Productivity tips for personal trainers

Published by Mike Samuels on September 07, 2022


Half a job Harry

King Procrastinator

Sloth Samuels

These are all nicknames I give the me of a few years ago.

Man, was I a disgrace when it came to getting stuff done!

No drive, no forward planning and I did the bare minimum to get by. What’s even worse is that I was supposedly working a job I loved – personal training – I really had no excuse for being like this.

Sure, I trained all my clients, never cancelled a session or took a sick day, and was happy to do 5am starts, 10pm finishes and weekend work.

(In fact, throughout 2012, I worked out that I saw clients 340 days of the year.)

So I certainly wasn’t lazy, but my issue was that I did the stuff that needed to be done, and nothing more.

Work was tough, and I put the hours in, but I wasn’t looking forward.

I had grand ideas of how I was going to “dominate” the fitness industry. I wanted to be held with the same regard as names such as Norton, Aragon, Rooney, Cosgrove, hell, I’d even have taken Shaun T.

But I wasn’t making any real attempt to get there. I was focusing on keeping clients happy, making money day to day, and was that annoying guy who always wanted “the secret” to getting known.

I was the man with all the ideas, but never put them in to action – “all talk and no trousers” if you will.

Well, today things are a little different.

I consider myself pretty efficient.

In fact, I’ve pretty much achieved every goal I set myself back then –

– Write for the top fitness sites on the web (T-Nation, EliteFTS, the PTDC, Muscle & Strength,, Stack Magazine, Livestrong, etc.)

– Cut down my one on one PT hours so I only work with people I love spending time with, and feel there’s a real rapport between us.

– Publish an e-book to generate passive income.

– Run an online coaching business that pays the bills, so that I do personal training because I want to, not because I need to.

I don’t quite know what triggered this change in mind-set – whether there was a flick of a switch, or whether I gradually transitioned into being more productive, but whatever the cause, here are my top tips for making yourself grow some balls, and get shit done.


Planning when you’re going to do your “creative work” is tough. There’s always something else that could be done instead.

I guess there’s a mixture of fitness pros and non-fitness pros reading this, but hopefully everything here applies to you, whoever you are. Here’s how I think of it –

As a trainer though, if you’ve got Mandy and 9am on Monday morning, you wouldn’t call her up at 8:45, and say

“Sorry Mandy, I don’t really feel like doing the session today, hope you understand.”

It’s the same if you work in an office – if you’ve got a Tuesday afternoon meeting written in your diary, you don’t just skip it because you’re not in the mood – you go ahead and do it.

Hence, writing down when you’re going to do your creative work (whether that’s article writing, drafting posts for your FB page, making headway with your e-book, etc.) is essential.

Block out creative time in your diary at least one week in advance, and treat it like it’s even more important than a meeting with your boss, or a client session.

The cat gets sick, washing machine breaks, your car needs a service – it doesn’t matter, they can all wait. What matters is getting that creative work done.


Separating home life and work life is a pain in the arse.

That’s why I like to work from coffee shops, or, if I absolutely have to work from home, I set myself up at a desk – NEVER on the sofa or in front of the TV.

In fact, I don’t think I wrote one word of my book at home


A simple one, but ensure you’re prepared for a good stint of work.

Water works fine, but my brain fuel is definitely coffee. If I’m caffeined-out, which happens regularly, I switch to a flavoured tea. (Call me a sissy all you like, the liquorice and mint tea from TeaPigs is just devine, darling.)


Phone goes off (or at least on silent and in another room) and you tell family members/ housemates that they should only talk to you in an absolute emergency: the kitchen starts going up in fire, a crazed axe-wielding maniac breaks in, someone’s eaten the last of the peanut butter and all the shops are closed – that kind of thing.


Whether or not you “like” classical music, I don’t know one person who doesn’t admit to feeling more intelligent when there’s some Bach, Beethoven or Brahms playing.

While writing this, I’m actually listening to –


Not necessarily while you’re working, in fact, that’s a pretty stupid idea, but I find that reading something motivational every day helps ignite that fire within you.

This is highly personal, but for me, business-related books about “living on your own terms,” while slightly cheesy, really appeal to me.

