Employers scheduling sales people, doctors scheduling patients, editors scheduling writers and managers scheduling meetings are all faced with a complex and often frustrating problem. A lot of variables go into scheduling, and many are unpredictable. Weather, illness, regulations, individuals and machine malfunctions all enter into the equation. This can cause you to spend more time than you want on scheduling.
It doesn't always have to be such a time-sink. Here are four ways to make scheduling easier for you.
Share the Pain
My wife and I used to run a flightseeing business. We operated exquisite vintage biplanes that were built in the 1920s, flown by pilots with a unique combination of flying and entertaining skills. Inevitably, situations would develop when a pilot couldn’t make a scheduled flight, and we would find ourselves tearing out our hair trying to find a replacement from among the small cadre of qualified pilots on our roster.
We decided to make it the pilot’s responsibility to find their own replacement if they couldn’t fly. Making it the pilots' responsibility not only relieved us from the burden, but it also helped them understand that finding a replacement wasn’t always easy. No surprise, schedule changes occurred much less frequently. Best of all, the pilots were happier because they had a choice in the matter.
If It Hurts Don’t Do It
It may seem like a cop-out, but one way to rectify your scheduling problem is to eliminate schedules altogether. You can’t apply this idea to all jobs, of course, but for many it really doesn’t matter when the work gets done, as long as it does. Results-based management—a strategy that ignores where, when and even how the works gets done—is a crucial tool as work has become more mobile.
The beauty of this solution is that it not only solves the scheduling problem, it also gives employees something they want more than anything else (even more than a pay raise). It gives them control over their lives.
There’s an App for That
Scheduling customer appointments, like scheduling resources such as airplanes and pilots, is just as complicated and just as important. Effective scheduling programs can increase profit margins, optimize resource utilization and uncover marketing opportunities.
Fortunately, several online services offer a repertoire of features that tie scheduling to other business opportunities. And there are hundreds of smartphone apps available, many for free, that can help you solve scheduling problems, too.
Many of these services and applications make it convenient for customers and clients to self-schedule. Not only that, the software will remind them of appointments, analyze your bookings for trends and make forecasts. It lets you spend less time scheduling and more time making money.
Understand What’s Important
It’s easy, if you’re not careful, to work harder and harder to do better and better at something you shouldn’t be doing at all. When this becomes part of your scheduling you may find you’ve made a difficult process even harder. Take a step back and ask yourself what’s really important in the scheduling equation. Cost? Availability? Employee satisfaction? Customer satisfaction? Once your real priorities are clear you may find your scheduling problem isn't much of a problem. The key is not to prioritize your schedule; it’s to schedule your priorities.
What tools do you use to schedule?
Tom Harnish is a serial entrepreneur. Always on the bleeding edge of technology, he learned what works (and what doesn't) leading projects, products and companies to success (mostly). He can't play a lot of musical instruments.
Photo credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock