Coaching Case Study – Work/Life Balance

This letter is just to thank you for your help over the last six months, and to express my appreciation for the guidance and support that you provide.  I haven’t used a coach before, and I was really pretty skeptical of the whole process, but in just a few months I have learned first hand of the benefits that your experience combined with the accountability of a coaching relationship can bring.

I don’t yet feel like I have reached my full potential or maximized my business opportunities, but I do feel that I have identified the issues and created a structure for dealing with them.  This in itself is a tremendous change for me, “ it is the difference between feeling that things will always be the same or feeling that I am in control of improving my own situation.  The successful path that I feel I am currently on is largely due to two things that you helped me with:  (1) learning to plan my work in a structured and repeatable way, and (2) taking all of my commitments seriously.

On both of these points, I have always been aware of my shortcomings, but I have never felt capable of making real improvement.  I have read and attempted all of the time management techniques.  I have attempted large systematic changes and small incremental improvements, but nothing has worked for me.  When I called you, it was really something like an act of desperation.

What I have learned working with you is that the tricks and techniques can be useful, “ but only if the system (whatever it may be) is used consistently, every day, all the time.  I have resisted this kind of work in the past, preferring to think of myself as more spontaneous and impulsive.  But by focusing on the steady implementation of a practice, a routine, I have been able for the first time to operate with a detailed view of all the demands on my time.  I am beginning to better understand that the structure I impose on my work allows me to make better choices about how to use my time.  This knowledge has changed the way I approach my work day, and has allowed me to consider more thoughtfully the work that I am doing and the relationships that I have with clients and co-workers.

The second point, about taking my commitments seriously, was really a revelation to me.  If you had asked me last year whether I was committed to the promises I made, I would not have hesitated to answer yes.  But, as you will recall, I discovered that I was actually quite willing to fail in living up to my promises when it came to work obligations.  In fact, when you asked me to commit in a serious way to keeping a few simple rules, my first reaction was to refuse.  I was not confident that I would succeed, and therefore was unwilling to make the commitment.  I did not know that about myself.

Once I did make the commitment, I found I was able to keep my promises.  In fact, after a few weeks I was feeling a strong inclination to increase the performance goals and also increase the penalty for failure, “ I became interested in seeing just how far I might be able to push myself, once this new level of commitment was actually real.  This, more than anything else, explains why I had always failed to achieve my productivity goals. I could undertake a personal commitment to get organized or try harder, but as long as my personal expectation was that I was not going to succeed, I had no chance.  Once I had made a firm commitment with known consequences for failure, doing the work was not difficult.

For me, the benefit of all of this is not just higher billings or more satisfying work, although those are tremendous benefits that I am happy for.  The biggest benefit is that I am beginning to feel more present in the time that I have away from work.  For example, in October I had my highest billing month of the year, meeting all of my client and personal goals.  Yet even during this busy season, I took time every day to do the planning and evaluation routine that I had established.  I don’t believe I could have done the same volume of work without the planning and strategy time. And during this busy time, I was able to take two vacation days, attend several school-related events for my kids, and begin taking tennis lessons each week.  Best of all, the time that I took off from work was time that I could truly focus on what I was doing.  In the past, I might have been at my son’s sporting event but thinking about a neglected work project.  Now, I am totally present at the event, not worried about work, because I know exactly what has been done and when the next project is scheduled.  My whole family notices the difference.

In the past, I felt guilty about work when I was at home, and guilty about home when I was at work.  I have the ability now to stay focused on the right things in context, and to be fully focused in the present moment on the things that matter most now.

I’m looking forward to continuing this process, and to continuing improvements in my work routine.  I think I’ve still got a lot that I can improve on.  But I am excited, too, because I feel that I now understand that the work really pays off over time.

Thanks, Debra.