How to Schedule Appointments When You’re Very Busy

how to make appointmentsHow do you stay on top of hair cuts and other personal care appointments when you’re a busy professional? Reader S, who is about to start as a summer associate, wonders…

I’m in law school, about to start as a summer associate at a firm in NYC, and I was wondering if you had any advice on scheduling appointments while working at a firm. I know that as a summer, I probably won’t have the same workload as I would as a junior associate, so this is mostly a question for the future. When you were in BigLaw, how did you stay on top of things like hair cuts and waxing appointments? It just seem like the hours you need to be working and in the office would make it really hard to schedule things in advance or take the time off to get in with your favorite person.

Great question, S — for my $.02, the answer is to make friends with your calendar system. Let me explain:

– Schedule appointments at the first or last appointment of the day. Doctors, hairstylists, it doesn’t matter — everyone who is appointment-based falls behind. Another option: take advantage of weekend appointments where offered.

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– Schedule WELL in advance. The first or last appointment of the day (or the weekend appointment) can be really hard to get, which is why you should try to schedule everything ahead of time, when you can afford to wait a few weeks or months. In fact, it’s often easiest to book your next appointment at the salon or doctor’s office.  This is where trusting your calendar system comes into play — if you’re making a haircut appointment ten weeks in advance (or a dentist appointment six months in advance) you need to really be able to trust that you’ll be aware that it’s coming on your calendar, so you can change the appointment if necessary, make sure you don’t doublebook the time, and more.  This is true for doctor’s visits too — there’s no reason you can’t schedule your annual checkup two months in advance.  I use Google Calendar and the email and pop-up reminders that it comes with, and I like that it syncs with my phone, iPad, and more.  I often add my own appointments to my husband’s calendar as well if it might affect childcare (you can “invite guests” in Google; when he accepts the appointment it’s added to his Outlook calendar).

– Factor maintenance time into any new looks. For example, an angular hair cut or a hair color many shades away from your natural one may require frequent visits; I’ve heard the same about pixie cuts. Even bangs (if you can’t cut them yourself) can require you to be at a salon for a few minutes on a regular basis, which can be onerous with travel and wait times. As for waxing, if you budget allows you may want to consider laser hair removal — the visits are about as frequent as waxing for the first six visits, but after that, they’re much more infrequent (once or twice a year for most people).

– Finally: try to make any wait time productive time. Leave yourself a slew of emails that are acceptable to answer on your phone; bring a bunch of reading that you can get done while in the waiting room; be sure to bring a pen to take notes by hand. To the extent you can, stay connected to the office (check your email and voicemail, tell your secretary where you are and how to reach you). Obviously, unplug and be present for the appointment itself. (I’ve never quite “enjoyed” a waxing or teeth cleaning, so I won’t use those words, but if you’re getting your hair cut it’s ok to bliss out for the 30-45 minutes of the haircut itself, it makes sense to devote your full attention to a doctor’s visit.)

Readers, what are your tips for scheduling appointments?

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  1. Anne Shirley :

    For haircuts and other grooming, I just always book a Saturday, and cancel if I need to. But typically if I’m working on a weekend, it’s from home and I can get out for an hour here and there.

    For doctors I shoot for morning apts if I have to, but my primary care group is only evening hours, which works out great.

    I’m sure some people have no problem with this, but I would never book a wax or haircut during business hours.

    • oil in houston :

      I’ve bought an electric depilator exactly because of that problem, I couldn’t find a salon open at the hours I was available at …
      I tend to book doctor’s appointment around the lunch hour, I find being away then is a bit less disrupting. Last appointments don’t work, as the end of their day is very rarely the end of mine… and it creates problems with my team.

    • Thirded. All “grooming” is Saturdays only. I shoot for first-of-day appointments for everything else, but otherwise, have found that partners are generally understanding about things like dermatologist appointments or annual exams where everyone knows if you cancel at the last minute, you end up waiting another 6 months before there’s a slot.

