// On time, on target for success: the 3-hour management plan

Time management is the cornerstone of an effective business. With structure and strategy you can overhaul your approach to managing your fitness operation, says Nathan Quinn.

Professionalism is all about being effective with your time and having consistency in your completion and coordination of tasks. The work culture of personal trainers, however, sees too many of us spending time on things that may not be productive or beneficial to our businesses.

The working day of the average personal trainer is generally split into shifts; a busy morning, possible lunchtime and a busy evening. This leaves a number of hours in-between to work on the marketing and programming side of things. Many, however, struggle to use this time effectively and become easily distracted from seemingly mundane 'paperwork'. After all, how many personal trainers get into our industry due to their love of admin?

The fact is, time management is the cornerstone of effective business. With structure and strategy, your business will run smoothly and efficiently. If you leave everything to the last minute you will become stressed, inhibiting your ability to think clearly and run a credible business.

The 3-Hour Management Plan

My colleagues and I were organising the opening of Acumotum, a body-brain fitness facility in Prahran, VIC, and had what seemed to be a million tasks to complete, ranging from organising quotes from builders and writing progressive programs for the members, through to organising interviews with prospective trainers.

Trying to organise so many things at once proved quite difficult. As my 'To do' list grew daily, so did my stress levels. I needed a new approach. After researching the issue, I devised what was to be the solution to my troubles – the 3-Hour Management Plan.

The 3-Hour Management Plan is a highly effective model in which you focus on four tasks or objectives. Each task is listed in order of importance, defined by deadlines and the overall size of the task. As illustrated in Figure 1 (below), the plan takes the form of a four-paned window, in which each task has one pane. The top two panes are allocated to the two most important tasks. Each of these has a total of 60 minutes dedicated to it, which is further divided into three sub-categories of 20 minutes.

The bottom two panes are allocated to two tasks of lesser importance. These receive 30 minutes each, and are further divided into three sub-categories of 10 minutes.

Figure 1. Sample 3-Hour Management Plan

1. Facility (60mins)

  • List all training equipment needed for the gym floor. (20mins)
  • Call 3 glass companies and book them to come in and quote the screens. (20mins)
  • Call 3 electrical companies and book them to come in and quote the lighting. (20mins)

2. Programs (60mins)

  • Review our exercise database and list 5 exercises for each of our programs based on level of intensity/ difficulty. (20mins)
  • Devise a draft of our Class Timetable based on setting classes in accordance with member types and their time availability. (20mins)
  • Book a meeting with Marketing Manager and IT Coordinator to develop marketing strategies for programs. (20mins)

3. Trainers (30mins)

  • Read resumes and categorise from most-to-least relevant for positions available. (10mins)
  • Review applications for work experience and organise times for them to come in. (10mins)
  • Review trainer development program and ensure all staff can attend their relevant time slots. (10mins)

4. Seminars (30mins)

  • Review our research database and consolidate 5 articles/ research papers relevant for our Body-Brain seminars. (10mins)
  • File articles/ research papers into relevant categories. Nutrition, Mastery etc. (10mins)
  • Review dates/ locations for presentation seminars and confirm numbers. (10mins)

Figure 2 (below) shows the breakdown of the first task.

Time to shape up

In addition to strategic planning, good timekeeping is an important aspect of time management. It's a simple thing, but something as simple as always being on time speaks volumes about your professionalism.

We all innately character profile people that we associate with, both personally and professionally. If clients or prospects believe you are not true to your word due to cancelling appointments, being unreliable with your timekeeping and failing to deliver on promises, they will not trust you and will be unlikely to pursue further business with you. We can't expect our clients/ trainers to adhere to our strategies and plans if we don't lead by example.

This behaviour also negatively affects the way we function. When we repeatedly break promises to ourselves due to our own disorganisation, we alter the belief systems in the brain. As soon as we are confronted with an unexpected change or responsibility, we go into a state of panic and fail to perform. When we have overcome adversity time and again through hard work and strategic planning, however, we build resilience and begin to see challenges as opportunities.


In order to follow this plan effectively, you should adhere to certain rules.

  1. You must spend the allocated time on each task. Do not skip, shorten or lengthen the allocated times.
  2. You do not answer phone calls or become sidetracked with other issues. Your plan is of the utmost importance and it must have your undivided attention.
  3. Once you have completed the three hours you immediately create the 3-Hour Management Plan for the following day.

In the fitness industry, credibility is everything. If you tell somebody you will have something done, you need to ensure that you stay true to your word and complete the task on time and to the best of your ability.

It is sometimes estimated that the average lifespan of a trainer is around 18 months. This is often due, in part, to a lack of ability to manage time effectively. By following the 3-Hour Management Plan you will notice how much more efficient you become with your time. You will start to achieve more in three hours than you currently do in an entire day. By mastering the structure of the 3-Hour Management Plan you will regain a sense of control and reignite your enthusiasm for your business, which will in turn increase your ability to achieve phenomenal results with your clients and members.

Nathan Quinn, BSc
An exercise scientist with over 10 years of training experience, Nathan specialises in training for functional and sports conditioning and the neuroscience of behaviour change. He is currently the education manager for the Personal Training Academy, where he trains personal trainers in Certificate III and IV and advanced certifications such as EMT. Nathan has also created and delivered the 'Movement in the Workplace' Corporate Program for Body-Brain Performance Institute.