As a dance coach who is in-season 12 months a year, there is always a sense of urgency. There is always a game to plan for, a fundraiser that’s necessary, competition routines to perfect, and the never-ending list of administrative behind-the-scenes things we have to get done as a coach. That to-do list can be overwhelming and stressful for sure, but it doesn’t have to be. If you follow a simple planning system, you can keep track of your tasks and always prioritize what really matters. Because when everything is urgent, nothing is urgent.
This is my 4 step process to practice planning:
Step 1: Planning for the Big Picture
At the very beginning of the season, write down all the significant events coming up that will require your attention all year long. Get exact days for events if you have them, or guestimate based on the past year if you can. Then spend some time considering your big goals for the season, both personally as a coach and what you would like your team to accomplish.
This type of aerial overview approach will save you a lot of time and stress later-on during the year when you are in the weeds. It will ensure a fundraiser doesn’t sneak up on you, or the date to register for a competition passes and you have late fees.
1 hour of planning will save you 10 hours of doing. – Dale Carnegie
Step 2: Break your year into planning seasons:
At the beginning of the year, determine how many sections of the year you go through on your team. They may follow the weather seasons and sport seasons, or maybe not. The idea is to determine when your schedule will go through a big shift. When will practices increase because it’s “nationals season,” when is basketball season (not just performances but when does the prep for that season start?) etc. Once you have your year divided into the appropriate number of seasons, markdown “big picture” planning dates for each season.
During that big picture date, write down all the significant events coming up that will require your attention for the next few months. Pay special attention to events that might be 6 months away from another season but may still require some work sooner rather than later. This is when you get specific for each season. Take fall planning for example. Write down all the games and potential games if you might perform for playoffs. Write down any fundraisers or community events you usually participate in. Some of this will already be done from your big picture planning. Now is the time to get specific dates in the calendar for everything you might have had to estimate before.
Then consider some seasonal goals and start to break down your practice schedule. What week do you want competition choreography ready? When do you need to have costumes ordered? When is the registration deadline for events? Write down milestones for training and practice goals as well as administrative duties.
Step 3: Set up weekly top priorities
Now that you have your season’s big picture ready, tackle your practice plan week by week. I personally do this on Sunday night because I’m not a morning person, but maybe Monday morning is better for you or Friday before you take off for the weekend. It doesn’t matter when you have your weekly planning day, just that you schedule it and make it happen consistently.
Every week look at the season’s big picture and decide what your top priorities are for the week. Choose 3-5 things that MUST get done that week in order to move forward towards your goals and stay on track. Then you can use those priorities to make daily practice planning effective for you and your team.
Ready for no more wasted practices? You can take this whole system to another level and get all the way down to individual practice planning with the new workbook:
Step 4: Allow for change
As much as I love planning because it brings me peace and a regular sense of accomplishment that really helps my motivation, it’s equally important to remember to go with the flow. That’s why I do weekly assessments. Maybe your big picture plan gets thrown off because you were invited to a community charity event you weren’t counting on but believe it’s important for your team to attend. This system allows you to adapt. Step back and see the big goals, reprioritize for the week, then adjust next week as needed to catch up.
As long as you approach the planning process knowing that plans are fluid, this system will save you so much time, energy, and stress all season long.