A good craftsman needs to take care of his tools, to keep them oiled and sharp. As an Agile Coach, you don't have any obvious physical tools apart from your trusty notebook and pen (and perhaps some super sticky notes, index cards and markers in your bag). You are the diagnostic instrument that both senses and perturbs in coaching situations. You use your eyes and ears to notice what's happening. You trawl through your pool of past experiences to help identify underlying issues. You rely on your heart to empathise with people you work with and reflect your values in the actions you take.
What can you do to stay sharp and true? In a nutshell, you must take care of yourself. You need to take time to rest and stay healthy in both mind and body. You have a lot more to offer a team that you are coaching if you are alert and centred. Bringing energy to your work is difficult if you are running yourself into the ground by taking on a heavy burden of commitments. Remember a burnt out coach is no use to an agile team.
In our Agile Coaching book, Liz advises "Be Kind to Yourself." I wish that I'd added one from me on "Sustainable Pace."
Sustainable Pace is a guiding principle in agile software development. Many agile coaches forget to apply fundamental principles like this to themselves. I know that it's tempting to try and help with every request that comes to you for coaching. But take a moment to look into your heart and consider whether you can really take on all this work. Each new request is likely to increase the context-switching you'll have to keep up with and most requests expand, as you explore beyond the tip of the iceberg. A practical first step in getting some control of this is to list out all the parallel streams of activity that you are involved with including community commitments, such as reviewing sessions for agile conferences, going along to agile user groups, and contributing to online agile discussion forums. You may be surprised just how many things are on that list!
Now what? Consider trimming that list. You'll find some commitments that you simply have to see through, others you may be able to put on hold. Now consider how to avoid becoming overstretched in future. Become more aware of the choice you have when a new request for your time comes in. Sometimes saying "No" is better than trying to squeeze the extra work in and doing a half-assed job. Giving a considered "No" can build your reputation as someone who only accepts work that they can take on. Keeping your workload sustainable helps you to leave enough time in your life for important things that help keep your energy up. When you spend time with your loved ones and have fun, your become stronger and more able to cope when things get tough.
However much you love coaching agile teams, don't become an addict! Practice saying "No" so you have space in your life to say "Yes!" to the things that matter. Hopefully, one of those things that matter is your own work as an agile coach. By saying "No" more often, you'll be able to be more present and effective for the teams that you say "Yes" to.