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Successful Scheduling and Time Planning

Create your ideal schedule by working in advance to structure clients' time according to their goals.

In talking with my coaching clients over the last several months, I have noticed a definite weakness among trainers, coaches and business owners: they do not define their time well.

In the beginning stages of a training career, many trainers are eager and almost desperate for business. As a consequence, some newer trainers often leave their schedules wide open for clients and customers to schedule sessions “whenever it is convenient.” Even the seasoned wellness expert can get a little nervous in slower economic times and throw the schedule to the wind in hopes of gaining new clients. Unfortunately, this practice leaves your prospects with the sense that they can take their time in scheduling appointments with you because you aren’t busy anyway. And rescheduling sessions with you won’t be a problem either. Yikes! That is not a can of worms we want to open.

To sharpen your business edge this month, we will work on creating your ideal schedule and helping clients schedule their sessions with you regularly and in advance. By setting boundaries around when you are available, you will look better to clients and prospects because you are obviously in demand and clients will need to “get their sessions booked while you still have openings.” This strategy works wonders at keeping your hours full and keeping clients motivated to stay on your calendar.

Your Schedule

One of the first things I ask coaching clients who want to build or change their business is this: What do you really want your workweek to look like? And I mean the ideal week. Although most of us cannot realistically live a fantasy life, we can certainly create a schedule that we will enjoy and that will support us. The trick is to place our work-hours at the times and days when we are at our best.

To determine that schedule, consider the following when creating your workweek:

  • What days do I want to work? (M–F? T–TH and Sat.?, etc.)
  • Which hours would I like to be available?
  • Which days would I like to have off?
  • How many days per month do I want to work?
  • What are my desired work-hours per week?
  • How many hours do I need to work per month?
  • What is my income goal?

Obviously, one of the most important factors to keep at the forefront when creating your schedule is to know how much income you would like to earn per month. If you charge $75 per hour and want to make $6,000 per month, you want to earn a total of $72,000 per year. To think that through further, you need to know how many days/weeks you want to take off per year. Let’s say that you want 4 weeks off this year. That leaves 48 weeks to earn $72,000, which means you need to earn $1,500 for each of those 48 weeks ($72,000 ÷ 48 = $1,500). To earn $1,500 divided by $75 per hour, you need to schedule 20 client-hours per week. After you do the math and determine the total number of hours you need each month, creating your schedule and feeling good about it are much easier.

To give you an idea how to create your week, we’ll use my week as an example. I am scaling back my business from where it was 8 years ago. My goal this year is a maximum of 15 client hours per week with a Monday–Friday schedule and 6–8 weeks of vacation time (including national holidays). I book clients for Mondays and Fridays 7:00–10:00 am, Tuesdays 9:30–11:00 am and 2:00–5:00 pm, Wednesdays 10:00–11:00 am and 1:30–4:00 pm, and Thursdays 2:00–5:00 pm or 3:00–6:00 pm. Although I show 17 hours available, I book only 15. Additionally, I do not want to book more than 3.5 client-hours in 1 day. This is the most specific I have ever been about my schedule, and I am much happier because I am working when I am at my best. The key is to find what works for you and what will work for your clients.

Some of you need to get rid of those horrible time slots in which you work when you are exhausted. You are not giving your clients the best service when you work that way. And for those of you who run a personal training studio or a fitness facility, do yourself and your employees a favor by finding out when they really want to work. It will be impossible to make everyone happy, but you can work with staff to create the best schedule possible. Your employees will be happier because they will be working when they want to work, and you’ll be happier because they will have a better attitude.

Client Scheduling

First, when creating schedules for your clients, remember that people have varying needs. As far as frequency of training or coaching, I have several options available for my clients—weekly (once or twice), bi-monthly, monthly and quarterly. For me, personal training sessions lasting less than 1 hour are a complete waste of time. I cannot get clients warmed up, worked out and stretched sufficiently in less time than that. Some of you may be offering 30-minute sessions, but I have found them frustrating, rushed and less than ideal. As far as coaching sessions go, I offer 30- and 45-minute sessions and they work well. Outline what your clients’ goals are and create a frequency that meets their physical needs and financial budget.

Second, become an old pro at your scheduling strategy. Here is my time-tested advice in this area:

For Standing Weekly Appointments, Set the Schedule by the 20th Day of the Previous Month and Apply a Strict Cancellation Policy. For example, I have a personal-training client every Tuesday and Thursday at 2:00 pm. For her June schedule (and bill), by May 20 she has to let me know any June dates she plans to miss. If she cancels any of those after she has paid on June 1, she will forfeit them if I have no other openings for her in the month of June. Setting stricter boundaries prevents any huge loss of income (which I used to experience). Weekly clients who begin to travel frequently or cancel sessions can cost a lot if you do not have a clear plan in place.

Use On-the-Spot Scheduling. For clients who may be monthly or quarterly, book their next session before you finish the current session. Explain that if they do not book now, you may not have an opening available later. Provide them with a program and goals that will last only until their next session. On the workout card indicate an “expiration date” for that particular routine so they’ll know when it’s time to change things up.

Schedule Every Client at Least a Month at a Time, With Payment Due on the First Day of the Month. Even for those clients I see once every other week (biweekly), we plan their appointments a month in advance. That is the easiest way to keep me organized and keep them on track; it also lets me know if I have slots open for new clients.

Mastering the Schedule

Never underestimate the power of great scheduling skills. It makes a dramatic impact on people’s impression of your business and how “in demand” you are. I always have a heightened respect for another business when I know that availability is limited and their clientele list stays full. This tells me they must be really good at what they do!

When you finish reading this article, take a close look at your workweek, vacation time and client scheduling skills. Sharpen your goals and boundaries in these areas to make a dramatic impact on your success this year.

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