Time Management Is A Killer: How To Make It Work In The Salon

10 min

Time Management Is A Killer: How To Make It Work In The Salon

If a genie could grant us a wish, most of us would probably ask him for more hours in a day. Even with the wealth of productivity tools available today, time management and procrastination are still common struggles in both our personal and professional lives. As a leader, time management should be part of your soft skills. It allows you to have control over your business rather than having it control you.

However, deeply rooted habits don’t just go away at the first attempt — bad habits die hard. It can sometimes be a lengthy process, but if time management is a skill, it means it can be taught and certainly can change your mindset and how you function. If you’re all over the place, so will your team be. If you’re organised and focused, your staff might not all be, but you will leave less chance for challenging behaviours to arise.

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Table of contents

  • So busy you don’t know where to start
  • 7 Key time management processes for the salon/spa industry professional
  • Boundaries and managing expectations
  • Food for thought: insights from business books on time management and productivity
  • The salon management course (includes a time management masterclass)

So busy you don’t know where to start

The story you’re about to read is true. While we don’t often talk about it openly, stress and anxiety linked to poor time management and procrastination affect far more people than we think. Today, this client of mine is making decisions based on clear financial decisions and has fallen back in love with her spa. Just a little over two months ago, she was on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

The initial consultation

It was only an initial consultation, but I could tell. She had a lot to do; that, she knew. What she didn’t know, was where to start.

This is usually when procrastination takes over: we find easier or other things to distract ourselves, things that still fulfil a sense of achievement. That’s of course if Netflix hasn’t already become your best friend! You build a comfort zone, and over the years, it’s easy to fall into the habit of deflecting real issues.

Side effects of procrastination may include…

  • Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, scared or even petrified
  • Feeling like everything is a priority
  • Being unable to communicate efficiently
  • Being on literally everything you do
  • Struggling to make efficient decisions
  • Focusing on the short-term rather than the long-term strategy

Mainly, you find yourself fire-fighting rather than being pro-active, which makes everything become emotional, rather than practical.

“I have so much to do that I don’t know where to start. My mind goes blank every time I look at my laptop, so I end up doing the washing up. That, I can control!” That’s what my client told me during the consultation. She was so afraid of making the “wrong” decision that she wouldn’t act on anything; but that was it. The magic word was – and is – control. Usually, when we’re overwhelmed, it’s because we have lost some kind of control, which also explains why our emotions then creep over everything. Especially guilt — guilt for not doing, not being or not achieving enough. We can be so hard on ourselves!

If you recognise yourself in any of this, I want to reassure you. You have created an operating business, and you’re managing it. Well done!

Tackling the issue

To give her back some control and lower her stress levels, we worked on two things: reassurance on both her numbers (budget) and identifying her priorities (time management).

Budgeting is at the core of any business and allows you to know what you can and can’t afford. It reassures you, and analysing the salon’s performance will enable you to understand where you can grow and what doesn’t serve you. Time management, on the other hand, has to become a part of you. And a lot of it has to do with implementing changes in your habits. Time management allows you to feel in control and assess what a real priority is and what can wait —what will make a difference on your salon or spa’s bottom line.

Being patient with the process

Two months after our initial chat, my client is feeling much more on top of things. On our last monthly Skype session, she proudly told me about how she made a financial decision based on the budget we had set. How she also had prioritised the things that were going to make a difference on her business’ bottom line. What a change in mindset and habits!

Sure, her to-do list is still hefty but, it’s manageable. She knows what to focus on, and I’m checking in with her weekly to ensure her priorities are getting done and suggest what she could or should do sooner.

And remember this: Rome wasn’t built in a day. In more challenging spas, it took me six months to help leaders get back on top. Be patient with the process; you can only eat an elephant in small bite chunks.

7 Key time management processes for the salon/spa industry professional

I’d love to tell you that time management is as easy as turning off your phone and email notifications, dedicating your full attention to a task and focusing solely on that for an hour or two. Unfortunately, you know as well as I do that there’s more to it than that.

