As a personal trainer your time is your most valuable commodity. Every moment you can spend improving the prospects of your clients and putting them first, increases your chances of developing a successful training business. However there are only so many hours in each day, so here are a few ways you can make the best use of the time you have available.
Minimise wasted time in your routine
When you think about your typical day, can you identify any periods of time where you are not achieving much? Maybe you're not good at getting out of bed in the morning (snooze button). Maybe you find yourself watching random TV late into the evening (fuelling the snooze button problem). Maybe you are easily distracted, accidentally spending an hour researching speed ropes when you were supposed to be writing a session plan?
Often, when we think we are busy, or that we don't have enough time in the day, it's actually because of the time we are wasting, not our workload. An interesting thing to try is time tracking. For just one week, log how you spent your time. Don't make it too complex to begin with, simply identify some core uses:
- Time spent with clients
- Planning/admin time
- Travel/groceries/life admin
You want to create categories that cover all of the activities that are important (and essential) in your life. You want anything else to be logged as 'other'. This 'other' list should become full of all the unplanned things that used up time that were unproductive, or represent little value.
Also, try to log your time usage in real time whenever possible. You might be tempted to record this information at the end of each day, however our mind has a habit of playing tricks on us. Our memory of how we spent our day is likely to be vastly inaccurate when compared to the reality. There are free apps to help you get things right. Head over to Clockify or Toggl to give them a try.
Schedule time for important jobs
Do you ever end the week with a list of jobs you didn't get done? Do you find this deflating, adding to a sense that you're not making the most of your opportunities and reaching your full potential?
Having a list of things you need to get done is great, but if you haven't set time aside to get them done, it's no surprise when they end up staying on a list incomplete.
Try scheduling chunks of time into your weeks for doing specific tasks. Maybe you are quiet on a Tuesday afternoon. Make that time your sacred 'get an important thing done' time. Find a quiet space and dedicate yourself to the most important job you currently have on the list. Don't allow yourself to become distracted. Close your email, put your phone on silent and make those 2 hours the most productive of the week.
Don't take on everything
Are you the sort of person that finds it hard to say no? Maybe it's helping someone out with a problem at work, or it could be in your personal life. We're not saying you should become unapproachable and unavailable to everyone. Just be a bit more mindful and pick your fights.
If you know you bring genuine value to something, and can help the person asking in reasonable time (or at a time that won't negatively impact your own day's priorities) then go for it. But if you're not best placed to help. If you know of someone else who is. Or if somebody is demanding immediate action that will negatively impact your day (and in turn, your clients), then it's fine to occasionally put yourself first and politely suggest that you are not best placed to help on this occasion.
Turn off non-essential notifications
Oh how we love our mobile phones! They have opened up such a world of opportunity as trainers to not only run our businesses, put also to maintain closer communication with clients. However they are also the single biggest distraction in our daily lives.
Every time you receive a notification it interferes with your current thought process. Even if the notification ends up being of no interest, the act of checking it has interrupted your flow. The simple act of stopping, checking, and then resuming adds up to lost time over the course of a week.
Is it essential to be notified about every new Instagram follower? Do you really need that sale notification from ASOS during a session? Look at the apps you have on your phone and remove any that you haven't used in the last month. And those that you keep, ask yourself what value the notifications you receive from them really bring you.
Avoid single session payments
Clients and money are one of the biggest distractions as a personal trainer. From chasing payment to checking if it's arrived, to the excuses of why a payment is late. If you can reduce the number of payments you are receiving, you can reduce the amount of time they take to manage.
Taking payment at each session means you will have to spend time tracking money for every session you deliver. Over the course of a month this adds up to hours of requesting, discussing, chasing, checking and logging payments. If you ask your clients to pay in larger, more regular instalments such as one payment each month/week, then you can reduce this time exponentially. It also means there will be lots of sessions where money never needs to be discussed at all!
Get clients into a routine
If clients train with you at the same time every week, not only do they get into a routine that they are more likely to stick to, your schedule will become a lot easier to manage too.
When a client doesn't commit to a regular slot, you will be forever looking for gaps to fit in their next session. This uses up time during their own session, or eats into the time after it's finished. If possible, get a client to commit to regular slots for a month at a time. The likelihood is, once they have completed a few weeks at a regular time, they'll be the ones not wanting to change.
Maintain a library of common responses
Do you ever get a feeling of deja vu when responding to email enquires from new clients, or joining in discussions online? If so, there is a danger you are wasting valuable time writing the same thing over and over again.
Next time you send an email, store a copy of it as a template in case you can use it again in the future. If you write them well, you'll be able to customise these templates in a fraction of the time compared to writing them from scratch. Over time you'll also be able to refine them to be as effective as possible, so you'll not only save time, you'll also become more successful.
Give sessions room to breathe
If you schedule 1 hour sessions with your clients, and have session plans that cover the entire 60 minutes, you're giving yourself no breathing space to deal with unexpected situations, or any additional client support. If a client is a few minutes late arriving, you may not have time to complete the planned session. Or if they want to ask your advice on an element of their training after the session is over, you might not have the time without impacting on your next client.
Try to give yourself wriggle room with your session plans. Try planning sessions to 50 minutes. This means you can cope with a client arriving late, and can dedicate a few minutes at the end of a session to answer questions or give some additional advice. After all, it's these little extras that make you stand out as a trainer and help build long lasting relationships.
Use task lists and reminders
We like to think we'll remember the things we need to do. Whether it's something important like giving a follow up call after a consultation, to the name of a book someone suggested over lunch. If you don't have a reliable system for noting things down and checking them off once complete, you could be wasting time searching for missing information, as well as missing out on opportunities.
There are many simple systems available for making lists. If you have a phone and a computer you might find apps like ToDoist great for keeping a list of jobs in sync. Alternatively the reminder system already on your phone might work best for you.
If you are looking for something geared specifically at personal trainers, then InGym includes a task list for jotting down those important jobs. However it also includes a suite of business tools that track your training activity and remind you to do those easily forgotten jobs such as:
- Following up with potential new clients after their consultation
- Scheduling time owed to clients in existing bookings
- Updating old or out-of-date training agreements
- Updating old or out-of-date client PAR-Q's
- Rescheduling cancelled sessions
- Recording clients attendances
Don't sabotage your own schedule
There are a thousand things you can't control in life that can impact your day. Don't add to that list yourself. Never allow yourself to be late for a client session, class or appointment. Leave plenty of time for travel. Always plan to arrive early. Being late once might set off a sequence of events that could ruin your day. It also makes you look unprofessional and might even jeopardise your client relationships.
Let a bad client go
This can be tough to see through. Even if you can make peace with the loss of income, actually telling a client it's not working out can be the hardest thing. However, it only takes one bad client to disrupt the rest of your business. And if that's happening, you're better off without.
There's an old rule in business. Do not let 5% of your income use up 90% of your time. It's not fair on you, or your other clients who are staying committed and deserve the best of you in return.
Read our dedicated post on this here.
Automate repetitive tasks
Any time you spend completing a task that could have been automated is time wasted. You could have used that time to earn more money, prepared better for a client, or spent it with your friends and family.