Time Waits for No One

Create a schedule that works for you and your practice

By Les Sweeney and Kristen Coverly
[Business Side]

Last column, we talked about taxes, and we referenced time management (even stating how that might be a good idea for a column … hmm.). That got us thinking a little more about how successful practitioners manage their time. Time management is a challenge we all face, whether it’s kids, work, leisure activities, you name it—how can we fit in everything we want to do? Well, we can’t tell you exactly when to practice the cello or hone your Sudoku skills, but we thought we’d explore some scheduling dos and don’ts for a successful massage practice.
Components of a Weekly Schedule
Managing a successful massage practice takes a lot more than just showing up for your hands-on work. Therapists need to juggle multiple aspects of practice management that deserve time and attention every week. And hands-on work only exists if you make the effort to cultivate a client base, so the other aspects of having a massage and bodywork career deserve the same attention and care you give your clients during a session.
Hands-On Work
Plan your overall schedule in advance. Do you want to work days, evenings, or alternate throughout the week? Remember that the times you want to work need to match the times that your target-market clients are available.
Identify your actual session times in advance, too. Is “any time that works for you,” the best reply for you and your overall schedule when you’re on the phone with a client? Nope. Instead, say: “I’ve got openings at 4:30 and 6:30 that day. Which is better for you?” This will help you keep your schedule on track.
Don’t forget to factor in the time before and after each session to prepare, transition, and update client charts and notes. Decide how much time works for you—15 minutes, 30 minutes—and follow through on that decision when you’re creating your schedule for the week. Set specific appointment times in advance and stick to them to create a balanced and evenly spaced schedule.
Marketing your practice boils down to letting people know who you are and what you have to offer. To do that well takes time. Every week. And not just for attracting new clients, but for keeping your current clients as well. You may not lose a client to another therapist, but we often lose clients to inertia, inattentiveness, and/or preoccupation. Take time to remind your clients that their time with you is in their best interest (in addition to yours).
Schedule time to work on marketing just like you’d schedule a client session. We suggest you block the same day and time—say Mondays at 10:00 a.m.—every week. You’re much more likely to form a habit (and stick to it) if it’s a consistent part of your schedule.
Wondering what to do during your marketing hour(s)? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
• Update (or create) your website.
• Create social media posts.
• Explore community events and volunteer opportunities.
• Find ways to connect with your target markets—speak to groups, offer chair massage at events, etc.
• Create a client newsletter.
• Forward Body Sense magazine to clients (www.abmp.com/bodysense).
• Send regular “thinking of you” emails.
Set a goal for the number of marketing events you’d like to do each month, make a calendar, and plan in advance. If you look at marketing as an exciting opportunity to meet new people and potential clients, you’ll start to enjoy it more (we promise).
Practice Management/Client Relations
Dedicating a block of time each week to the nuts and bolts of running a practice—like paying bills, bookkeeping (keeping income and expense spreadsheets current), ordering supplies, making client follow-up calls, updating client files, sending birthday cards, etc.—allows you to stay on top of all of these tasks. It’s easy to get behind or miss something when you’re randomly squeezing these chores in during spare moments here and there.
Focusing time on practice management also allows you to progress and grow beyond what you’re doing now. Use this time to research and explore new opportunities like online scheduling programs or email management systems.
We’ll repeat that again since it may not be a term you “recognize” right off the bat—self-care.
Step #1: Figure out which self-care practices work for you. This includes big chunks of self-care time, like receiving massage, going for walks, and taking vacations, as well as the shorter stretching and centering moments you need before and after each session.
Step #2: Add self-care time to your schedule. Want to become consistent with your favorite yoga class or train for a triathlon or 5K? Put it on your calendar and schedule around it.
Life + Personal
Don’t forget to put the rest of your life on your schedule, too. Prioritize important family and personal events. When is a good time to plan a vacation? Check your previous years’ income logs—traditionally slow times in your practice are a great time for you to take a break from bodywork, too.
How Do You Fit It All In?
What follows is a good, bad, and ugly sample schedule for a full-time practitioner. We’re using the term full time to describe therapists who devote five or six days and up to 40 hours a week to their massage and bodywork practice.
We hope you can use these tips to help you craft your own calendar. But remember, a schedule is not a straitjacket; yours may vary week to week, and sometimes the dog needs to go to the vet and the car needs to go to the shop. Managing your own schedule can allow greater flexibility, but it requires organization and planning.

To read this article in our digital issue, click here.