The CoachAccountable Blog

What's new with the CA platform, tutorials on using it, and customer spotlights.

Archive for Appointments

Direct Sync with your Google Calendar

CoachAccountable has long supported syncing with your Google (and iCal, and Outlook) Calendar by way of 2-way subscribing to calendar data feeds.  This works according to a simple, two-part mechanism:

  1. CoachAccountable publishes a data feed of your appointments which your calendar can subscribe to, allowing those appointments to appear alongside your regular calendar events.
  2. CoachAccountable can subscribe to a data feed of your calendar events for the sake of knowing when you’re busy to prevent double bookings.

It’s a good system, but suffers from two drawbacks:

  1. Calendar systems can be lax about pulling appointment data from CoachAccountable.  Though the data as offered by CA is always up to date, there can be a lag in how long it takes your calendar to pull over whatever’s new.  Google Calendar in particular is a bit notorious for updating from such data feeds only once every 24 hours.
  2. Having your CoachAccountable appointments present as a separate calendar collection of events is often not nearly as nice as having those events posted directly into your primary calendar collection of events.  Other scheduling systems might know when you’re busy based on your primary calendar, but that might not include a separate calendar collection without subscribing to THAT one, too (if even possible).

To overcome these drawbacks I’m happy to report that CoachAccountable now supports a direct integration for syncing with your Google Calendar.

Let’s see how it works!

You’ll find the place to set this up under Settings >> Appointment Config >> Calendar Sync.

Note that this is only available for accounts that are on Version 3.  If you don’t see the Calendar Sync item that means your account is still on Version 2.  If you own the account, you can switch it over to 3 from the top right user menu >> My Account >> Version.

This green button is very chipper, but when you see how painless the process is you’ll understand why.

Clicking the button to go sync with Google brings you to a simple process to authorize CA to manage your calendar, assuming you’re already logged in to your Google account:

The question is: do you trust CoachAccountable? Promise there’s nothing shady about CA having access–strictly professional, yo.

Assuming you click “Allow”, you’ll be whisked back to your CoachAccountable account and given the options by which to configure this synchronization:

Just a few choices here and you’re done, where to publish to (if at all), and where to read from.

If you want (and you probably do!), CA will publish your appointments to the calendar of your choice.  Pick one and they’ll magically appear there within seconds.

Choosing which calendars CA should read from tells CA where to look in order to accurately determine when you’re available and when you’re busy.  You might want to skip certain calendars.  For example my wife and I share a calendar of events, but I don’t need to have my availability blocked when she puts on there, say, a day visit with the kids to Grandma’s house (on the contrary, I generally have more free time then! :).

And that’s it!  Once set, CA will post new appointments (and updates made to them, including cancellations performed by your clients) to your calendar as they arise, with lag time measured in seconds rather than hours.  Similarly, when CA has direct read access to your calendars the process of keeping up to date in order to provide accurate availability options is nearly instantaneous, rather than taking up to 5-10 seconds to pull all the data over with the data feed approach.

Speaking of which, once you’ve setup CA to sync directly with your Google Calendar, you should delete any calendar feeds that you’ve set CA to pull from that are now redundant (as found under your Availability Exceptions):

Yep, we’re sure. We’ve got a better way now to keep abreast of calendar availability.

How about for my clients?

Your clients can similarly setup a direct sync with THEIR Google Calendar.  They won’t have to pick which calendars CA should read of theirs (because that’s not relevant on their side of the equation), BUT they too can have their appointments with you set via CoachAccountable appear right in their calendar.  Nice!

Let them know they can set this up.  They’ll find the place to do this under their My Account page:

Every bit as easy for them as it was for you. More so, even.

What if I don’t use Google Calendar?

The old system of subscribing to calendar data feeds remains intact, and is, as it has been for years, a fine 80% solution.  If you use Apple iCal or Microsoft Outlook, I may in the future build more direct API-based integrations with those, too.

For what it’s worth though, sync’ing between those systems and Google Calendar is a well worn path.  So you might setup a Google Calendar account, sync your other calendar with that, and THEN sync CoachAccountable with that Google Calendar to more or less have Google serve as an intermediary to sync with your calendar system of choice.  Yay, technology!

And that’s it!  If you’ve had troubles with appointment scheduling in CA because the data feed approach didn’t play nicely with other scheduling systems, the direct calendar sync approach should be the perfect fix for you.  Enjoy!

Delightful Collaboration VIII – Setting Location and Description for Appointments

Here is a great example of where CoachAccountable gets better through me being exposed to a style of doing things other than my own.

The calendar feed of appointments is a lovely thing, allowing both coaches and clients to have appointments [set within CoachAccountable] appear right within their usual calendars (like Google Calendars, iCal, and Outlook).

Beyond the what and when, calendar software aficionados know that it’s handy to have location and descriptive information about a calendar event be right there as well.

For my sake when it comes to coaching appointments there’s nothing to it: “where” is invariably on the phone, and there are no access or dial-in details to speak of, or really anything else–I call them and that’s that.