There was a time in my career when, as an Area Manager for Clarins, I had secured an appointment with Harrods’ buyer in time for the Christmas period. The buyer was in high demand as you can imagine, and so this had been quite difficult. So far, so good. Fast-forward to the day of the appointment. An hour ahead of going into the meeting, a Department Manager calls me asking that I went to one of the stores I looked after. Flossy (a fictional name I use to call difficult employees) had been caught stealing, which meant I needed to dismiss her on the spot. The police was involved and there was no time to waste. Less than pleased, I made my way over to the store.

The next day, thoughts kept running through my head: “When will I have another meeting with the buyer? How will my diary cope with having to reschedule the buyer?” I was a new Area Manager, I wanted to impress and was looking after 180 staff members at once. I felt the pressure and was overwhelmed. My to-do list felt like the longest thing that had ever existed.

Luckily for me because her advice has followed me ever since, my manager came to see me. She sat me down and asked me, “What became your priority yesterday?” Flossy had become the priority, there wasn’t any other option.

She replied, “Did you do your job?”

I had to admit, I had.

She continued: “The minute you realise that you will never finish your to-do list will be the minute you will feel better about it. It’s all about managing that list of tasks. It’s about taking control of what you can control, and letting go of circumstances that you can’t. The main thing is that you did your job yesterday. Today is another day!” I later went on to manage up to 230 staff members. You could have added another 100 that I still would have coped.

Today, I assist leaders in the spa and beauty industry create sustainable and profitable businesses; I’m no longer an Area Manager for Clarins. However, that invaluable piece of advice led me to creating the ‘7 Key Elements For Time Management.’ This is what I teach my clients to help them stay focused.

1. Make time management a priority

It takes anywhere between 21 and 66 days to form a habit, so communicate your new behaviour and put reminders in your office, calendar or agenda. Set expectations with staff and give yourself permission to not always get it right. However, do test new strategies for getting back on track quickly.

2. Centralise all of your lists

On whichever medium you prefer, centralise all of your tasks into a two-column list. Use one column for your workload and the other for personal matters. Seeing the big picture will help you make time for both life spheres and in time, attain a more enjoyable work/life balance. The more books or notepads you have, the less productive you become. The power of one always works!

3. Use your calendar twice as much as you do now

Could you imagine running your business without a diary or a salon appointment scheduler? Probably not. It should be the same for your operations. Get yourself a calendar and add monthly team meetings, individual meetings, networking events, etc… If you do this well in advance, you’ll know when you need to prepare, and for what. Whether you’re away from the salon or not, team meetings should still take place with a manager, giving you just another reason to pre-fill your calendar. Get into the habit of planning your operations at least quarterly.

4. Dedicate your Sunday night or Monday morning to identifying your goals and updating your to-do list

A clear head is a more productive one. Dedicate an hour or two before your week starts to put some clarity around your goals and priorities. Update your list and take some time to reflect on what happened last week. Did you achieve what you had planned for?

5. Prioritise your priorities

When you’re busy, thinking of broad tasks such as “marketing” or “hiring” makes everything seem like a priority. This is when the Eisenhower (time management) matrix comes in handy. Give a quadrant number to each of your more specific tasks in your to-do list.

  • Q1 Urgent / Important (do them now): fire-fighting things like crises, hiring when you’re understaffed, etc.
  • Q2 Non-Urgent / Important (schedule them): things like writing your procedures manual, ordering stock, networking events.
  • Q3 Urgent / Non-Important (delegate or minimise them): phone calls, updating your social media… anything that you can delegate really here
  • Q4 Non-Urgent / Non-Important (eliminate them): time wasters and trivial tasks

Overwhelming? Start by looking at your calendar; this will indicate you what’s most urgent. Then identify your top two urgent/important priorities. Tackle those immediately. Organise and move down your list this way.

6. Practice brain dumping

As you move through the week, write down any new tasks that come to mind. It will free your brain from stress and anxiety. When you do your weekly update, take what’s most urgent and important from the list and delegate what you can.

7. Manage time killers

Time killers come in various forms: the customer who never leaves, the therapist telling you about her night out, unplanned/unstructured (and therefore unproductive) meetings, Instagram scrolling, etc. You have to eliminate those. Visualising what you would do with the extra time can help you make those changes.

