How Coaches Can Better Manage Time
Logistics and practical tips are NOT the central issue in time management for coaches. There are plenty of other time management experts who’ll teach you which digital planning system to use, how to batch your tasks, and how to track your time to me more productive...
One of the most difficult things for new coaches to do is avoid giving people the first appointment they want right away, ...
But if you’re available immediately on the client’s schedule, you set a precedent that you’re always going to adjust to your client’s schedule.
If you needed brain surgery, you wouldn’t really value and/or trust a surgeon that said ‘Come right on in...I can fit you in tonight!’?
If your clients don’t treat your time as valuable:
-They won’t take the coaching seriously
-They won’t treat their own time as valuable
-And you’ll establish a dysfunctional coaching environment all around
With NEW clients at the beginning of your practice, you may need to bend a little bit to your clients’ schedule (so you get the experience of working with a lot of people)
Similarly, you’ll need to respond more quickly to new client phone calls and emails than you would for longer term, more established people.
But it’s important to gradually push the ‘responsiveness’ time frame between appointments OUT ...
-For the client’s benefit, this develops frustration tolerance (and the ability to solve problems without you). It forces them to ‘imagine’ what you might say, ... and it’s a great way to get them to start to integrate your work together more fully!
-For your benefit, it gives you progressively more flexibility with your schedule!
-You’ll also need to train your clients about paying for missed appointments.
This is VERY tricky, and a major reason why many people lose clients. People can quickly feel rejected if they think it’s only about the money for you. (It’s important you do get paid well for your coaching... but it’s equally important to avoid looking at clients like dollar signs)
The central time management issue for coaches is WHO controls your time.
This is governed by how valuable your clients perceive your time to be. And more generally, how valuable they perceive the coaching to be!
Schedule, YOU or your CLIENTS!
Many coaches will put payment policies in their initial contract. This is fine ... but people will definitely forget. And it doesn’t lessen the ego-blow to the client of having to pay for time they didn’t use. Basically, people feel rejected and unloved the first time they realize they have to pay for a missed session, no matter how rational it may be.
-Generally, the way I suggest handling it is to wait until it happens once before mentioning it. (It almost always does, with almost every client!)
-Then, just gently ask the client if you could mention something to them. Start out by saying “Now, I do NOT want you to pay me for this last session, ... because I’m not sure if I’ve made it clear to you previously.
-But I wanted to mention I generally do charge for time booked 48 hours in advance.
-For example, if your appointment is on Weds at 7 pm, you can call me all the way up to Monday at 6:59 pm and you won’t have to pay for the appointment if you need to cancel.
A few important notes about the way this is phrased:
You start out with the good news. You are NOT going to charge them for this first missed appointment. This might seem trivial but it’s very important in order to put them in a positive, receptive frame of mind.
-It avoids starting this difficult but extremely valuable conversation with anything they could easily argue about.
-I gave them a specific example to avoid ambiguity later on. Specifics are more memorable.
If a client uses your policy to repeatedly cancel with just enough notice, it’s a sign that you’re giving them too many regular sessions, and that f a client uses your policy to repeatedly cancel with just enough notice, it’s a sign that you’re giving them too many regular sessions, and that not enough value is being perceived in the sessions themselves.
When this happens you need to carefully re-adjust their schedule to something less regular.
“Hey Mary... can I just check with you about something? I’m having difficulty maintaining our regular Weds 8 pm appointment and we’re going to need to look for something new. Could you let me know a few good times in your schedule? In the meantime, we’ll have to find something week to week. What’s your schedule like next week?” (Give her a time if she’s reasonable about this... but don’t be overly accommodating. Avoid setting up the regular schedule again until it’s clear you’ve worked through the value problem and she’s repeatedly asking for the regularity for at least a month or two)
Some coaches avert the missed appointment payment problem by charging monthly.
This is fine, as long as you don’t set it up too early in the relationship.
When you do set it up too quickly, you lose the opportunity to develop the coaching relationship gradually and learn as you go. I’ve always found these arrangements are more likely to end quickly too.
You can lessen the rejection clients feel about paying for missed appointments by ...
Letting your client know your line is open for them during the whole appointment, even if they remember five minutes before the end. (Honor this commitment!)
Using the time to think about them, organize some notes about what they’ve been trying to accomplish, and getting back to them about your thoughts the next time you get together. (Use the time for THEM anyway!)
Listening to their thoughts and feelings about it.
Just a few logistical tips ...
Resist the urge to schedule people back to back all day long. Give yourself enough time between sessions to take care of yourself!
Charge enough that you can work a comfortable number of hours, leaving enough breaks to care for yourself.
Make sure your clients know how long your sessions are, ... then plan to spend about 10% longer with them than the agreed upon level. (They’re always anxious about getting their fair share) Push this down a little over time.
Use the glossary and quick text functions in your word processor to set up common notes you can very quickly add to your client’s charts. For example, the following is a blurb that can often just be inserted after a session “Client called for 50 minute individual life coaching session. Discussed communication conflicts with co-workers. Brainstormed possible solutions and alternative perspectives. Client agreed to attempt implementation and discuss at our next meeting, scheduled for ...” (You make your own)
Always keep a clock in sight when you’re doing your sessions
If some clients have difficulty ending the sessions, give them a 15 minute warning, and then again at 5 minutes.
Tell your clients that they can always write to you or call you. It has the opposite effect! (People anxiously contact you when they’re anxious you’re not going to be responsive!) It’s good for clients to summarize their thoughts in an email, etc. anyway.
DON’T USE AUTOMATED SCHEDULING PROGRAMS COMMONLY AVAILABLE ONLINE THESE DAYS
They may be more convenient, but there are a LOT of extremely valuable clues present in the early scheduling interactions which you’ll miss if you automate things...and in the end, you’ll have clients who don’t stay as long and won’t pay as much