Happy 2017! Hopefully you’ve had a chance to reflect on the year that’s passed and have set some meaningful goals for the 12 months ahead.
One of our goals this year is to bring the benefits of OnRamp to small gym owners. Part of this process has been to reach out to CrossFit Affiliate owners to learn about the challenges you face day-to-day in your business. Among the many useful responses we received, this post is based on a particular challenge that was identified by several owners: time management.
Owners like yourself told us that effectively managing their time is one of the biggest problems they face, especially when trying to grow their membership. You’re likely coaching clients, handling daily management tasks, taking payments and maybe working a second job on the side. This can make it really difficult to find balance and routine, and to take on ‘extra’ tasks like marketing your gym.
However, you can make incremental changes throughout the year to help take back control of your schedule and manage your time more effectively. Here are 21 tips you can put into action right away for more wins and less headaches in 2017:
1. Write it all down. Keep a diary of the activities that take up your time over the course of at least a day and up to a week. This ‘time logging’ will tell you how you’re currently dividing your time and allow you to reduce or cut out any energy-draining activities. Be relentless in ditching that 15 minute brainstorming meeting that rarely results in new ideas, or the hour you spend each week sifting through other gym’s Instagram feeds.
2. Get up 20 to 30 minutes earlier. Use this extra time to plan out your day and mentally prepare for any important meetings or tasks. If you read about the habits of top entrepreneurs, many of them list an extra-early start as being integral to their success. It also feels great to be dressed, fed and out the door while most people are smacking the snooze button for the third time.
3. Follow your own rhythm. Everyone has hours of the day when they are most productive. For many this is first thing in the morning, but if you’re a night owl you may find after your family has gone to sleep to be the best time to hunker down and get some real work done. Of course as a gym owner your schedule will be partly determined by your gym’s open hours, but by taking on management tasks when you’re naturally ‘in the zone’ (as opposed to when you’re burnt out) you’ll get a lot more done in a shorter timeframe.
4. Turn spare time into time well spent. Look at the upcoming week’s schedule and fill any time between coaching and meetings with an enjoyable-yet-productive activity that will recharge your batteries. For example, instead of cleaning junk out of your inbox, have a mini mind-mapping session where you jot down 10 to 20 ideas in how to grow your gym this quarter. Spend your next session whittling these down to a few you want to actually pursue.
5. Hire responsibly. It can be hard to find qualified and responsible coaches, but this is integral to both your gym’s success and your own sanity. Spend as much time as needed up front to make sure a new candidate is the right fit and will jump into the role without needing to be babysat. This will pay off in dividends down the road as you won’t be stuck picking up the slack.
6. Shut the door. It’s understandable that you want staff and clients to know you’re always there for them, but don’t feel bad about closing the office door and designating some off-limits time, too. There’s noting wrong with demanding solitude, especially if it means getting those tax forms done during working hours – not at 11pm in front of the t.v.
7. Schedule your email time. Being constantly available online has become such a part of our lives, we often don’t think about how it’s impacting our working hours. Instead of accepting constant emails as ‘part of modern life’, set a specific time each day to check your inbox and to respond. Anything sent by email can usually wait a couple of hours, and you’ll get tasks done a lot faster when you can go at it for a solid block of time with minimal interruption.
8. Turn notifications OFF. In the same thread as email, Facebook and other social media (even some ‘productivity apps) can cause dozens if not hundreds of distractions each day. Close the extra screens, shut notifications off and check the fun stuff at lunch time or end-of-day.
9. Invest in (the right) management software. Almost any fitness business can benefit from reliable club management software. These tools handle daily tasks like class scheduling, payments and attendance tracking. Do your homework and choose a solution that provides the highest number of beneficial features at a price point you can handle. Most solutions offer a demo or free trial so you can try before you buy.
10. Prioritize daily tasks. We all do it: spend the first hour of our work day sifting through sales emails, reading articles online or even tidying the gym floor. A rule of thumb is to choose – and write down – the three tasks that are most important each day and prioritize getting these done above any others. You’ll enjoy the sense of accomplishment at having completed your to-do list and can spend any remaining time on non-essential tasks (reading about Trump’s latest gaffe included).
