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Time Management tips for Personal Trainers

The top three time management tips for Personal Trainers

Personal Training time management tips

I have some very simple techniques to manage my time.  They allow me to run three companies, have a family, holiday for six weeks a year and feel productive everyday.  You can use these simple techniques too - they will give you back a lot of time and help you be ultra productive.

 

Three step time management process

Three words to live by if you want to gain time and increase productivity

 

1. Qualify

2. Prioritise

3. Schedule

 

Those are the three major steps you must take to get the most from the time you spend as a Personal Trainer. 

Let me explain each with an example from my life and an example from Personal Training

Step One - Qualify all work that is offered to you / you could do

The very first thing you must do with any task that arrives is decide if you should ACCEPT it.  In order to decide if you will accept the work you must get work / tasks that are fully detailed.  This is the number one failing of almost anyone I have met who is struggling with their time - they accept far too much work without a clear definition of what it involves and without carefully considering whether it is strategically relevant to them.

When work/tasks come in I have a method of collecting them so I can consider them.  I force people to give me work / tasks that are well defined so I can understand whether they are mine or for someone else, or work that I won't be interested in because it's not important enough - ie won't contribute to the top two goals I have for that month/quarter (I like to work in 3 month blocks with business goals that relate and monthly I have just a few major goals).

Here's an example of work I don't accept - "hey Steven, I'm looking at selling Gene Analysis tools to PTs throughout Australasia - can we meet to chat that through?"

No.  To an approach like this I will simply say 'no'.  The work is not clearly defined so I couldn't even accept it if I wanted to.  The work is also (and this is why I wouldn't ask for more detail before saying no) not relevant to what my objectives are in the next quarter.  Key note here; to apply time management techniques effectively you must have some short-term goals that relate to your overall plan and are top of mind for you - otherwise qualifying work in or out is near impossible.  Managers note; this is the number one reason your staff are busy whilst you are not getting the right things done by your team - you must lead them by first showing them exactly what the priorities are right now and explain why.

It takes huge discipline to force people to give you 'in form' work or tasks, and to say 'no' immediately if you know it's not something that you are interested in right now.  Tasks that have full descriptions (I call this 'in form work') must include;

  • purpose (why do you want my time)
  • time scale (how much do you want of it)
  • importance (what if you don't get it / what if you do)
  • wifm (what's in it for me - if they know you they should give you this)

 

One of the most powerful ways to get your head around this aspect of time and to enhance your ability to say 'no' to out of form work or non-relevant work is to think of your time as money.  Imagine that your time is $60 an hour, $30 half hour, $15 for a quarter hour.  Now, imagine if I came up to you and said "Julie, can you give me $60".  That's what out of form work is - it's just someone asking you to invest in something that has as yet to be well defined.  Using my example earlier it would read "Steven, can you give me $60 towards my genetic profiling business?". No!

Another example for me this week is some in form work I recieved by email - a request that was averagely defined, it was only missing two elements.  Here's how the email read (exactly as I received it with edits to protect the sender)

Good afternoon Steve,

I think we may have come across each other before possibly at XXXX or my YYYY days... not sure but I know your name is familiar!  
Anyway.  I am doing some work with the ZZZZZZ at the moment, particularly customer satisfaction stuff.  They are very keen to know what their customers think of them, any suggestions they might have so that they can improve and consolidate where necessary.  I would very much like to meet with you to that end please.  I am in Christchurch early next week and really flexible for time on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday morning.  I expect the interview would take no more than 30 minutes (and I am keen to find out a little more about your company if I may).  
I am happy to call you to arrange a time, or if you can let me know what works best for you by return email.  My contact details are 0000000 or 1111111 (I am based out of town)
Thanking you in anticipation of your time,
Kind regards

 

So this work is only partially "in form".  It has a purpose and time scale, but no importance and no WIFM. 

My reply via email was to tell her that I left ZZZZZ simply because the work was incorporated into one supplier (this company did our DVDs and I moved to another who was doing our print as they could do the DVDs too and it would then all be under one roof).  I included a statement that I didn't have time to invest in this. And wished her all the best. The reply took less than 90 seconds.

She then replied asking for a phone catch up instead and an opportunity to talk to one of my team who was involved.  I give her points for persistence, but she obviously doesn't know me that well - if I won't invest my time, I won't invest my staff's time either - still no WIFM! My reply was 'no thanks' via email (less than 9 secounds).

You may think this sounds harsh but it's not - you say 'no' very nicely and keep your life really clean of the non-productive dilly dally that can fill up days.  If you are goal focused like me, it's the only way - and being in a PT business you better have some level of 'goal drive' or eventually you will succumb.

