7 Top Tips for Easy ADI Diary Management

adi-diary-managementADI Diary Management and Diary planning is an art form in itself. Learning to plan your diary efficiently can help maximise your time, boost your profits and reduce your fuel costs.  It also enables you to ‘work to live’ rather than ‘live to work’. Many new instructors struggle with diary management, so here are 7 tips on how to manage your diary more effectively, based on our own experiences.  We hope you find the ADI diary management tips useful!

ADI Diary Management – Top 7 Tips

TIP 1 – Decide on your hours of work… and STICK TO THEM!

OK, this sounds pretty obvious I know. When you have a ‘normal’ job (i.e. in employment), you have a specific start time and finish time.  You also know the days you have to work and the days you have off. Why make an exception now that you’re your own boss? For many of us, it’s the main thing that attracted us to becoming a driving instructor in the first place – working when we want to!

adi life moves fastSo what day(s) off do you want? What time do you want to start and finish work? Ok, so you may have to make the odd exception to fit in that new pupil on their birthday but having strict parameters will help you keep work contained within the times and days YOU want.

TIP 2 – Pre-plan your diary

Organising your diary into set time slots will avoid pupils requesting awkward lesson times which prevent you from fitting in other people… leading to more dead time! So for example, if you do 2 hour lessons, your regular slots might be something along the lines of 9.00am-11.00am, 11.20am-1.20pm, 2.00pm – 3.00pm, 3.20pm – 5.20pm and 6.30pm – 8.30pm (granted, you may occasionally have to deviate from these times for test bookings). Let pupils choose the best time for them in the slots available rather than allowing them to book when THEY want. A pupil deciding they want a 10.00am lesson can effectively cost you the first working hour of the day if you would normally start at 9.00am.

Pupils will fit in with YOU if you choose to run a structured system.

TIP 3 – Encourage pupils to take longer lessons

Many instructors offer lessons lasting 1 hour.  Others have a minimum duration of an hour and a half or even 2 hours.  Encouraging your pupils to take longer lessons will increase their rate of learning, decrease ‘dead time’ or travelling time between hourly lessons – thus maximising your work time and profits.  A profitable  ADI Diary Management tip.

TIP 4 – Book pupils in for several weeks in advance

If a pupil usually has the same time each week, it’s a good idea to forward book the same lesson time in the upcoming weeks.  Booking pupils in only one week in advance can be a real headache and prevents you from planning further ahead and can result in regular pupils losing their normal slot. Also, changing a pupil’s lesson time each week will often lead to them forgetting their lesson or cancelling at the last moment. Just pencilling in the pupils first name, or highlighting the reserved lesson in a different colour on electronic diaries will keep it reserved until the pupil confirms their regular booking. This will make it harder for you to double-book or give a regular slot away by accident and can be done for many weeks in advance. It’ll also help you identify what spaces you have left for your shift workers and new pupils.

TIP 5 – Subtly manipulate your diary

It’s can be a real pain when a pupil wants their driving lesson smack bang in the middle of the day when the rest of your day is free, especially if your other pupils are already booked in! Or perhaps you have a couple of lessons in the afternoon and another pupil books the first lesson of the day leaving you with a gap in the middle of the day.  There’s an easy solution to this…

If the pupil can’t see your diary (if you’re using your phone, for example) then just offer the times you want to fill first, “I have either 10.15am or 1.45pm available on that day”.

If you use a tablet or paper diary and your pupil can see it, this becomes a bit trickier and they may point to the middle of an empty day asking if they can have that time. To help you make sure pupils book the lesson slots you want to fill first, and to make your diary appear busy (great if you’re starting up), add ‘fake’ names or shaded areas to areas of your diary that you’d like to fill last.  This will mean pupils wanting to book in only have the opportunity to take the available time slots you want to fill first. For example, if the last lesson of the day is empty and you still have availability earlier in the day, use a fake pupil name and the pupil will have to choose one of the other available times. If it ever backfires and the pupil can only do the later lesson, you could always say you will ask if the other (fake) pupil will swap, (which they always will of course!) and it looks like you’re going the extra mile to accommodate your pupil.

