One of the most common questions I get as a coaching psychologist is: what should I do between my coaching sessions?
It’s pretty clear that during the coaching session it’s all about the discussion – listening, being open and honest, being present and maintaining your focus.
But what about when you’re not with your coach? What about the time in between your coaching sessions?
It’s really important to consider what you’re actually going to do between meetings with your coach. Because it’s the action you take – the things you do – between the sessions that’s going to make all the difference.
The big picture
When it comes to my coaching clients, I suggest four things to put into practice in between your coaching sessions. This will help you get the most from your coaching experience and ensure that you move towards what is really important to you.
I advise my coaching clients to consider their coaching as a programme of activity, not simply a series of disconnected meetings. This is in all probability, a six month program of change and growth – not just six hours of conversation with your coach.
Therefore, it’s important to maintain your focus on coaching in between sessions, just like you would with a project at work. And just like any project, you’re going to need to invest some time, attention and energy into moving it forward.
Basically: change doesn’t happen spontaneously.
Block out time in your schedule to work on your development priorities. Firstly, consider how you can carve out time both immediately before and after each session to consolidate your notes, get into the right headspace and plan your next steps.
Then, look for slices of time in your schedule where you can put into practice what you’ve been discussing with your coach. Marking out time for this in your calendar can serve as a powerful visual reminder of this commitment to yourself. And remember: when it comes to your calendar, the map is not the territory.
Once you’ve reviewed your notes, contact your coach with any follow-up questions. It’s really important that you don’t leave this until just before the next session. Your Coach will be available to answer any questions you have. You might want clarification on a concept you discussed, or simply a question about coaching logistics.
This is all in support of your growth and development and the important activity you’re going to take in between sessions. Don’t delay – get in touch with your coach right away.
The activity you undertake between sessions is a crucial element of coaching. It’s basically impossible to list all the kinds of action you might take as part of a coaching programme. But reflecting on the kind of work I do with my clients, this could include:
- Reading an article on a relevant topic, so you can learn more about it
- Practising some new thinking skills, like getting distance from uncomfortable thoughts
- Cultivating some new habits, like building in time for mindful focus sessions
- Having important conversations with key stakeholders in your life
- Practising some new productivity methods, like prioritisation of your tasks
- Maintaining a log of thoughts and emotions, to build your self-awareness.
Two key things to bear in mind with the action you take.
Firstly, maintain an experimental mindset. This simply means you approach these new ways of doing things like experiments. You’re interested to see what will happen, rather than certain of the (positive) results. This takes the pressure off and can address any lingering fear of failure.
Secondly, the timing of your experiments. A mantra my clients will hear quite a bit is ‘little and often’. Spread this activity across the time between sessions and avoid leaving it all to the last minute. This supports authentic and regular reflection. Remember who you’re doing this for: you. It’s not to keep your coach happy. Your coach is the last person you should be trying to impress.
Review any notes you take as soon as possible after the session. Clarify the actions you’ve committed to and add them to your task manager or to-do list. Highlight your key takeaways from the discussion you had with your coach. What have you learnt about yourself? What have you learnt about the change process? What new concepts did you discuss with your coach?
This reflection isn’t a one-time thing. Revisit your notes about your coaching journey and reflect on the differences you’re noticing in yourself and the impact of your action on those around you. How does it feel to be putting this stuff into action? What do you notice about your thoughts and emotions? How is it to navigate ambiguity or uncertainty, or to overcome the discomfort of trying new things.
I strongly advise my coachees to start and maintain a coaching journal: a single place where they can record their reflections and experiments.
So, four things you can do between your coaching sessions, to ensure you make maximum progress on the development journey that matters to you.
And of course you can get in touch directly to ask any coaching related questions or just pop a comment into the space below.