Tip: Accept only the well defined work that you can tell is important for your objectives now.  Decline everything else.  Time is money, start converting it and you'll be surprised how much you save by saying 'no'.

Personal Training Example of 'qualify'

Example 1:

Hey Tom we're getting together to brainstorm ideas for a bootcamp next month - you want to come? 

Out of form work = No go

Answer if you are not planning on running an in-cluib bootcamp this quarter = No

Answer if you are planning on running an in-club bootcamp this quarter = No

Reason for the double 'no' is if bootcamps are one of your top two goals for this quarter you'll be doing a lot more each week than 'brainstorming' with some other 'PTs'.  So, going to this meeting will waste your time and likely end up with you providing lots of tips and techniques that the other PTs won't really ever use as they are just 'thinking about it' still.  Time saved - an hour at least or $60 back if you are using the time/money conversion.

 

Example 2:

'Hi Sue, you coming to that 30 minute meeting with the guy who's doing massage at the club now.  He's giving any PT who comes along 5 x half hour massages to give to clients or use with new clients.  Apparently he will give us an info pack about massage that we can use with clients and then he's just going to spend 20 minutes talking us through the pieces in the packs and then 10 minutes answering questions'

In form work = Yes

Answer if you want to recommend massage to any current client in the next quarter or use the giveaways to incentivise sign ups in the next month = Yes

It is most likely example 2 is a reasonable investment of your time!

A bonus tip here - do you see how the massage therapist - by creating a package that addressed WIFM will get a big turnout to his business and likely create a stack of leads?  Execution intelligence is the single most important thing in any business - ideas are fine, implementation is everything though.

 

Step Two Prioritise

Okay, so you have a bunch of tasks in your 'work collector' (to do list, spreadsheet, special software).  Make sure all tasks have a time estimate with them.  This can be a bit tricky for new tasks that you haven’t done before which is one reason new businesses fail – they simply don’t get enough done soon enough to succeed.  This is another reason execution intelligence is vital – and why ptdirect.com was set up. Regardless, every task must have a time estimate and that estimate needs to be as accurate as you can get it.

Often I’m asked how to achieve accurate time estimates for work.  The answer is to break the work down into steps but only to go as small as you need to get an accurate time estimate.  As an example, if I was going to create an exercise plan for a client I’d know it would take me 15 minutes.  If I was going to create a marketing piece I’d allow four hours.  To create a monthly newsletter two hours.  To prepare for a meeting with one of my referral team – 90 minutes.

Anyway, once you have your tasks collected and all have times estimated you need to prioritise your tasks. I’ve used the same approach for years - because it's simple, and it works.

There are two elements to making priorities. 

  1. The first is how critical is the task in helping you achieve a short-term objective
  2. The second is how soon does the task have to be done

 

Here’s how most people prioritise (which is a mistake)

personal%20training%20incorrect%20time%20management


 

Here’s how you should prioritise

personal%2520training%2520correct%2520time%2520management

 

The reason this works so well is it’s focused on ‘what is critical?’ and you are deciding that on ‘what will get me to my objectives this week / month / quarter?’.  This strategic use of time is anchored in your business planning.  If you do it the wrong way and prioritise based on time, then you quickly lose the strategic view of your objectives.  Again, this is one reason businesses fail and people seem busy whilst that goes on!

So now you can go through your to do list or spreadsheet and put a 1. next to any critical task due this week.  A 2. next to any critical task that must be done next week.  A 3. next to any critical task that must be done within a month.  A 4. next to any non-critical task that it would be nice to do at any time – you can leave these in there for goofing off this week, or just get rid of them.

Here’s how it looks when I did it as a Personal Trainer

Priority

Activity

Time estimate

1

Train clients

30 hours week

1

Update client exercise plans, leave notes, follow up low adherers in line with plan

3 hours week

1

Set up drop box for new winter weight loss campaign incl pick up print done

1 hour

2

Complete fortnightly meeting with referral team – 4 individual appointments

2 hours

1

Prepare content for referral team meetings

2 hours

3

Birthday gifts for clients in August

3 hours

2

Write/source main article for monthly newsletter August

2 hours

1

Own workouts

4 hours week

3

Draft email newsletter August shaped around main article

2 hours

1

Prep for and meet lawyer to discuss licensing structures based on the one pager I sent.

2 hours

I do this in a spreadsheet as then I can simply sort it by priority and then I get a quick view of the time invested this week.  I also ran my personal stuff into this spreadsheet too as it just helped a lot to keep me balanced – you know, it stopped me from working 60 hours and not training and not going out with my partner etc.  So, if you are worried about losing the balance I suggest building your personal stuff in and prioritising it too.  If not, just pick it up at the next step which is ‘scheduling’.