On another note, putting any “serial cancellers” as the last lesson of the day will occasionally net you an early finish! You can work on replacing any of these pupils with more reliable ones as you get busier.

TIP 6 – Manage your coverage area

iStock_000013048926XSmallTry to narrow down your coverage area, where possible.  Yes, that’s easier said than done for some people.  If you’re a new ADI, you’ll probably have to start with a wide geographical area and narrow it down as you get busier. Or it may be that you live in an area that’s not densely populated.

Either way, if you cover lots of areas, is it possible to give lessons in one area on one day and another area on another day to avoid longer travelling times and higher fuel costs?

TIP 7 – Learn to say ‘NO’

saying no is okI know what you’re thinking… “Say NO? You’re kidding right?!”

If you’re building up a new business, this isn’t normally an option. But if you’re working your socks off and you get yet another customer wanting to book lessons with you, you have a choice. Start work earlier, finish later, work your day off OR simply choose to not take on the work at that time. You could start a waiting list – if the pupil definitely wants to learn with you, they will wait. Even if they don’t wait, the supply of new pupils won’t come to a complete stop because you said no, there will always be more!  Finally, saying ‘no’ is proof of your popularity – any pupils that you turn away because your waiting list is full will still be more than impressed by how great you must be!

down arrowLet us know what works for you. Do you manage to get the time off you want? Do you find yourself hanging around in between lessons? We love hearing from you, so please add your thoughts and other ADI Diary Management tips in the comments below.

Finally, if you liked this article, please share it on Facebook and Twitter – simply hit one of the social media buttons below.  Thanks!


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  • Some great tips, thanks. I will be using the idea to fit any serial cancellers in at the end of the day.

    • Claire Wilmot

      Great Tony! Let us know what else you try which works for you and anything we haven’t mentioned that works for you too.

      Claire 🙂

  • Another great article!

    Some very interesting ideas which I will certainly try.



    • Claire Wilmot

      Thanks Chris. Hope it helps you get more control of your time and more ‘you’ time!!

      Claire 🙂

  • Hi, Definitely something that requires trial and error. We tend to learn the hard way, by making mistakes.

    In the current climate its hard to turn work away, but I always try to think positively and consider the long term prospects for the business. I will give you an example: (some points in this topic have been changed to make it sound better)

    Some years ago I had a failing diary. I was down to 10 hours per week. The phone rang and a caller asked to book lessons. They wanted 5 evenings a week doing 1 hour lessons. I tried to negotiate on the times/days but they were very strict on what they wanted so I turned away 5 hours per week/20hours a month.

    The reason was simple. I would be racing around trying to meet someone for 1 hour. I would have turned it away for 2 hours 5 days a week also.

    When the pupil passes I would be left with a large whole in my diary, which I could not fill. The other thing to consider is. If I have 5 pupils Mon-Fri I then have 5 more chances to gain more pupils.

    Some may disagree, as work is work.

    Its useful having a day which you are prepared to work, but can have off if there is no work. Its no secret Driving Instructors do not earn a lot of money, so limiting your diary to 4/5 days a week may mean you cannot earn enough money to pay the bills.

    I use Saturday as my overflow day. I’m also prepared to work Sundays/Bank Holidays.

    But, the work is not permanent. The work is clients who require a lesson quickly because they cannot wait 10 days for the first lesson. Its there for intensive courses. Full Licence holders, Pass Plus.

    That way, when I don’t have any extra hours or extra lessons for tests coming up, I get two clear days off, at the same time I have extended my diary to allow me to pay the bills.

    It is also essential that a Driving Instructor manages their driving tests. A busy instructor will be doing on average 1.5 tests a week. Its essential these are booked at times you know are suitable to meet the clients schedule but also your diary.

    You can also maximise your hours and income by placing the test at a point where the pupil can take the hours leading upto the driving test they feel they need.

    • Claire Wilmot

      Some great ideas Keith and thanks for the insight into how you manage your diary. Great point about the driving tests. We have a dedicated ‘office’ day which gets used a lot for Part 2 and 3 tests, meaning we don’t have to cancel our trainees already booked in on other days to accommodate tests.