Liz HeimanBut last Thursday I had a great call with Liz Heiman of Percio Strategies.  We went over a bevy of great questions of how to setup and do this or that within CA, and Liz made a great case for how useful it would be to have location and description information about an appointment appear right along side appointments within people’s calendars: vital for coordination of meeting locations and a great boon to timely attendance to have dial in information right there for attendees. » Continue reading “Delightful Collaboration VIII – Setting Location and Description for Appointments”

Appointments: Post Worksheets and Type-Specific Availability

CoachAccountable Appointments have undergone a few more improvements lately.  Let’s take a look! » Continue reading “Appointments: Post Worksheets and Type-Specific Availability”

Two Way Syncing with your Calendar

A major piece of CoachAccountable is scheduling and managing client appointments.  A lot of coaches ask “how do I sync my CoachAccountable appointments with my regular calendar, and how does that work?”

(By “regular calendar” I am referring to whichever online calendar system you already use regularly–Google Calendar, Apple iCal, and Microsoft Outlook are by far the most prevalent.)

Syncing is key for two reasons.  One, because you want your CA Appointments to appear right along side all of your other stuff, allowing you to see your complete schedule.  (Moreover you want this without having to manually enter your CA appointments into your regular calendar, because who has time for double data entry?)  Two, because when scheduling your appointments within CA you want to know when you’re actually free, to avoid double bookings.

These two reasons together form a two-way street: how to get your CoachAccountable appointment data into your regular calendar (so that it shows up there), and how to get your regular calendar data into CoachAccountable (so that CA can prevent double booking).

CA provides the way to do each of these two directions of syncing, and it’s important to understand what each direction does as they are quite distinct.

CA to your regular calendar: To have your appointments which were made in CA show up within your regular calendar, CA offers a data feed URL of those appointments.  By adding this URL to your regular calendar system (“Add by URL” or “Subscribe”, the wording to do this varies from system to system) you allow your regular calendar to pull that data in so that it shows alongside the rest of your schedule, allowing you to thus see the whole picture.

This data feed URL can be found within My CA >> My System >> Appointment Scheduling, towards the bottom:

You CoachAccountable Appointments data feed URL

This URL is all you need to add your CA appointments to any calendar.

Your regular calendar to CA: To inform CA of when exactly you are busy, so that CA doesn’t offer those time slots to your clients when they’re trying to book (and similarly gives you as coach a warning if you attempt to book something when you’re already busy), CA allows you to enter up to 3 calendar feeds.  This is the same mechanism but in reverse: instead of CA giving you a data feed URL to be added to your calendar, you need to find the data feed URL offered by your calendar and paste it in to CA.  Again, how or where to get this data feed URL varies from system to system, but most calendar systems which are web-based in nature offer this.

Here’s what the interface to do this within CA looks like, again found within My CA >> My System >> Appointment Scheduling:

Just paste in the magic URL from your calendar and CA will pull in the data.

Just paste in the magic URL from your calendar and CA will pull in the data.

Together setting up these two steps make the full, two way sync.  The intended work flow is that you use whatever calendar you usually would the way you usually do (which is nice: no new calendaring system to learn, just a one-time setup step and then it’s business as usual), and then CA appointments effortlessly pipe in there to give you the full picture (while getting the benefit of all that CA does for facilitating coaching appointments: reminders, client-initiated scheduling, worksheets, hours tracking, piping into the calendars of your clients, etc.).

Pipe Appointments directly into your clients’ calendars

If you use CoachAccountable to manage your appointment scheduling with clients (and this is highly recommended, by the way) you can have the appointments that you schedule with a given client pipe directly into his or her online calendar (e.g. iCal, Outlook, or Google Calendar).

This is because, in addition to calendar feeds of all appointments available for coaches, CoachAccountable offers a calendar feed for clients consisting of their appointments with you.  The setup to do this is a one-time step.  Tell your clients to find their listing of Appointments with you the next time they login (found in the column on the left), and beneath that listing they’ll see a button: “My calendar feed…”

When your client clicks the button, they'll be given instructions on how to add their appointments with you to their online calendar of choice.

When your client clicks the button, they’ll be given instructions on how to add their appointments with you to their online calendar of choice.

What they have for their calendar feed is exactly what you have as coach, so if you’ve added your appointment feed to your online calendar you’ll be able to talk them through the process.

Once they’ve added their appointment feed to their online calendar, any appointments you (or they) setup within CoachAccountable will automatically appear in their online calendar.

This is a nice convenience and a powerful way to integrate your coaching into the rest of their life and schedule.  Seeing their coaching appointments with you amid all of their other happenings in life provides a nice reminder to make the coaching work they are doing a priority, and might even cause them to complete one or two more assignments prior to your next session.

So let your clients know as they’re getting started with you on the platform: add the feed of their appointments with you to their online calendar of choice, and they’ll have their current and future sessions with you effortlessly added into their schedule.

Letting CA Know When You’re Not Available for Appointments

CoachAccountable allows your coaching clients to schedule themselves for appointments right into your calendar.  By setting your weekly availability, you tell CA when, in a typical week, you are open to receiving appointment requests from clients:

Typical weekly availability

But of course things come up.  Sometimes you have a dentist appointment at 11am on a Monday, and so you need CoachAccountable to not offer that slot to your clients for booking.