      • another attorney :

        i used to do all grooming on sat, but after i had kids, that meant i had to be away from them. you can try booking during nap time, but it doesnt always work. So, recently I’ve started booking in the evenings, or when Im slower, during the work day. I always book dr apts during the work day — started doing this while preggo — no one will say anything to you. Now i dont really think twice about booking any of this stuff during the day, nor do i tell anyone what i am doing. im also a partner, FWIW.

    • If you normally step out for lunch, I think it’s fine to schedule short appointments during lunch times and then bring back a meal to your desk. Know your firm culture – in some of my prior firms it was acceptable to just step out and in others the norm was to let your supervisor know if you were going to be absent for an hour. Even in firms where that wasn’t required, I always let a colleague/friend know where I was and how to reach me – in case of delays or emergencies. That way I didn’t have to tell my supervisor directly, but I could rest assured I was available.

    • I generaly agree with Ann Shirley. I schedule all of my medical appointements in the morning, b/c the doctor is NOT tired and can answer all of my question’s.

      I go to the hairdresser right after work, so that I can go home after ward and not have to deal with my hair until the NEXT DAY. This way, there is no smell for me to bring in for Frank to start sniffing at. FOOEY. I hate it when he start’s sniffing like a bassett hound.

      The guy at the Crumb’s asked me why I am not buying so many cupcake’s. I told him b/c my dad is getting down on me for not looseing as much weight as I should have. He said I look great just the way I am. YAY!!! I have to tell dad that men like me the way I am, and that I do NOT have to be a bone to be beautifeul. YAY!!!!!

  2. I found a dentist and a vet that were open on Saturdays, booked laser hair appointments through a company that was open on Saturdays and Sundays (and weeknights till 8 pm) and did haircuts/manis/etc on the weekends. Scheduled doctors appointments (gyno) I tried to make first thing in the morning or around lunch, but unschedule doctors appointments you go when you have to if you’re really in need of a doctor. Most places I worked had dry cleaning in the building, but at my new job I tried to find a place on my way home that was open late and on weekends. If you’re very busy, you may opt for a lower maintenance hair style to avoid frequent appointments. And just accept that some things are going to slip through the cracks as you get really busy…

  3. Health care – during the week, as far in advance as I can schedule. I have no problem telling boss/team “I have a medical appointment” if I need to, unless the potential work conflict is really, really urgent. Derm, gyn, eye doc, dentist X2 = five appts per year, not counting emergencies.

    Personal care – on the weekends, always, but I only need a haircut every 3-4 months and don’t wax, so I have fewer of those to schedule. It would not occur to me to try to do those during the week, but YMMV.

  4. Interesting; everyone I know goes to get waxed during the week, during business hours, typically at lunchtime. I’ve never had a waxing appointment last more than 30 minutes max (and they’re usually shorter than that) and in NYC it’s easy to pop out, walk a block or two and get it over with before anyone else would be back from a lunch. That said, I’d never get a haircut during the week – I think that would be way too much time away from the office regardless of your cut or color.

    • Anonymous :

      Yea. Mine are 15 mins for a full bikini. I go in the middle of the day. I’m away from my desk for 30 mins, max.

    • Ditto — I usually get in and out of my waxer (brows and Brazilian) in 25 minutes, and the office is a few blocks from my office, so why not do a lunch appt? I wouldn’t do a hair appointment just because it would be 2+ hours away from the office.

      • Well, I should modify that since the OP is a summer associate: since you will have lots of work related lunch dates/meetings, your lunches aren’t really your own. So I wouldn’t schedule any spots during the work day.

  5. Anon in NYC :

    Weekends for personal grooming stuff – your hair stylist/waxer is most likely working on at least 1 weekend day. For doctors appointments (presumably on weekdays), I agree with the recommendation to be the first one in the door. If you can’t swing that, I then find that around lunch time is less disruptive than the last appointment – if a last appointment is at 4 or 5pm, that’s still in the middle of most biglaw days, and people want to leave / not wait around for you to get back around 6 or 7 pm.

