Volume 8 Number 2 | February 2018
We say we “book” time because we used to write down appointments in a book. I still do (a Filofax). One of my coaching clients pointed out on a Skype call that I was faster finding a date that way than he was with his smart phone. The problem is not in recording appointments in terms of mindset, the problem is in priorities and selling ourselves short.
We tend to “book” others’ needs as if they are always the highest priority. When I began my consulting career in my early 20s with a firm in Princeton, my wife and I intended to use my first vacation week to book a cruise. We had never been on a cruise, and had found a discounted offer. However, one of the firm’s clients required a special course to be delivered on the same week and everyone else qualified was already assigned, so I was forced to cancel our cruise.
We didn’t book another for about 25 years! (Turns out, we don’t like ocean cruises with hoards of people.)
That firm would not tell that client that they had to find another date. The client had priority.
Someone actually told me recently that he has a couple of large clients which have booked two weeks of every month through the next six months. “I’d like to maintain that freedom for myself with half a month doing other things for myself and my business, but I’m afraid other clients will ask for them.”
“Why not tell any inquiries that the month is fully booked?” I asked.
"But it’s not,” he protested.
“Sure it is,” I pointed out, “half of it is booked by a client and half of it is booked by you.”
That premise was shocking to him, yet he didn’t need more money and he could easily have turned down work. He could even have said just three of the four weeks were booked. But he viewed a client request as an edict from up high to do as bid.
And too many of us act that way. Be honest, how frequently have you obliged a client which really didn’t have only a single date (that is, it wasn’t an annual conference costing $400,000 to pull in the entire field force) and could have been told they’d have to choose another but you were simply afraid to do so? We treat clients when we do this as superiors, not peers, and we treat the request’s denial as a threat to our relationship rather than a normal, ‘Sorry, I’m busy on that day.”
Booking the Future
I suggest you make your own needs a priority. If a client has an emergency, by all means do whatever you can to help deal with it. But 99% of the time, a request is not about an emergency but simply a preference. Something a client finds preferable should not trump something you find essential.
You and I have seen business people who miss their kids’ recitals, soccer games, even birthdays. Sometimes they miss critical events even though they’re home because they’ve taken their work home. As entrepreneurs, we hope to avoid such unhealthy labors because we don’t have a demanding boss or a firm requiring that we cancel our cruise.
Yet many of you are cancelling that metaphorical cruise because you refuse to place your own priorities in that “booking of time.”
But you can change that, as soon as you finish reading this.
© Alan Weiss 2018