Back-to-School: Help Clients Refocus With These 3 Favourite Tools | By Jenn Danielson

Whether you've got kids going back to school or not, September can bring a whole new level of chaos. Everyone is suddenly back from vacation and invigorated into action. All the projects that slowed over summer have a new urgency and everything is full speed ahead at 300%. Your clients have new schedules, new places, new projects, new routines - each taking a new slice of focus.

It can feel unmanageable and stressful, to say the least. And the effects hit not only your client, but also those around them.

It's time to create a support system to make conscious, informed and mindful choices that work best for their individual situations. However, it's often when people need coaching the most that it's the most difficult for people to carve out time and energy. This is the moment to help your clients take control of their overwhelm and build focus and clarity as they begin to wrap up their year.

Here are three of my clients' favourite tools and exercises to reconnect with what's important to them.

TOOL 1: Life-Scape

Note: Set some time aside for this one - it may take longer than your usual coaching session.

We're all accomplishing a lot, and it's important to know exactly what we're already doing before we can make any adjustments. And remember that accomplishments vary. Some days that means managing work, family, house and self. Other days, that means simply getting out of bed!

A Life-Scape is an individualised documentation of your client's current life that helps them clearly identify where they are spending their time and energy.

A Mindmap Sample

There are a number of ways you could do with this your clients - for example a mindmap, a whiteboarding session, a fully fleshed out Wheel of Life or even just a set of lists for each area of life. The goal is to help your client create the most meaningful documentation for themselves.

STEP 1: Let your client know they'll be documenting their Life-Scape as they go - and help them decide how they'll do this. They can make a bulleted list with headings as shown in Step 2 below, use a Wheel of Life and write on the segments or create a Mindmap (see the example at right). Mindmaps can also be simply drawn by hand on a piece of paper.

STEP 2: It's time for your client to put it all out there: what do they do in a given day, week or month? Ask your client to start with one area of their life such as "work" or "self care" or "family", and begin to describe what that entails. For example, if your client starts with "family", define the pieces of what family means to them. For "family" your client might include:

  • Meal preparation
    • Big weekly preparation
    • Weekly trips to the farmer's market for special diet needs
  • Laundry, two times per week
  • Taking mom to the doctor once a month - which includes:
    • Talking with mom in advance
    • Online research
    • Follow up with the pharmacist

Important Note: This is not the time to generate a laundry list of all the things they want to do or haven't gotten around to yet. Keep your client focused on their present situation.

STEP 3: Let your client describe all the facets of their life, and don't let any tasks or areas slide. Keep the focus, keep it straight forward and listen carefully to your client, as you support your client to create a document of the life and work they already have and are accomplishing now.

The categories around the Wheel of Life can be great to provide some structure for this exercise.

 Typical Wheel of Life Categories (and alternatives/options) include:

  • Family and Friends. Check whether your client would like to split "Family and Friends" into separate categories.
  • Significant Other: Would your client like to change the category name to "Dating", "Relationship" or "Life Partner"?
  • Career: Your client might prefer the category name of "Motherhood", "Work", "Business" or "Volunteering".
  • Finances: You could change the category name to "Money", "Financial Security" or "Financial Wellbeing".
  • Health: The category name could be split into "Emotional Health", "Physical Health", "Spiritual Health" or changed to "Fitness" or "Wellbeing".
  • Home Environment: This category could split or change to "Work Environment" for career or business clients.
  • Fun & Leisure: The category name could change to "Recreation" for example.
  • Personal Growth: The category name could change to "Learning", "Self-Development" or "Spiritual".

Remember that there are many things that clients often don't think about, like cleaning or commutes. These are a huge part of everyday life.
TIP: Consistently bring out the one big question: "And what else?"

STEP 4: When fleshed out, a client's Life-Scape can create big moments: eye-opening realisations, a relief, a sense of accomplishment or a huge epiphany. Let it settle. Make it something that can be used as a frame of reference for review and future work.

NEXT STEPS: You could coach them around their results and ask some questions like:

  • What surprises you as you look at your life-scape?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What would you most like to change?

Or you could shift into TOOL 2 or 3 below for immediate impact.

Resources to use:

  • EXERCISE: The Wheel of Life (The Coaching Tools Company)
  • Online Mind-Mapping and Whiteboarding systems
  • For office workers, desktop presentation software like PowerPoint can be great for making lists and sub-lists under different headings.

TOOL 2: The Urgent/Important Matrix

Urgent Important Matrix - Image of Grid

The Urgent Important Matrix

This classic quadrant grid is one of my go-to tools. It helps clients identify and prioritise their self-imposed requirements and perceived external obligations.