    On a related calendar note – my DH and I (really, just my DH, since I’m not tech savvy) figured out how to share calendars in Google Calendar. We have a joint calendar (that we both can edit), and personal calendars that we share with the other (but can’t edit the others) so we can see our respective appointments but don’t have to accept a calendar invite.

  6. Sydney Bristow :

    I have a monthly appointment that I always schedule before I leave the office for my current visit. It’s easier for me to get it on my calendar than try to schedule it closer to the date because its so easy to keep putting it off because no time seems the best.

    Another thing I’d do is try to pick business that are near your office if you can’t get evening/weekend appointments. It can be worth cutting down on the time it takes to get there and back even if that business charges a little more than the one by your house.

  7. My biglaw office is pretty flexible. I can book appointments during the day (I still shoot for lunchtime or late morning) and just come in late on a given day or pop out for the appointment, as do many of my co-workers and friends at other biglaw firms. Obviously this is a know-your-office, and once you start, you’ll pick up the culture and whether this is acceptable. The glory and devastation of the blackberry is that you are always connected. I see it like a really long leash, but one that I can take to a dentist appointment at 1:30 pm, like I did yesterday. It’s not so bad.

    • This has been my experience as well. Yes, lawyers work long hours, but the trade-off is that you have some mastery over your own schedule. As long as you aren’t abusing the privilege, you should be able to handle reasonable personal obligations during the day.

    • Alanna of Trebond :

      Yes, I can do that too. I take appointments at 5pm and then just leave.

  8. (former) Clueless Summer :

    Finding a new place right by your office building helps a lot! Sometimes you just have the bite the bullet and realize your hair stylist whose location used to be convenient just isn’t anymore. I get all my grooming (including nails every 3 weeks or so) done at places around my office building. Nails I do early early in the morning (so still in the office by 9 if not earlier) and hair after work (even if I have to return after, you can usually duck out around 6 for something like that). Places in your city’s business district likely have convenient hours since they cater to working women.

    I will admit I’m horrible at doctor’s appointments, but the last time, I took a day off (obviously you wouldn’t do this as a summer but still) and scheduled doctor and dentist. I just said I had various medical appointments.

  9. Cornellian :

    I get the sense it may depend on your practice group. In my firm it seems like litigators get slammed during two big cases over the course of the year and don’t eat/cut their hair/wax then, but for 10 months of the year can make appointments at leisure.

    Transactional attorneys seem to have much less predictable schedules. i can’t really schedule anything between 9 AM and 7 PM M-F and reliably show up. I can often duck out for 30 min at lunch, but I really never know if I can duck out until a couple hours before.

    Definitely find all your service providers near your office (or home if you are going on weekends) and adjust your expectations downward and your prices up. Part of the reason you earn so much in biglaw is because it’s expensive to be a groomed human being when you’re working 80 hour weeks, I think.

  10. Choose doctors who do not make you wait (especially your ob). I would not have survived my pregnancy if my doctor had not been fairly punctual, for the majority of my visits. Most ob’s see people early in the morning, which also helps.

    Hair on Saturdays, and other beauty appointments. Although truth be told, I have dropped most of them to a “only if I really need this” level. Especially waxing and eyebrows. Now I get my eyebrows done once or twice a year, and only get waxed before bikini vacations.

    This reminds me of the time I was too busy to find a doctor to see me when I was really sick, so my mom found one for me and scheduled an appointment. Yes, I am over 30 years old. Not my finest moment. But that’s what moms are for sometimes.

    • Yes to the doctors. I pay $200 extra (not covered by insurance) per year to be a member of One Medical Group, which a) has same day appointments and b) guarantees no waits. It’s been a lifesaver.

      • Seconding how awesome One Medical Group is — you can schedule your appointments online, and several locations (at least here in the Bay Area) have Saturday appointments and evening appointments as well.

    • Anonymous :

      Are you a single mom, like me?

  11. Anonymous :

    My waxer has appointment slots until 7:45pm so I usually do that (she doesn’t have weekend hours). My medical care providers are all within a few blocks of my office and I try to get the first appointment of the day.