2 I’ve read recently and would recommend are

“Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuk and “Become a Key Person of Influence” by Daniel Priestley

Read on a recent trip to Berlin

I also like fiction for getting the creative juices flowing Once again, what you choose is entirely up to you. If you’re wondering though, my favourite books ever include –

– “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

– “Death and the Penguin” by Andrey Kurkov

– “Heart of a Dog” by Mikhail Bulgakov

–  “Down and Out in Paris and London” by George Orwell

It really doesn’t matter what it is. If “The Hungry Caterpillar” motivates you to work – read that!


Yes, it might be like a child to you, but when it’s workin’ time, Facebook has to go.

7.5.  Ditto Twitter, Email, Instagram – whatever distractions you can think of!

Before you get sneaky, the same goes for all other social media.


My #1 tip for aspiring writers is to set a timer and sit with your laptop, writing, until that beep goes off.

Keep the time short – I find 20 minutes, followed by a strict 5 minute break works best.


As much as I’d encourage keeping to your allotted time, sometimes the words will just be flowing, in which case, crack on. Other times though, you just won’t come up with anything, so cut it short, have a slightly longer break, take a walk, and come back to it in an hour.


There’s something immensely satisfying about physically crossing off a task on a piece of paper once you’ve completed it.

DO NOT simply make a to do list in a Word doc, and delete it when you’re done – take a post-it note, or sheet of paper and write down your jobs. Then grab a big red pen, and cross each one off as soon as it’s done.


Humongous to-do lists are worse than no to-do lists at all. Sometimes seeing the sheer volume of things you could do is crap-tastically scary.

I have one weekly to-do list, and one daily one.


Not feeling like you’ve achieved anything is immensely frustrating, so I always put 1 really easy task at the top of my list.

It could be a 30-second job, such as pay a Paypal invoice. Honestly. Something that simple, but at least then you’ve done something, and are on a roll.


This was my issue – I chased the easy money that was on the table. (If you know anything about my journey into writing, you might have seen this post on Facebook, that explains everything.)

Once that safety net was pulled away, I was able to think big picture, and got so much more done. 3 months down the line after getting fired, I am in a much better position (mentally and financially) than I was when I had that comfort blanket.

I was “lucky” enough to be fired – I’m not sure I’d have ever taken the steps needed myself, but sometimes, you HAVE to take your safety net away to really make yourself get productive.


I learnt this tactic from Ben Coomber. Try an astronaut nap –

– Lie on your back on the floor

– Place a couple of cushions under your head

– Raise your feet onto a sofa/couch

– Breathe slowly and deeply

– Set an alarm for 10-20 minutes.

This is unbelievably invigorating, and makes you feel amazing when you reawaken.


Get everything on your to-do list done?

Pick up a new client?

Finish an article?

Treat yourself.

This could be with something tangible – a new pair of gym shorts, a tub of ice cream, a Ferrari (if you secure that contract for a 7-figure book deal) or an experience – maybe hit the cinema. There’s something weirdly great about getting a load of work done early in the day, then thinking “hey, look at me, I’m awesome, I’ve done all that and it’s only midday” then going off to the cinema.


I saved the best ‘til last.

You will never be as productive as you could be if you’re doing something you hate.

“But Mike, I can’t quit my job, I’ve got bills to pay.”

“It’s easy for you to say, you’ve been in an industry you love all your working life – I can’t start from scratch at my age.”

I get these comments a lot, and I understand, I really do.

I would never, ever tell someone just to up and leave their main source of income, or take a huge risk by leaving a steady job, but there’s no reason whatsoever on God’s green earth why you can’t start making a transition to doing something you love.

– An accountant who hates accountancy and wants to be a sports therapist?

– Sign up for an evening sports massage course at a local school or college.

–  Working in admin, but with a real passion for beauty? – Ditto to the above – college courses in beauty are ten-a-penny and run at evenings and weekends. They’re not overly expensive, and there are few, if any pre-requisites to enrolling.

–  You’ve got a real knack for upcycling old furniture into custom pieces, but can’t see how you’d make the same money doing this as you do in your 9-5? – What’s to stop you doing this at weekends?    You could visit a scrapyard or auction, or even the dump on Saturday, and spend all day Sunday working your magic. Get a few pieces together, then advertise them for sale. 

Sure, it’ll be hard work for a few months, but it allows you to see if there’s a potential market in what you want to do, without having to leave your job.


For a basic tips article, this got pretty damn long.

Maybe I’m not quite as efficient as I thought.

But, I really do help you took something from it. I’m far from entrepreneur of the year, or a business guru, but I’ve learnt a tonne of lessons over the last few years, and just hope that I can pay a little of that forward.


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