      I understand what you’re saying about one pupil taking all your evening appointments and the benefit of having more pupils over all your evenings (and potentially more recommends) which is a very valid point for independents especially.

      Claire 🙂

  • Namil Chaudhary

    Some excellent tips here! Thank you :)https://m.facebook.com/smartrackdriving

    • Claire Wilmot

      Thank you Namil! 🙂

  • Thanks for these tips. I`ve just gone independent so any ideas are greatly appreciated. I have to say, it is a worry waiting for the phone to ring!!


    • Claire Wilmot

      You’re welcome Ed, good luck in your new business. Remember you get out what you put in so go get em! 🙂

  • Very sensible ideas presented here,

    over the years I have heard ADIs complaint they’ve not had a day off for xyz days/weeks ….I usually say that it must be what they want because if they wanted a day off all they have to do is block it out on their diary…. I take Sunday and Monday as a rule, only fitting pupils in if it is what I want…. Like I have this week because I’ve just had 10 days off…

    The new one to me is ‘fake’ pupils ……. very sneaky G&C ….. I love it …. I’ve just the spaces in my diary for Tom, Dick and Harry …. Naughty boy lol

    Thanks for the tips you are giving out guys, there is always something to learn


    • Claire Wilmot

      Lol Pau(l)!!! Loving the Tom Dick and Harry! 😀 Thanks for your fab feedback. 🙂

  • This may sound taboo! I teach 2 sisters, both on the same 2 hour lesson. They both pay £30 each for the 2 hours rather than the full £44. They are both happy to save money and learn at the same time. It means I maximise my profit and save time for other pupils or myself. I don’t do this as a habit, just food for thought :0)

    • Claire Wilmot

      Not taboo at all Tam! Definitely client centred if it’s what they want and sounds like it benefits you all! Brilliant! 🙂

  • More great tips guys, some of witch i do and some i don’t like the Say no, i am going to start that right away.

    • Claire Wilmot

      Late reply from me Marcus, sorry I just can’t seem to say no!!! Lol! Hope you’re having success with no! 😀

  • Some great stuff here, thanks. I find it even harder to manage my diary as I’m currently part-time with another job that I’m contracted to for 20 hours a week. But I do have 2 hour lessons as a default and I definitely do all the test bookings. That makes life so much easier particularly now that the DSA booking site is so much better. I can sit in the car with the iPad and get a test booked in front of the client and with them paying for my time whilst doing it.

    Just a word of caution about the encouragement to share this article via Facebook etc. As it talks of fake pupils etc. Be careful if it ends up on social media that your clients have access to!

    • Ged Wilmot

      Thanks David 🙂 Our work is pretty much 100% ADI Training and CPD – we no longer work regularly with learners, so no worries about sharing on social media 😉

  • Easier said than done, but you are correct, there has to be a cut off & the Pupil that says; “but I can only do 1900hrs on a Friday”, I have found when you say “No”, suddenly they are free on Tuesday mornings. Its strange but it always works out.
    A thought on 2hr lessons: Having a Diploma in Psychology we are told that the average persons attention span is 22-30minutes. Therefore, if you do two hour lessons, you need to split this into 4 sections to aid with concentration and learning, otherwise they will not learn efficiently & change Instructor.

    • Davidson……I agree totally. I’ve often called a pupils bluff on lesson times, and often they will just walk away and find another instructor.

      Its not unusual to find a Part-Time instructor working 7 days a week, because whilst they may only require 20hours tuition, it cannot be found over 2 days.

      I find the hardest lesson is actually saying No…..I turned down a pupil who was recommended to me recently, they also knew friends of friends, but their only availability was after 2pm on a Saturday afternoon.

      Its so hard saying such a simple word, especially when you are not busy and you are trying to think of the bigger picture.

      I once remember walking into a restaurant and we were told they were busy and had no tables. This restaurant does not take bookings.

      As we walked out, a group of people came in, it was clear the staff knew the people and they requested a table. They were quickly shown a seat. (your wondering how I hear all this. Well, when you want to hear you can listen, and my mum is a little slow at moving so it felt like forever trying to leave.)

