Back to school season seems to be ingrained in many of us, whether we’re in school, long out of school, or have kids in school. There’s something about September that feels like a fresh start, a chance (yet again) to pull ourselves together and get organized.

Time and task management are issues for most of us, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. When I started coaching, I have to say I didn’t expect this to be such a common topic, but it crops up in all kinds of situations; work, motivation, balancing family and work, managing staff, procrastination, self-worth, self-judgement… So, what’s a coaching approach to “how do I get organized?”

First of all, think about why this topic is important to you. What are things like for you now? What does it feel like? What would it feel like to have your time and task management really under control? What’s the value of that to you?

Then, define exactly what you want at the end of the process. Is it a new system for staying organized? Is it a way of managing a schedule that involves more than just you? Is it a decision about what to keep and what needs to go to make your overall task load manageable, between work and family? Is it a catalogue of tasks that need to be done so that the list can be shared more equally between various people? These are just ideas, you’ll need to spend some time (say 10 minutes or so, don’t dwell for weeks) really finding clarity on exactly WHAT the final outcome is that you want, and that you’ll be excited about committing to. This step is crucial, because you have to know what you’re aiming at in order to know when you’ve reached it.

Once you know what you’re aiming for, it’s time to do some research. Most of us haven’t thought much about what works for us in this realm since school, so have a dig through the internet for some ideas! Decide how long you’re going to spend researching, and stick to it (it’s amazing what you can achieve in an hour). If you’re looking for a “system” there are software tools, good old fashioned notebooks, whiteboards, blackboards, sticky notes, all kinds of stuff. Pick something that makes you feel excited about using it! Think about whether it is something that is simple enough that you’ll keep using it, it shouldn’t create more work for you.

If you need to prioritize between seemingly impossible-to-prioritize items, who can you reach out to for support? If the things on the list involve other people, how could you approach that? Some surprising realizations can happen when you start to really examine why each thing on the list is important. Maybe it turns out you actually really enjoy the busy-ness! Maybe you don’t, but for whatever reason the motivation for doing all that you do is so dear to you that things can’t shift for now. What needs to happen before they can change? What can you do to stay healthy, mentally and physically, in the meantime? What plans can you make for the future? Who is your support network, including friends, family, and/or colleagues?

Once you’ve reached your final outcome, notice if there’s been anything that “shifted” for you. How do you feel compared to when you started the process? Have you reached an outcome that you’re committed to? What is the first step you’re going to do to get started? What’s your timeline? How and when are you going to decide if this outcome is working for you, and what will you do if it’s not?

My favourite part of coaching is always the last question: “What are you going to do to celebrate?”

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