STEP 1: Take a moment to define urgent and important with your client. Discuss examples of the most and least urgent and important things they can think of. This helps give context for the rest of the discussion.

STEP 2: Bring items from the Life-Scape exercise - or another list of tasks or projects - and begin to place them on the Urgent-Important Matrix Grid to assess relative urgency and importance.

TIP: Keep your client focused on urgency and importance; it can be easy for parameters like time, scope or volume of work to creep into this discussion. In those instances, it may be helpful to ask your client if breaking down projects into smaller bites would help them better assess the urgency and importance of each task.

STEP 3: With each placement on the grid, support your client to identify their reasons for that placement. Questions to ask could include:

  • What values does this level of urgency or importance speak to?
  • How does your classification of this item's urgence or importance affect other areas of your life?

Your client may place everything in their life in the Urgent AND Important Quadrant, and that may feel very true for them. Support them to tease out the relative urgency and importance of the different items to prioritise their efforts, and make better use of the time they have available.

STEP 4: Once the client's tasks have been placed in their appropriate quadrants, it's time to identify next steps and actions. For some clients these are easily identified and, for others, it can a great segue to the Scheduler (see TOOL 3 below).

TIP: Let your client know that their items may shift priority as new items are added or as time passes. Encourage your client to keep this as a living document to update and edit.

Resources to use:

TOOL 3: Scheduler

Visual of a Colour Blocked Calendar

For me, the busier I am, the more calendars and lists I seem to have on the go. Help your client create their best balance of both detailed and big picture scheduling.

One of my clients' favourites is a flexible colour-coded "chunker" calendar that marks out time for specific people or projects. This can easily be created on paper or in their favourite calendar tool.

Your client's act of marking time off in a calendar gives an item importance and clearly identifies how that item can fit into their day or week. It is also a great way of removing pressure to do lower priority (less urgent or important) things.

Clients can bring in additional details like tasks into each individual "chunk" that they mark, letting them quickly visually see the big picture in colour, and the details inside each segment.

This can be a fabulous, flexible way for clients to arrange and re-arrange their days and weeks and reinforces their choices and values through their selections.

Resources to use:

  • Calendar and task apps like Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, Cozi or Wunderlist
  • Journaling, Document and Task apps like Evernote, OneNote
  • Physical Calendars and coloured markers
  • Scheduling and Journaling techniques such as Bullet Journaling

Wrap up

Depending on your client, they will have preferences for big picture or detail thinking. Offer options to help your client view the broader connections across the areas of their lives - and also set frameworks to prioritise and manage their time so that it supports them to manage all aspects of life, family, work and self to their fullest potential.

No one can do it all, and do it all well. However, we can identify and choose to do all the things that are best for us and our lives. This takes awareness, prioritising and thoughtful choices about time. As coaches, we get to ask the key questions and bring clarifying resources to help our clients reclaim their best lives.

Connect the dots in your life even more, and join the Connect Your Dots group on Facebook for discussion, videos, meditations and community.

If you liked this article on managing your time and life-scape by Jenn, you may also like:

Jenn Danielson Headshot

Contributing Author:

Jenn Danielson brings science and spreadsheets together with incense and energy to help people create balanced growth. With a background in science, standards and project management along with solution-focused coaching, Reiki and mindful practices, she supports people creating their next best steps, through anxious moments and conversations, and within the bigger picture of their lives. Connect the dots and walk the balance of career, health, self, family & transition. Visit Jenn's website to learn more and connect on social media

Learn more about Jenn & see all their articles here >>

Image of Client with Extremely Busy Mind - Overwhelmed by Milles Studio via Shutterstock


  1. Victoria

    Do you sell the User Guide and Program Tool Inventory Guide for “Renew You, Love Your Life! Program? I have purchased all your other packages so I probably already have all the worksheets. I just didn’t want to have to buy the whole kit just for those 2 items. I will purchase the 2 items if you will sell them separately.

    Thank you for your time!
    ~Victoria Spencer~

    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Victoria,
      Great to hear from you! And glad you already have most of our tools! So, to answer your questions, those 3 worksheets are only available in Renew You. And the User Guide / Plans etc is where most of the value is in this product. There are also some marketing materials too.
      Now, because of tool overlap, if people have purchased the Megapack, we offer Renew You as an add-on for $99 (a 50% saving)
      Would this work for you? Let me know. I also emailed you a reply.
      Warmly, Emma-Louise


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