Boundaries and managing expectations

Think about your days. Do you work behind the chair? Work from home on the business 1 or 2 days a week? Often get interrupted by staff walking into your office? Or perhaps do you split your time between 2 or 3 locations?

What can you put in place in the way you operate to allow for productive bursts? Let me give you and example. In my time as a manager, I had an open door policy. I managed my team’s expectations by explaining to them that for a couple of hours every day, there would be a scarf on my door. Unless there was blood, fire or death, that scarf indicated I didn’t want to be disturbed. Those couple of hours allowed me to focus on my daily priorities and become extremely efficient.

Take some time to reflect on this, create boundaries with your staff and manage people whom you work with’s expectations (this could be staff, suppliers, clients, etc).

For more time management insights, listen to Phorest FM Episode 85 with James Parnell, and subscribe to the podcast here:

Food for thought: insights from business books on time management and productivity

“Eat That Frog,” by Brian Tracy

Recognised as a sales training and personal success authority in the world today, Brian Tracy’s premise for “Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” is that if you’re overwhelmed with things to do, your instinct might be to:

  1. Procrastinate on the big and important things until you crawl until they seem impossible.
  2. Tackle all the small, annoying, nagging tasks first to get them over with.

Option 1 may be writing your procedures manual, seeing if you can make savings on some costs by requesting quotes from various suppliers, or planning your budget.

Option 2… well you probably know yourself.

According to Tracy, however, neither of these approaches focuses on impact, which is why he suggests getting crystal clear on your biggest goal and that “if you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.” Interesting metaphor sure, but in essence, start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first. He explains: “The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue. […] This is a wonderful time to be alive. There have never been more possibilities and opportunities for you to achieve more of your goals than exist today.”

Worthy quotes from the book include:

  • One of the very worst uses of time is to do something very well that need not to be done at all.
  • Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement. The bigger your goals and the clearer they are, the more excited you become about achieving them. The more you think about your goals, the greater becomes your inner drive and desire to accomplish them.

A true leader owns the day, so be clear about your goals and vision. The bigger the goals and the clearer the vision, the less time you’ll want to waste actioning them.

“Getting Things Done,” by David Allen

In “Getting Things Done,” David Allen shares a different perspective. Allen believes our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. That only with a clear mind and organised thoughts can you for example, focus your attention on growing the business without the nasty overwhelming panic or stress. For him, perspective and control are the two ingredients to time management.

Worthy quotes from the book include:

  • You can do anything, not everything.
  • There is an inverse relationship about what is on your mind and getting it done.
  • In a crisis you are focused on a very specific outcome.

Think about your main business-related stressor. Can you perhaps write down the details of the task at hand? By approaching it in chunks, you can easier reassess foals and stay focused in changing situations. Remember, “Chaos is in the world. Not in your head.”

The Salon Management course

How do you think about yourself as a leader, and where is there room for growth?

When you start managing growing teams, focusing on your mindset and vision is crucial. If you don’t make it a priority, you will find it increasingly difficult to achieve your goals. The Salon Management Course is a free six-week program designed to develop your managerial skills and help you become the leader that not only does your business need in a time of growth, but that your team deserves.

Course curriculum

  • Lesson 1: How to manage your staff
  • Lesson 2: Managing your salon’s operations successfully
  • Lesson 3: How to motivate your salon team
  • Lesson 4: Salon HR, recruitment & training
  • Lesson 5: How to handle difficult salon staff
  • Lesson 6: Transcending management, becoming an exceptional salon leader

Sign up for free and get a new lesson by email every week!

Valerie Delforge is also on the Salon Mentorship Hub! If you’d like to discuss a specific topic such a time management, you can click here and book a free 15 to 30 minute consultation with her. Got feedback? Let us know either in the comments below or tweet us @ThePhorestWord! (Pssst! We’re on Instagram too!)

Thanks for reading! #LetsGrow

Featured imaged shot on location of GMALE Barbers, in Dublin.


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