How often do you forget the milk at the grocery store or the passwords for your streaming accounts? If the little things slip your mind, it’s probably because you have too much to remember.
While forgetting a grocery item or a password merits an “oops,” omitting important information at work is a more significant oversight. If you’re a coach, failing to remember an important detail about a client or confusing one person’s journey with another’s could result in mistrust and a lack of confidence in your client-coach relationship.
And while coaches may be super motivators, they’re still human. Just like it’s tough to hold a jumble of passwords in your brain, it’s impossible to remember every little detail a client tells you — especially if you work with multiple people.
A simple solution to this problem is to take notes. Not only will these notes refresh your memory on the particulars of each client’s journey, but taking them during sessions will show clients you’re actively and intently listening.
Below, we’ll show you how to make your own coaching notes template so you can head into your next sessions ready to capture a detailed summary of your conversations with clients.
Why should you take notes?
Effective note-taking helps coaches keep tabs on essential details from a session and show clients they’re engaged. Beyond these benefits, there are a few more practical reasons to consider taking notes as a coach:
- Helping you assign tasks: Having all the important information written down better equips you to brainstorm solutions and identify skill gaps in your client. After a session, you can synthesize your notes to help you pinpoint action items to give your client for the period between the next coaching sessions.
- Helping you focus: While you want to make eye contact with your client and not bury your head in your notepad, taking a reasonable number of notes will keep your mind focused on the conversation at hand.
- Helping you prepare: As you review your notes from a previous session, you’ll remember what coaching worksheets and materials you have to bring next time. You’ll spend less time catching up and be able to pick up right where you left off.
How to take excellent notes during your sessions
You can strike the perfect balance of active listening, eye contact, responding, and note-taking. It’s a lot to juggle, but learning some note-taking best practices will help.
- Only write down crucial details: Synthesize what your coaching client is saying before taking notes, and focus on the most critical information. Think of it as shorthand. For example, if your client talks about a lack of job satisfaction, try to extract key points, such as what, exactly, gets them down. Record any key details to reference later, like the name of their company or manager.
- Prepare ahead of time: Write down the questions you’ll address in a session so you have a designated area for writing the answers. As your sessions progress, use the notes from previous ones to generate coaching questions for the following sessions.
- Use a consistent format: We’ll explain precisely what should go into a coaching notes template below, but however you format it, keep it consistent. You’ll be able to take and read notes more easily and extract information faster if you always use the same template.
- Write legibly: If you can’t make out your handwriting, consider using a computer or tablet to type quick notes. Just be sure not to stare at the screen instead of interacting with your client.
- Remember that notes come second: Don’t prioritize note-taking over running a meaningful session. Only take notes while the client is speaking, and be sure you’re spending more time making eye contact and showing you’re listening than writing — if you can, write or type while glancing up at your client. While you’re talking, keep your hands still to focus on what you’re saying. Your client should never feel as if the notebook is receiving more care and attention than they are.
Essential elements for your coaching notes template
Ready to start planning for a productive conversation in your next group or one-on-one session? Here are a few basic elements you should include in your coaching notes templates. The following is a guide — make templates your own and specialize them for your niche.
Every note template should have:
- Client identifier (name)
- Date of the session
- Type of session (regular, introductory, final, etc.)
- Updates and check-ins on progress
- The primary focus of the session
- Discoveries the client has during the session
- Discoveries you make about your client
- Any notes to self you’d like to review later
- Commitments the client makes for the week ahead
You’ll also want to shift the template based on where you are with a client in their coaching journey. For example, your first session template should look different from a final session's. In your intake session, you’ll discover a client’s goals, strengths, and areas of opportunity. You may want to dedicate more time for reflection and feedback in the last session or during designated sessions along the way.
For these reasons, we recommend drafting three basic note-taking templates: one for intake, one for typical sessions, and one for final sessions. Tailor each template to the unique needs of the different moments in a coach-client relationship, creating space for what’s most important.
How to use your notes
Once you have notes, how do you use them? We’ve mentioned that you can synthesize them and use them to complement the next session, but how should you do this, and what exactly should you focus on? Here are some tips:
- Use notes from previous sessions to customize the template. Reread the notes when your memory is fresh right after a session, and write down some ideas for the next template. Be sure to fill in any gaps in your notes that may not make sense later on.
- Look for patterns throughout a coaching program with a particular client to shift your action plan as needed. Do they consistently struggle with self-motivation? Are they most receptive to having their ideas challenged? If you offer niche services, you can also use your notes from clients with similar goals (such as improving their nutrition or saving more money every month) to create coaching programs. You can keep these programs on hand and tailor them to clients as needed.
- Reflect on past sessions to track client progress. Remind them where they started and how far they’ve come — it’s wonderful for morale. You can also use your notes to pinpoint areas where they’ve consistently struggled and brainstorm new ways to tackle the challenge.
Keep your client’s personal data safe and organized
Now that you have a wealth of session notes, you need a place to store them. Don’t worry: we can help.
Practice’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform is specifically designed with coaches in mind. With Practice, you can store your client data and documents safely and securely, all within an intuitive interface. You’ll also gain access to other coaching tools like templates, a booking platform, and secure and easy payments. Get started with Practice and take your coaching business to the next level.