11. Set a timer. Taking #10 a step further, try setting a timer (your smartphone should have this widget) for 20 or 30 minutes and allow yourself to work on one task only during this window. Divide your daily ‘time chunks’ between various areas of your business like BD, staff training and programming, according to what’s most and least urgent in a given week. This will help you to focus on what’s in front of you and maximize the minutes you have available.
12. Set clear boundaries. Between impromptu office visits and weekend phone calls, employees and clients can quickly eat up a lot of your time in the run of a week. Instead of allowing your time to be managed by everyone around you, let it be known that you’re available during specific hours of the day, then stick to it. This might even prompt your coaches to do more problem solving as they realize you won’t jump into action every time there’s a challenge at the gym.
13. Focus on retention. Of course you need to bring in new clients, especially at slower times of the year. But keeping your current membership engaged is arguably even more crucial. Spending some initial time setting up a referral rewards program or training coaches to provide a hands-on experience with each member will mean you’re not scrambling to fill your pipeline each month. A retention strategy will also build a loyal community of members, which is beneficial to your image in the long run.
14. Scrap the multi-tasking myth. The verdict is in: multi-tasking does more harm than good. Recent research in neuroscience has found that the brain can’t really do multiple things at once; it actually costs us time because of a ‘start/stop/start’ mechanism that makes us switch between tasks. This causes us to make more mistakes and saps our energy. So instead of trying to listen to that business podcast while programming next week’s classes, divide your time so that each task is given your full attention.
15. Ditch the perfectionism. Trying to do something perfectly has the exact opposite effect you want it to. Instead of achieving perfection, you drive yourself batty trying to live up to an ideal that, let’s be honest, no one likely even cares about apart from you. As Facebook’s company motto puts it, “Doing is better than perfect”. Focus on getting things done, then fix or make them better later.
16. Delegate with confidence. It’s hard being business owner, coach, marketer, bookkeeper and probably a few other roles all in one. As long as you’ve been hiring dedicated coaches, they can offload some of the burden. You don’t have to spend a fortune on accounting fees or ad campaigns, but make sure to delegate the tasks that aren’t a natural fit for you. This leaves more time for you to focus on what you shine at and enjoy.
17. Practice mindfulness. For you, this might mean 15 minutes of meditation each morning at sun-up, or taking a few deep breaths as you reflect on your day on your back porch in the evenings. Even putting a buffer of a few minutes between daily tasks can help you become more relaxed and reflective. Whatever your method, staying mindful of the thoughts running through your head, and their ensuing emotions, can give you more focus and inner strength.
18. Develop habits. What are the tasks you’re committed to getting done every single day? Early morning workout? Shooting a short video to boost your box’s brand on social media? The key is to turn these tasks into habits to the point where you don’t even have to think about them anymore. It takes time, but developing productive habits is one of the best ways to make the most of your time and to cut out unnecessary time wasters.
19. Prep the night before. Lay out your clothes for the next day (this is a pretty easy one for fitness owners), prepare and pack your lunch and make sure your gym bag has everything in it you’ll need for the day ahead. By doing all this before bed, you’ll inevitably save yourself at least a few minutes each morning. It also makes for a calmer, less stressful start to your day.
20. Eliminate excess. Most of us have too many places to be, too many mental distractions, even too many pairs of shoes! Adopting a minimalist approach can help to prioritize what’s really important to your success and your happiness. Make a commitment to remove one unnecessary thing from your life each month until you feel like everything you own and most of what you do serves a real purpose. Sounds hard, but it’s surprising how much freer we feel when not surrounded by too much of everything.
21. Do it for the right reasons. What gets you up in the morning and keeps you grinding until – or into – the weekend? If the answer is something along the lines of, “to keep my business afloat”, you might need to find a little more inspiration. What parts of running your business do you most enjoy? Write these down, keep them close and make sure you find time for them every single day. After all, what’s being your own boss without a little fun?