Time Management Tips for Pet Sitters
Start your new year off with less stress and more time
I've often said that pet sitters live a timed life. In order to meet their daily responsibilities, pet sitters have to be very aware of time so they show up at the right place at the right time and do the right thing with whatever pet(s) are on their daily roster.
I've met some pet sitters who are better at time management than others, so for those of you who need a few pointers, or perhaps some new tips, I will present them to you today in this post.
Most pet sitters have figured out that pets have a wonderful sense of timing. As an example, I once pet set for a lady who lived in a condo with five cats. When I entered the house it was a split level with six stairs going up and six steps going down. After the first few days of my initial round of pet sitting with them, the five cats would already be sitting in a row on the top step awaiting my arrival. They knew I came at the same time every day and they had an innate sense to watch for me. (This happened consistently with other pets in other houses as well - their little noses were at the door waiting for me.)
These five cats brought joy to my days. I saw them for maybe 10 days or so, I don't remember exactly, but about four days after their owner returned, I received a phone call from her stating that even four days after her return the cats were still sitting on the top step at my designated pet sitting time, awaiting my arrival! How cute is that!?
Sometimes pets are better at time than humans, but we can develop a better sense of timing with some focus, awareness, and practice .
Below are a few tips for you - tips that should help you have less stress in your days and more productivity within them as well.
The most important tip I can give you is to create "buffer time". Buffer time is when you look at your daily pet sitting schedule, the locations where you will have to travel and build in a few minutes of buffer time between visits. Buffer time will give you a few extra minutes to take it slow and easy on the roads and not rush to your next stop. It could be five minutes, ten or fifteen, whatever works best for you.
For instance, if you are scheduled to be at Mrs. Smith's house at 7:00 AM - 7:35 AM and you have to be at Mr. Harris' house at 7:50 AM, then you have 15 minutes to get to Mr. Harris' house after leaving Mrs. Smith's house. Ask yourself, will those 15 minutes between houses give me enough travel time without having to feel pressured or drive too fast? You have to consider the time of day, the traffic situation, and the driving weather.
Buffer time gives you a few extra minutes in case you need to stay at a house a few minutes to deal with an issue or in case you just want to stay a few extra minutes to give some extra attention to a pet? Buffer time gives you time, if needed, to pull over between visits and check messages or just enjoy a scenic stop in between houses, or run through DD for some coffee and a pit stop.
I remember one time when I was fairly new at pet sitting and still developing my style and dealing with a growing business, that I would rush around doing my daily pet visits, and it took me a while to see the importance of instilling buffer time in my daily schedule. So, this one time I was on the highway going from one house to another and didn't give myself enough time. I was going too fast and guess what? I got pulled over. Sigh, Ugh, and oh no! I just didn't realize how fast I was going. Luckily the police officer was kind and only gave me a verbal warning, but I learned a valuable lesson that day.
Another time management tip: Look at your next day's schedule before you go to bed the night before. Organize your roster for the next day. Get out the pet files that will go with you on your rounds, and the clients' house keys. Review the tasks you need to do at each house and check your route (if only mentally). Pay attention to the weather and get your clothes out for the next day. DOUBLE CHECK your calendar so you are showing up at the right homes at the right time. Then, you can sleep in peace.
Another time management tip: Get up extra early each day to give yourself a little "me time" or "quiet time" so you prepare yourself for the day. For instance, I'm writing this blog post very early in the morning with quiet classical music playing in the background. The world is still asleep and I have no distractions, except for the nice hot cup of tea sitting next to me on my desk. For me, writing time is important, and so I get up extra early in order to enjoy this process.
Set two alarm clocks so you never wake up late, and make one of them loud and obnoxious so you can't ignore it and roll over for more sleep!
Another time management tip: Watch your time on the phone. I'm a talker so this is something I've always had to struggle with as a pet sitter. I loved talking to my clients, especially if they called for advice. I wanted to give them all the time I could. But sometimes, my phone conversations would mean I was neglecting other office or planning duties so I had to learn to be aware of phone time.
Another tip: Tell your clients and other professionals and family members that you only check your e-mails, etc..... three times a day. Morning, mid-day, and early evening. Obviously, if you are waiting for something urgent, you'd check a little more, but we all know that technology sucks a lot of our time so be mindful of your techy time.
Time off is good time management. I say this because if a pet sitter doesn't give her/himself adequate time for rest, they will get stressed and possibly sick, and then they will have no choice but to take time off and rest because their bodies will say "nope, not gonna work at this pace anymore."
If you are not a solo pet sitter and can rely on others, delegate, and then trust that the person you've delegated a task to, will do it. If you are a solo pet sitter, good time management might include limiting the size of your business so you don't get overworked.
Pet sitting is an all day, every day, type of profession, so if you are solo, then limiting the number of clients will help you have some downtime. I know, I know, fewer clients means less income, but again, are you doing this primarily to make money, or to have the lifestyle you want? If you are a solo sitter and want greater income, then seriously consider expanding and adding employees or independent contractors.
Another tip is to wear a watch. Not just your phone because a phone requires taking it out and clicking and looking at the time, while a watch is just there on your wrist. Look at it often during a pet visit to see that you are on task. It is easy to get lost in playing with the cats or walking a dog on a beautiful day or teaching a parrot a new word, but unless you are going to use some of your precious buffer time, watch the watch (ha! I just made a funny!) so you arrive and leave a home on schedule.
I hope these few tips will help you in your business. As human beings, we only have 24 hours in a day, regardless of how great or smart we are, so we must learn to use them wisely. Time management is an art that can be developed - just give yourself some practice and you'll find that your life and business go smoother and you'll be more prepared and less stressed as you move through your days.
Happy pet sitting!