minutes of reading or writing in your notebook? Or is that when you tackle the treadmill? Do you sit with that delicious first cup of coffee and do nothing at all other than set your mindset for the day? Here are three things I do each morning that help me design the kind of day I want to have:
  • Start with gratitude: I list 5 small things I am grateful for from the day before.
  • Read and write: I read or write what matters most to me for at least 30 minutes before I even step into the shower.
  • Set my intention: I think about the kind of day I WANT to have and then choose one action that will ensure I get there.
My calendar also helps me design my day. I try to work a week ahead of myself whenever possible, thinking forward to the coaching cycles, professional development and other coaching activities I need to plan for on the horizon. My Google calendar not only keeps track of these events, but helps me organize them color, sends me useful reminders and even allows me to invite teachers to collaborate. But here’s the trick to using your calendar to design the kind of day you actually want to have: schedule in ‘me’ time. Yes. Schedule the planning, the time to sit and read, the time to write in your notebook, the time to simply breathe for ten minutes in between meetings. That is my challenge for you: find 15 minutes in your daily schedule for you and nothing else. Use that time to give yourself what you need and fuel yourself for the rest of the day. It matters.

So, there you have it. I’ll be tackling my own challenges in the days ahead and hope you will too. Share pictures of your newly-cleaned-up work spaces. Offer a tip to help others organize their digital files and let me know how you are finding time in your day to do what matters most to you.

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