As the summer “pause” button approaches “play” again, my thoughts begin to turn towards getting organized for another season’s goals, plans, challenges, and triumphs. So where to start? How do you know how to move forward? A great place to start is always with a reflection on the results of last season’s work, and a review of the data and evidence that points to what is working – and what’s not. I’ve got 5 steps for getting myself ready for the starting line. I thought I’d share them with you, and I hope it gives you some ideas that help you get to your starting line this season, too.
Step 1: Where did I leave off?
I start by looking at the goals and targets I set for myself last season.
Did I meet them?
If not, were they realistic to begin with? Too big or off target?
What worked that I need to keep doing this season?
What didn’t work that I need to rethink?
As I reflect back on last season, I see I met all my goals but two. One I need to continue focusing on is finding ways to better utilize and integrate technology into my work and the work of my teachers. I see I set the goal, but I didn’t quantify it nor did I put it in my schedule / work plan so I’d make time to actually do it consistently. There’s a piece to add to this season’s goals and targets. The other goal that didn’t quite get met was improving communication with my teachers when I wasn’t physically with them. Although I tried several things, nothing got me where I wanted to be. The things I tried were too static and not interactive enough. There’s another piece to add. Overall, I ended the season on an upward trend. Now the challenge will be to sustain and improve on it this season. There’s another one to add.
Step 2: Where do I want to go?
This is where I dream and aspire – and scare myself a little with those visions. On a personal level, I try to set one goal for myself that takes me out of my comfort zone and will undoubtedly be personally challenging to achieve. A few years ago, it was earning my doctorate. This year it’s getting this blog going. As I looked at last season’s goals, this goal was still sitting there, patiently waiting for me to put my courage to the sticking place and jump in. So I decided to do just that. Already I’m seeing how this new adventure is taking me to new places – personally AND professionally – and giving me fresh ideas to bring to my coaching. I’m still not in my comfort zone, but I’m loving learning new things, so that balances it out a little.
Other professional goals include wanting to digitize my coaching binder / log to make my work more efficient and hopefully more effective as well. I also want to sustain and improve my default schedule, for those times when I suddenly find myself with an unexpected hour-long hole in my day.
So what might you take on this year? Is there something you’ve wanted to try for a while but felt hesitant about starting? Maybe this is the year to plunge in!
Step 3: Let’s write a plan!
I usually post my goals and targets somewhere in my work space so I see them everyday and then long-term plan things like Professional Development (PD), Professional Learning Community (PLC) topics to explore, synchronizing dates and hard deadlines in my calendar, and setting goals and targets with my teachers. But somehow there were still professional activities important to me that still either weren’t getting addressed consistently or as effectively as I’d like.
As a running coach, I always start the new season with a plan. I take into account the goals we’re trying to achieve by the end of the season, strengths the runners have I want to sustain and weaknesses we need to address through training and conditioning. Balancing all that over a specific period of time is what makes up the plan. I make similar plans for my own training and use it as a benchmark to assess how my training is progressing – or not – as I implement it. It’s a great tool. And then LIGHTBULB! Why not adapt what I do for running to my work as an instructional coach? (Ok – apparently CPT Obvious hadn’t visited me before now.)
As I start developing this new kind of plan, I need to consider making time for planning quality, relevant PD each week, engaging in professional reading to stay current, learning new technology and trying it out, scheduling communicating with teachers when I’m not with them, and setting time aside to review the week’s work in order to set targets for the following week and build that into my schedule and coaching plans. Merging that with my usual duties, weekly tasks, and the long term objectives set by my district is where my thinking is currently in progress.
What system do you use to plan out your work? How might you develop your own plan to intentionally capture all those important things that sometimes fall through the cracks?
Step 4: Get organized.
I admit – I’m a school supply nerd. I LOVE back to school time! Brand new Crayola markers, colored pencils and crayons, fresh notebooks, sticky notes, tabs, folders, writing pens – oh, I’m in heaven. But all that can become a finger-wagging school teacher to you as you see it still sitting there on your desk collecting dust a month later. Whatever organizational system you choose to use, my advice is to keep it simple – easy to setup and easy to maintain.
Generally I color-code my schedule and files for quick identification and filing, whether it’s digitally or old school traditional. Things I need all the time I keep nearby and easily accessible. Work in progress goes into a prioritized pipeline on the long counter next to my desk using a 4 Quadrant priority system inspired by Dr. Stephen Covey (author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People). From there, those tasks and projects translate onto the whiteboard on the wall so I can see at a glance what’s critical, what’s looming, and how to manage my time and tasks. This then drifts into my weekly and daily schedule so I stay in control of all the shiny objects I juggle.
Do you have an organizational system? If so, is it still working for you?
Put the plan and tools in place, gear up, and start implementing your plan.
Hope this gets your head in the zone!