      It was clear the owner was looking after the regulars and playing the business game, rather than giving the seats to someone who only comes once or twice a year.

      • Claire Wilmot

        ‘No’ is hard to say Target, so well done at staying firm. Your time is valuable and not just in monetary terms. Good to hear to stick to your guns. 🙂

    • Claire Wilmot

      Yes Davidson, no matter how long a lesson is, we agree, it’s not productive to just keep them driving. A lot of learning takes place when you are stationary and have their full attention so giving them a break from driving every 20-30 minutes can be really productive. 🙂

  • Stuart Johnson

    Although I Implement most of the tips myself, it is all good sound advice.
    Well done.

    • Claire Wilmot

      Thanks Stuart! 🙂

  • steve

    I used the fake pupil thing a lot when I first started and only had 1 pupil;) With serial cancellers I either make them first or last lesson of the day so I either get a lay in or early finish if I’m a little quiet I will put up with them but generally I do 3 strikes and your out. I personally work monday to thursday 9am till 10pm Friday 9am till 3pm though have been known to work till 7pm on a friday, Saturday and Sunday is family time and I will not work unless its a test booking for someone who cant get the time off through the week a teacher for example and then i insist on it being an early morning test. I agree 100% with your statement about not being afraid to say no I have not lost one pupil by saying no to doing weekend lessons most of my pupils come through recommendations and want me to teach them and know that I’m busy so are prepared to wait for a weekly evening lesson if they work monday to friday days;)

    • Karen Dunsford

      Some excellent tips, thanks Ged & Claire. I’ve recently gone independent & quite a few of my pupils are friends or their children & they do take the proverbial from time to time. I find it difficult to be firm with them :/

      • Claire Wilmot

        Stay firm Karen, they will take the proverbial as much as you allow them too. Maybe one strike and then they pay for future cancellations? Remember your time is limited and valuable, they have to respect that. 🙂

    • Claire Wilmot

      Good on you Steve for keeping weekends as family time! 🙂

  • Hello Ged & Claire I have always liked the idea of the 2 hour lesson I never phone a new pupil up and book a one hour the first thing I say to them is that I highly recommend 2 hours as you “the pupil” are going to get so much more out of it than 2 separate one hour sessions (cockpit drill, re-capping on last week, and booking and paying for lesson) you only have to do that once! I also say to them I know money can be a problem for most people but even if you do 2 hours once a fortnight it will still benefit you in the end. and so far i could say that probably 98% or 99% of my pupils take 2 hours once sometimes twice a week so 😉 happy me.

    I do find that all my pupils learn that much easier by having the time to hammer away at something, there is nothing worse than picking a pupil up for a one hour lesson to do roundabouts driving to the other side of town going round the worst one twice if you are lucky and then driving straight back home ;-(

    • Claire Wilmot

      Thanks for your comments Tina, yes 2 hour lessons can be much more productive when structured well. 🙂

  • Alex Lewis

    Great site Ged, i like the good tips shared here. Definitely take some up.

    • Claire Wilmot

      Thanks for your comments Alex! 🙂

  • Claire thanks for this, as you know I am just starting out over past month or so … my diary is already full most weeks through the company I am working with and getting referrals from pupils too, so I may try the “fake pupils” 🙂 Naughty yes you are hehehe …. Hoping to go on my own in the very near future … my webiste is already up and running and had a few enquiries and bookings so far for that. Currently doing marketing for that. I need to lose this lancashire accent I have picked up though when teaching! I sometimes think when I’m in the car … what would Claire Wilmot say here ? Gets my mind shifting a few gears to think what to say! Had a few near misses in the car and also a couple of local scottish celebrities as pupils … I’ll be getting invited to all the posh do’s in Glasgow me 🙂 That was in a lancashire accent 🙂 Thanks again for all your help and hope to meet up with you again sometime xx

    • Claire Wilmot

      Aw, thanks for your lovely comments Carol! Keep up with the Lancashire accent so I understand you easier next time I see you. You talk faster than the average Scottish person (if that’s possible)! I trust everything is going well for you and I know you’ll have a thriving business up there in bonnie Scotland. 🙂