  12. Violet's Fan :

    Something to consider with the advice with regard to hair style. I have a pixie cut and though I have to have my hair cut more frequently (every four weeks), it saves me TONS of time on a daily basis. I towel dry and finger style in about two seconds and I’m done. For me, having to go to the salon more often is a small price to pay for how easy and fast it is for me to get ready every single morning. It doesn’t hurt that I get lots and lots of compliments on my hair- including from complete strangers. Wish I had done this years ago!

  13. darjeeling :

    Stuff like haircuts I occasionally do during business hours when I’m not busy but I usually have to make a last-minute decision to go so I pretty much have to have low-maintenance hairstyle that can go months between cuts and still look OK.

    Doctor and dentist I schedule at lunchtime or first thing in the morning. For me, with 2 young kids and living in a residential neighborhood, it’s much easier to take care of random appointments during the week when I can.

  14. I actually switched my dentist when I changed my job. My current one is a two minute walk from my new office, vs. the old one which would have been a good 15-20 minute drive from my new office.

    It’s extremely practical, and the one time when I don’t mind scheduling a regular check-up appointment in the middle of the day (last time the whole thing lasted max. 15 minutes).

    For the rest, I try to go for very early appointments or very late ones.

    Hair is always after work.

  15. Hahahhahhaha if you travel for work regularly, I promise this is about 100x harder.

  16. As a student, I can’t accord frequent hair-cuts etc anyway, so my tuppennorth:
    – I always ask for a choppy layered cut just above shoulder length because hair at that length tends to look fairly similar for months, even when it’s as fast-growing as mine. I also emphasise at the hair-dresser’s that I won’t be getting it cut for a few months and they’ve always been obliging.
    – colouring I do at home, I have a fairly foolproof box dye that I use that looks like it could be last summer’s sunbleaching when it grows out (I naturally have very very dark brown hair so I dye it a few shades lighter – which also means it doesn’t matter that I don’t get all the underneath hair because that looks so natural).

    Also I always book dentist appointments as I leave the previous one. At my dentist’s, if you don’t book six months in advance, you don’t get an appointment – though it is usually possible to move appointments once you have one.

  17. I think a more practical question would be “how to interview for other jobs while you’re working” because those come up with less advanced notice. I can only tell my company that I have a 4hr “doctors appointment” so many times before they think I have cancer

  18. big dipper :

    All of the above advice is great. I also wanted to recommend ZocDoc as a tool for last minute health appointments. I’ve been able to use ZocDoc to get a first of the day or last of the day appointment for more urgent health needs (aka doctors appointments you can’t schedule super far in advance).

    When I was a summer last year, I had a small health issue and I was living in a new city. So I used ZocDoc to find a doctor that took my insurance, was close to my office and I was able to book the earliest appointment. It was awesome.

    • Also, “How to be a serial last-minute plans canceler without losing all your friends.”

      • AnonInfinity :

        I need the monograph on this ASAP, please.

      • YES, pls.

      • Some of my soon-to-be-ex friends need this, too.

        One of my friends texted yesterday to hang out. I told her that I’d be happy to make plans, but sometimes she flakes on me, and it makes me feel like she made plans with someone cooler than me. She said, “It’s because my neighbor has cancer!” Uh, I’m not sure that applies to the last six years.

  19. Diana Barry :

    I schedule most things on my day off (80%) but some things (eye doctor, dermatologist) are not great about scheduling on the day that you want. I was lucky that my OB worked on my day off, so I could always get an appt then.

    The first appt after lunch (often 1 or 2 pm) is usually good for being on time, particularly for doctors. Even if they run behind all morning, the hour for lunch will usually let them get caught up.

  20. I also try to schedule most appointments during the workday. It’s much easier for me to get away for a two hour lunch once in while than it is to do it any other way. Since most people take lunch from 1 – 2 in my office, on those days, I just try to be away 12:30 to 2:30 it seems to work out so that I rarely have to respond to anything while I am away.

    I think scheduling things when you’re doing it the first time is also good advice. This way it’s in your calendar and if you have to move it, you still move it to another date as opposed to never making it in the first place.