One thing this process has taught me over the years is that time is very finite, you feel much better when you plan and use time wisely, and that massive progress is very possible with just a few well invested hours each week. 

It also taught me that as a Personal Trainer I could only fit in about 4-8 hours of business development activity a week.  Using this planning showed me clearly the contact vs non-contact vs development hours in my business.  I soon learnt that if I wanted to build and leverage my business that I had to be smarter with time and invest more time in development which is why I reduced my PT contact hours in order to grow my interests overall - but that's another story.

One reason I love ptdirect.com is it’s going to solve that challenge of building, maintaining and developing a fitness business because it allows trainers to spend less time developing solutions, teaches them a heap of smart short-cuts, and provides tools to make PT life easy – this gives premium members of ptdirect.com the best of both worlds; lots of highly paid contact time (income) and lots of targeted business development with very little time invested.

Final thing for those of you who really want to squeeze all the juice out of your time.  We are all more focused at various times of the day.  As such, we should think about when we are attempting different types of work.  I use the following criteria and scale to distinguish my most focused times of day from my least.

A. I’m super focused, hard to distract, can get on task easily and don’t seek out time away from tasks

B. I’m focused, but can be distracted although I find it easy to get back into a task.

C. I’m not focused, I want to be distracted or like to be engaged in non-creative / challenging tasks, I find it difficult to get into or even stick to one task

 

I then apply that profiling to my day as I know when I’m generally doing A, B or C time from experience.  Here’s an example of my ABC time within a day.

personal%252520training%252520time%252520rating

 

 

I can also apply the rating to my 'to do list’ and it comes out a bit like this:

Priority

Activity

Time estimate

Task demands

1

Train clients

30 hours week

B

1

Update client exercise plans, leave notes, follow up low adherers in line with plan

3 hours week

B

1

Set up drop box for new winter weight loss campaign incl pick up print done

1 hour

C

2

Complete fortnightly meeting with referral team – 4 individual appointments

2 hours

C

1

Prepare content for referral team meetings

2 hours

B

3

Birthday gifts for clients in August

3 hours

C

2

Write/source main article for monthly newsletter August

2 hours

A

1

Own workouts

4 hours week

C

3

Draft email newsletter August shaped around main article

2 hours

A

1

Prep for and meet lawyer to discuss licensing structures based on the one pager I sent.

2 hours

A

Tip: Reduce your work to only items critical to your short term objectives.  Only keep non-critical tasks on your list if you want some ‘down time’ or they must be done (chasing up overdue session payments) but can’t yet be delegated.

Note that the A, B, C doesn’t relate to the importance of a task – it relates to how easy I find it and therefore the ‘demands’ on me.  You’ll see above my own workouts and training clients are C time. This is because I find working with people really fun and naturally engaging – it doesn’t take my A focus to put a client through a workout.  So, your ratings may be different to mine which is fine.

What this now allows me to do when I begin to schedule tasks in is to match the demands of the task to a corresponding time slot when I think I will be able to meet the demands.  For instance, I match A. type tasks with A. time slots.  If I didn’t I could end up battling trying to do an A. type task when I have C. type focus.  This is usually very problematic. 

The other pay-off from this approach is I’ve found I can stack up smaller 3 or sometimes 4 rated tasks to give me breaks from heavy A tasks that are rated 1. or 2.  So basically I’m creating an ‘interval training regime for my focus’.  I do some creative work for 40 minutes, then complete the wages or do the banking or call to set up meetings and so on.  With this spacing I can go a lot longer and get a lot more done without feeling overly taxed.  Again, this gives me a lot more bang for my time buck.

 

 

Step 3: Scheduling

This is the easiest step I find.  It’s similar to the ease you get from doing a good consultation in that writing the exercise plan and designing the training programme is pretty easy once you have gathered and prioritised all the clients objectives, resources and capabilities.  The same applies here.

 

Scheduling is more of an art form than science which develops as you learn about your use of time and your peaks and troughs in the day.  That said, the underlying method is:

1. put 1A’s in first, targeting your A focus time in your day

2. put 1Bs in next targeting what is left of the A time and then using B time

3. put 1Cs in next using B time or C time (or use little C chunks to provide breaks in larger chunks of A time)

4. repeat the same for 2 and 3 rated tasks

5. Any 4s you have slot in if you can – most will be C in nature

 

Here’s how my diary looks from the earlier example:

Personal%2520training%2520diary%2520example

Tip: To get the most out of your day plan it in advance and do your most demanding work when you are best able.

I’ve matched how critical the task is, what demands the task has and my natural focus at different times of the day to get the best results.  If time was money, I’ve invested as wisely as I can. 

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