A Practical Approach to Efficient Planning for Personal Trainers

Mar 9, 2017 - 7 min read
Virtuagym employees working

One of the biggest challenges in every business is time. Due to weeks of easily 45+ hours and the need to be available when clients are not working, particularly for personal trainers this is a big one. To cope with this, a few weeks back, we explained already how to help busy clients fit fitness into their lifestyle . With this article, we want to give you a practical and organized approach for efficient planning.

To save time and increase your productivity, there are three key aspects that have to be managed efficiently, we will go through them chronologically and help you create an efficient plan step by step:

  • Qualifying your work
  • Prioritizing what you do
  • Scheduling Efficiently

1. Qualify Your Work

Should you accept every task that arrives at your door? If we’re being honest: no, you shouldn’t. Some personal trainers accept far too much work without a clear definition of what it involves, whether it is strategically relevant to them or even possible. It’s important to define your tasks beforehand, this way you’ll understand whether it is relevant to you, whether you should hand over the task to someone more capable, or if it is even worth it.

To determine whether specific tasks qualify, you need to have some short-term goals that relate to your overall plan. Otherwise qualifying your tasks is nearly impossible. Sometimes coming up with tasks and detailed work can be difficult, you might need to push to get a clearer picture of what your clients want and whether it is compatible with your business. You might even have to learn to say ’no’ if you know it’s something that doesn’t align with your plan.

2. Prioritize What You Do

All tasks should have a time estimate attached to them. It can be tricky at first, especially if you haven’t done it before. This is one reason why new businesses fail, they are not able to prioritize their time properly. Every task that you have taken should have a time estimate. The more accurate the estimate, the more efficient and effective your planning will be.

To make this a little easier, try breaking your work down into steps. You can break these steps up as small as you like if it helps you get an accurate time estimate. You’ll go through a few rounds of trial and error before this is perfected. But as an example let’s say you’re creating an exercise plan for a client you know very well. The plan takes 15 minutes and marketing activities take 4 hours. To be more specific, you write down the time needed for social media, referrals and ad creation. Once you’ve decided on the tasks to accept and how long they will take, you prioritize the tasks. When prioritizing the tasks, there are two things to take into account:

  • How critical is the task in helping you achieving your objectives? (1st priority)
  • How soon does the task need to be completed? (2nd priority)

It’s up to you to decide which tasks need the highest priority. The level of importance should be based on how each task contributes to your weekly/monthly/quarterly objectives. If you prioritize based on time, you quickly lose the strategic view of your objectives.

A Practical Example

You’ve got the gist of prioritizing now. Let’s look at your to-do list. If you don’t have one, make one! Go through your to-do list or spreadsheet and put a 1 next to any critical task due this week.  A 2 next to any critical task that must be done next week.  A 3 next to any critical task that must be done within a month.  And a 4 next to any non-critical task that can be done at any time. This way you sort your tasks first by how critical they are and then by the due date.

1Training clients30 h/week
1Update client exercise plans3 h/week
1Set up dropbox for new  campaign1 hour
2Complete meeting with referral team2 hours
1Prepare content for referral team2 hours
4New apparel line for client engagement3 hours
2Write main article/blog4 hours
1Own workouts4 h/week
3Draft email newsletter hours
1Prep for and meet lawyer2 hours

With this, you’ve entered the world of successful prioritizing. But you can go a step further. If you really want to squeeze the most out of your time, you have to consider at what times you are most productive. We are all more focused at various times of the day. And so it’s important to think about when to execute certain tasks. Use the following criteria and scale to find out the times of day that you are most focused.

✶✶✶ Very focused: Very productive, hard to distract

✶✶ Focused: Slightly distracted, easily motivated

Not so focused: Easily distracted, in need of easier tasks and division

This is what your daily schedule could look like:


Then apply the rating to your to-do list and it should look similar to this:


ActivityTimeLevel of focus
1Training clients30 h/week
1Update client exercise plans3 h/week✶✶
1Set up Dropbox for new campaign1 hour
2Complete meeting with referral team2 hours
1Prepare content for referral team2 hours✶✶
4New apparel line for client enggmt3 hours
2Write main article/blog2 hours✶✶✶
1Own workouts4 h/week
3Draft email newsletter2 hours✶✶✶
1Prep for and meet lawyer2 hours✶✶✶

Remember that thestar rating is not based on the importance of a task but on how easy or demanding it is. In the table above, you can see that the least demanding task is drafting an email newsletter. For most trainers, these activities don’t need full focus. However, this depends on your own preferences and personality. Your ratings may be very different to these - that’s totally fine.

Now that you have these tools and knowledge, begin to match each task and its ‘level of focus’ to the time of day that it should be executed. Match very demanding tasks with a time of day that you are very focused. This approach allows you to stack up smaller (3 and 4) tasks to give you breaks from heavy (✶✶✶) tasks that are rated as  1 or 2.

Tip: Reduce your work to items that are critical to your short term objectives. Keep non-critical tasks on your list if you want some ‘down time’ or if they have to be done (chasing up overdue session payments) but can’t yet be delegated.

3. Schedule Accordingly

With all the work you have done up to this point, scheduling should be a piece of cake. It’ll take practice, but over time you will develop this skill as you learn more about your use of time and fluctuation of productivity during the day. That said, start off with this approach and adjust accordingly:

  1. Put tasks with priority 1 and focus level ✶✶✶ in first, targeting your ✶✶✶ focus time in your day
  2. Put tasks with the priority 1 and focus level ✶✶ in next targeting what is left of the ✶✶✶ time, then use remaining ✶✶ time
  3. Put tasks with priority 1 and focus level ✶ in next targeting what is left of the ✶✶ time, then use remaining ✶ time (or use little ✶ chunks to provide breaks in larger chunks of ✶✶✶ time)
  4. Repeat the same for 2 and 3 rated tasks
  5. Any priority _4_s you have: slot in if you can – most will be ✶ in nature

Here is how one of your days could look like now:

TimeLevel of focusActivity
06.00-08.00Own workout, train clients, breakfast
08.00-10.00✶✶Train clients
10.00-12.00✶✶✶Content for referral team meetings, draft email newsletter
13.00-14.00Set up dropbox, lunch
14.00-15.00✶✶Update client exercise plans
15.00-17.00✶✶✶Write main article/blog, draft newsletter for it
17.00-20.00✶✶Train clients
20.00-23.00Train clients, own workout, dinner

We matched how critical the task is, how demanding the task is, and the level of focus at different times of the day to get the best results.

Tip: To get the most out of your day, plan it in advance so you can account for any setbacks that might occur.

The Bottom Line

This practical way to planning your work time might look a little bit complicated at the first glance but is actually fairly easy. The first few times you create plans with this method will take you a little more focus but after a few weeks, this will be a no-brainer. And eventually, it will help you to run a better organized, more efficient and more successful fitness business.

Prepare for Success

Want more tips and information about how to take your personal training business to the next level? Download our free ebook, Running an Efficient Personal Training Business to receive tips on efficiency, acquisition, retention, sales, trends, and more.

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Juan Ortega

Surf, football, power lifting and general fitness enthusiast since I can remember. Hi, my name is Juan Ortega and I come from the best possible place in Spain, The Canary islands.