If you struggle with being on time in daily life, then being on schedule for your client appointments may also be a challenge. The obvious answer to not being late is to be on time. But reality is not always that simple.
People who run late do so for a variety of reasons. Perhaps growing up, your parents were obsessively 10 minutes early for everything and subconsciously this is your rebellious or passive-aggressive way to push back against others’ expectations. Or maybe by nature you just don’t consider yourself a time-oriented person. You let your day flow one experience after another, rather than managing it as pre-scheduled blocks of specific activity.
Even folks who manage their days in chunks of time can perpetually run late. Outside of work, these tightly-scheduled individuals try to cram as many appointments, errands, etc. into every free block of time their calendar allows. They end up rushing from one thing to the next, hoping that each activity will fit snugly into the time alloted. If one item runs over its time slot, the house of cards topples and the entire schedule is thrown off. Sound familiar?
Regardless of the subconscious motivations at work, when you’re late for clients it is simply unprofessional. It shows a lack of respect for the other person, especially if they (or their insurance company) are paying for your time. In his article “How Did It Get to Be ‘OK’ for People to Be Late for Everything?” blogger Greg Savage says:
“It’s simply that some people no longer even pretend that they think your time is as important as theirs. And technology makes it worse. It seems texting or emailing that you are late somehow means you are no longer late. Rubbish. You are rude. And inconsiderate.”
As a business owner, time management is of the ultimate importance in your daily operations. Your relationship with time shows in how you schedule clients (patients), conduct your intakes, make phone calls, check emails, run errands and keep your appointments focused, productive and running on time. Running late with one client in a full schedule will set you off for the remainder of the day, and leave you feeling frazzled with unhappy clients waiting just outside your door.
You expect your clients to be on time for their scheduled appointments because your time is valuable. If they’re late, their appointment time is shortened. If they’re a no-show, you might charge a fee for the missed appointment since this equates to lost income for you.
Your clients’ time is equally as important as yours and should be treated as such. Showing up on schedule is a sign of respect, plain and simple. Being late is rude.
Keeping yourself running on time conveys professionalism, consideration and the understanding that your clients lead busy lives too. Being on time shows that you don’t take their trust, their time or their money for granted.
Whatever the reason (conscious or subconscious) you perpetually run late, here are 6 things you can do to manage your time better:
1. Leave 15 minutes earlier than you think you need to.
I use this trick daily and trust me, it works. If you need to leave at 8:00 to be on time, plan to leave at 7:45 instead. Several things might happen: a) You will leave at 7:45 and be a few minutes early for your scheduled client, giving you time to collect your thoughts and get grounded before the appointment, or b) You leave at 7:45 and hit traffic, but the extra 15 minutes is on your side, or c) Because you tend to run late, you end up actually leaving at 8:00 so still arrive on time for your client.
2. Show up for yourself
The activities you schedule for personal interest and self-care are supremely important, more than you may realize. They help you relax and replenish your energy so you will have more to give to yourself, your business and your loved ones on a daily basis.
When you are paying someone else for their time (such as a hairstylist, therapist, exercise instructor) or meeting a friend for lunch, show up 5 minutes early for your appointment. If life happens and you simply cannot be on time, call or text the person you’re scheduled with and let them know your ETA. Some communication in this instance is better than none. If tardiness is a recurring issue, see #1 above.
3. Schedule time to rest
Downtime is just as important as busy-time. Instead of filling the free time in your schedule with appointments, allow yourself time to rest. Many of us were taught in childhood (and had it reinforced in adulthood) that we must spend every waking moment being productive. For those of you who fit that description, non-doing – and the enjoyment of it – takes practice.
Relaxation does not have to mean sitting still and doing nothing. Restful activities might include reading a good book, taking a nap, going for a walk, allowing yourself to play, or experimenting with a new recipe. Taking the time to do things that make you happy for the sake of being happy, not to create output for someone else, is another important aspect of self-care.
4. Prioritize Tasks
President Dwight Eisenhower was known for his ability to prioritize and get things done. He created a system that worked for him (see Eisenhower Matrix, below). You too can boost your productivity by examining your task list, prioritizing it, and taking care of the most important things first.
When you start identifying the unimportant, non-urgent tasks, you empower yourself to stop wasting time on them, giving you more time to get some real work done. You’ll discover that the smaller items you didn’t have time to get to were not really important in the first place. Working with the Eisenhower Matrix is a powerful exercise. Try it out and let me know how it works for you.
5. Use tools to help
Many people struggle with time management, so rest assured you’re not alone. The good news: technology makes it easier than ever to get yourself organized and stay on top of things.
Some resources that can help you stay on task include:
• Calendar – find a website or app you like and use it to keep track of everything in your schedule. Use it consistently. Set reminders as needed. I don’t love my iPhone calendar, so I’m still searching for an app I like better. Here are some options to consider.
• Online scheduler – allows clients (patients) to book appointments at their convenience, and notifies you by text or email of bookings/ changes. There are numerous choices for scheduling apps. When I had my own practice, I used Schedulicity. It was affordable, worked well for my business, and had good customer support. You might also check out Full Slate, a Seattle-based company, or MindBodyOnline.
• Project manager – via website or app, enables you to schedule (personal or business) to do’s and deadlines and track progress of your projects as you go. I am currently using Evernote and love it!
6. Commitment means saying both Yes and No
Saying YES – Commit to having regular office hours or days/times when you meet with clients. Block it out on your calendar. On work days, show up and be ready to work. Commit to your scheduled time with clients, and show them the respect they deserve by being on time.
Saying NO – Back to #4, prioritize and focus. Steve Jobs explained it well when he said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundreds of other good ideas that are there. You have to pick carefully.”
Committing to a schedule means saying yes to your clients, and no to the other things that interfere and make you run late. Learning to say no helps you establish good boundaries with yourself, and will ultimately help you get more accomplished in a day.
Follow these steps to increase your productivity and discover how much smoother your days will flow. Leave a comment below to let me know how you’ve made it work for you!