Some time ago, I was driving out of my office parking lot getting settled in for my commute home. Just as I was about to turn down the secondary street, I noticed my clients drive by me on their way into my office parking lot. My first thought is unpublishable here, but suffice to say I realized I’d forgotten about their appointment.
Forgetting an appointment hasn’t happened very often, but by my standards it’s happened too much. I spare you the details about my personality deficiencies in regards to tedious tasks, but I’ve had to learn some systems to help me keep track of my appointments.
Simply put, we have two choices: Digital or Paper calendars. I’ve used both, but ultimately settled on using my Mac’s calendar program (I’ve listed several alternatives below). I think the pen/paper route probably affords less scheduling snafu’s due to it requiring more effort than it’s digital counterpart, but neither method is going to be foolproof. Your calendar is only going to work as well as you use it.
When I began my practice in 2008, I was working 3 jobs (2 were counseling related). These jobs covered 5 different office locations. It was confusing for me to keep up with where I was supposed to be and when. Some days I had to be at 3 different locations throughout the day! Because of this logistical nightmare I began color coding my different office locations. Before this change I probably had 4 or 5 scheduling issues over the course of a couple months. That number was almost zero after implementing the colors.
Now that I’m in a single location, the color for my calendar doesn’t matter all that much. What matters more now is keeping up with the irregularities of client changes. Occasionally I will get an appointment confirmation or cancelation via email, I’ll make the mental note of it, and then move on to my next task. There have been a few times that I forgot to update/add the appointment time in my calendar, and only later realize it when I’ve either double booked or the story I shared earlier. To keep from doing this I use my email inbox as a “to do” list of sorts. I only delete an email after I’ve completed all the necessary tasks associated with it.
For security reasons, I only use first names on my calendar. Though my data is encrypted and private, I don’t want to put full names on my calendar for the sake of my clients. I would encourage you to do the same. Something else I suggest doing is setting regular appointment times on a weekly basis with your clients. Knowing that Sarah comes at 11am every Monday makes scheduling issues with her almost non-existent.
Lastly, always confirm your appointments with clients. Be it on the phone, via text or email (though I don’t really like using text/email as methods for communication with clients), make sure that you state their appointment date and time. This will help make it easier to reinforce your cancellation policy if/when someone doesn’t show up.
There are several really good alternatives (you’ll need to check into the HIPAA compliance of these) to the built-in Mac calendar app. In no particular order, they are: