I don't know about you, but I am time zone challenged. I live in Chicago so we are in Central Daylight Savings Time, which is -5 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and not to be confused with Universal Time (UT). On top of that, some states in the U.S. don't adhere to Daylight Savings. It gives me a headache.
It gets even more confusing when I am being interviewed overseas. London is either 5 or 6 hours ahead and Australia is 13 or 14 hours ahead. I can't even tell you the timezone in Thailand. I get even more confused when I try to set up the interviews for my podcast (www.BaconPodcast.com) with people all over the world!
The Secret Weapon
A year ago I discovered scheduling software. I have always used my computer calendar to keep my life organized, but trying to integrate that with my business has been a challenge. The cloud made that easier since now my calendars can be synced across my desktop, laptop, iPhone and iPad. Now, I need to give access to my clients to book my time while on their computers.
I mentioned in my previous blog and podcast that I use virtual assistants to help me complete tasks that in turn saves me over 30 hours per month. Simplifying my scheduling processes is just another place where I could save some time.
Last year, I started using TimeTrade. I loved the way it worked directly with my Mac OS calendar. It did have some limitations though. It would not send out reminder emails, so clients were missing appointments (costing me billable time). When I was booking guests from my radio show and podcast, I had to go to each program and manually add the event. Also, I wanted to create some hidden (paid) events from my clients. TimeTrade was not letting me create appointment categories or hidden events.
Some other options I explored were schedulicity.com, scheduleonce.com, mindbodyonline.com, booker.com, and a few others (read reviews here). After careful consideration (and a free trial period), I chose Acuity Scheduling. Although none were perfect, Acuity fills the bill because it integrates with the other software I use to run my business (Aweber, GoToMeeting, Paypal).
Here are some tips to help you prepare your calendars…
Multi-Task – Keep separate calendars for separate activities. I have calendars for Work, Home, Presentations, Webinars, Golf, Church, Volunteering, and more. It may seem like a lot of work, but it helps keep all aspects of your life organized. If you have kids, make sure you have a schedule for each of them as well. I even block out 1 hour a day to walk my dog Buddy Guy (trust me … the dog can tell time).
Integrate – Find a scheduling program that matches your expectations. I wanted one that would send reminder emails, allow clients to reschedule (not within 24 hours), and would integrate with my programs (Paypal – Financial, GoToMeeting – Online Meetings, Aweber – eMail). Find one that works best with your current business tools.
Test, Test, Test – No solution is perfect. You can set things up and find that there are glitches and limitations. I have my Monday Radio Show blocked out in my calendar to prevent clients from scheduling during that time, but it also blocked out my guests from booking themselves into the time slot. Find a company with great tech support. Acuity has been very helpful, helping me work through some of these issues I have encountered.
I suggest you do your homework and see which scheduling software will work the best for you. Some are better suited for certain business types (MindBodyOnline.com has very powerful tools for health and fitness professionals). It's a cost to feature world. Some are free (most offer free trials) while some are as little as $5 a month and others can cost hundreds per month.
Let's say you charge $100 per hour. If scheduling software costs you $200 per year and it saves you 2 hours per month, it will only take 1 month to pay for itself and the rest opens you up for more billable hours.
In this highly connected world, sometimes it makes sense to pay just a little money which will in turn save a bunch of time. It works for me, and I am sure it can work for you. I would love to hear your thoughts, comments and suggestions!