For a long time now this could be done by manually specifying these exceptional occasions, like so:

Just let CA know when you're not available, and it will subtract out those times.

Just let CA know when you’re not available, and it will subtract out those times.

Now by popular request you can pipe a live feed of your calendar events into CoachAccountable, letting the system know directly when you have times that should thus be made unavailable for appointment scheduling with your clients.

» Continue reading “Letting CA Know When You’re Not Available for Appointments”

Being an Awesome Coach with CoachAccountable Appointments

Between a few hang outs and a lot of phone conversations I keep bumping up against CoachAccountable being more powerful than people are discovering on their own, even with a 30 day trial.

Clearly I can do a better job of tuning CA users into all that the system is capable of.

To that end I’m happy to unveil the first of a series of videos which, in detailed fashion, illustrate the many how-to’s of using the system to greatest benefit, distilled from the experiences of myself and many other users.

This first one is titled “How to be an awesome coach with CoachAccountable Appointments”.


For reference, here’s the narration transcript:

» Continue reading “Being an Awesome Coach with CoachAccountable Appointments”

Appointment Worksheets

Yesterday I got an email from Bryan Gilliom of Level 5 Coaching Group, a fellow who was goodly enough to reply to my “welcome, how’s it going?” email that gets sent to all coaches shortly after they grab an account1.  In addition to giving a really nice account of what he was looking for, he let me know his wish list so far for the system.  The first on this list was this:

1) To improve my own efficiency I want to be able to send worksheets based on an appointment.  So it seems like I am going to have to remember each session to schedule a “Check in” worksheet and reminder, and I will have to schedule a pre-meeting worksheet.  This seems like repetitive work that would be better done by defining triggers tied to the appointment.

In this I love both his forwardness to ask and clarity of reasoning behind it.  (Incidentally, the second item on his wish list was essentially a request for the forthcoming Team Edition.)

To his first request I replied:

Tying a worksheet to an appointment type is a really good idea, one which I’ve toyed with in the past and am just about sold on as being worth adding.  As you might imagine my to-do list is quite flush with good ideas but I reckon I may add this sometime in the near-ish future.

Then I realized I was just a few days off from a trip to Vegas for MicroConf, and thus it wasn’t a good day for doing any major architectural wrangling for Team Edition.  Instead, a quick project was a perfect way to spend the day.  So I did just that.  And now, as of this morning, coaches can tie worksheet assignments automatically to their appointment types.  Let’s take a look.

» Continue reading “Appointment Worksheets”

  1. The computer sends this email for me automatically, but the intention is quite sincere!

Scaling your Coaching Practice

One of the things technology is generally useful for is to automate a lot of grunt work and thus free up time for people, and CoachAccountable is no different in this regard.

Since the launch of the site redesign back in April, I’ve had a signature website “Coming Soon” notice on an illustrative video about how CoachAccountable helps to scale up one’s coaching practice.  “Soon” for things like this is a standard lie in the web world, and alas amid all the travel I took nearly 3 months to finally get that video together (in my defense, I was traveling through all of Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, UAE, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy during that time).

But I knew I’d get to it eventually.  I cooked up the script for it in haste back in mid-April, during the 36 hour window I had prior to my appointment at a proper sound studio to do the recordings.  With proper narration all done it was but a matter of time before I could animate it, and whilst living in Crete I found that time.

Anecdotes surrounding its creation aside, the video gives a nice illustration of the difficulty of scaling up one-to-one coaching, and how CoachAccountable can help.

Coach more people in the same amount of hours, or the same amount of people in fewer hours.  I think it’s a juicy win.


Making Appointments Better

Similar to the tweaks to make Actions better, I’ve added a few bits to improve Appointment scheduling as well.

Exceptions to scheduling availability

As coach you can set up your typical availability for your clients to schedule themselves into your calendar, but what about the occasional day or week off?  Sure, appointments scheduled by clients are just pending requests, subject to your approval, but missing was a way to block off bits of time before requests for not-actually-available dates were made.

Now you can add as many exceptions to your upcoming availability as necessary, and CoachAccountable will subtract those out from the scheduling options presented to your clients:

Exceptions to your availability

To make sure that you’ve got everything setup correctly regarding your availability (and exceptions thereto), you can now preview the options that your clients will see when they go in to schedule themselves:

See the options available for a given type of appointment just as your client would.

See the options available for a given  appointment just as your client would.

Time zone coordination in scheduling

When scheduling an appointment with a client in a different time zone, a coach can see immediately what a given appointment time will be in that client’s time zone.  Most handy to avoid confusion to the tune of “is that in your time zone, or mine?”

As you change the time, the client time changes with it.

As you change the time, the client time changes with it.

Scheduling a regular sequence of appointments

Often times you have a regular weekly call with a given client.  If you know it’s going to be the same for several weeks to come, you can now schedule a sequence with just a few clicks:

Just a click and the option to schedule a regular series appears.

Just a click and the option to schedule a regular series appears.

And there you have it!  Just a few improvements to make appointment scheduling easier for you.