’Tis the season to pencil-in bookings and do some long-range planning. And if you should find conflicts, there is no better time to deal with them than now. If you’ve followed my rambling for very long at all you will know of my crusade to educate Santas and clients alike about the difficulty of creating regularly repeating events and the potential for conflict when using multiple methods for referencing dates. Some of you are thinking, “what the heck is he on about?” I’m glad you asked.
Here is a graphic I use to visualize how dates rotate from year to year. There are 7 patterns for the dates around Christmas, each dictated by what day of the week Nov 1 falls on. Thanksgiving, the start of “the season” is highlighted orange, and Christmas is red. One of the first things you’ll notice is that "the season” (which I use to mean Black Friday to Christmas Eve) varies in length from 26- to 32-days long. It’s this variability that can lead to trouble. It is a rare thing indeed to have an event that makes an absolute reference to their date… almost no one wants to book December 11th every year since one year it will be on a Sunday, then a Tuesday, then a Thursday. Birthday parties are an exception, but even then folks are likely to have it on a weekend before or after the actual date. So, for the most part we are left with relative references for our dates: we want the Saturday after Thanksgiving, or the second Sunday in December, or, my all time favorite, the Saturday before Christmas unless it is later than the 20th then we want the second Saturday before Christmas(!). And any one of these systems of reference can work and never give you a conflict, the problem is when different clients use different references. Even if they do, things may work for a while, eventually though, the 4th Sunday of the season, which is normally the 2nd Sunday before Christmas, will be the 1st Sunday before Christmas and you will have an unexpected conflict between clients who have happily coexisted on you calendar for three years!
So, how to remedy it? There are two systems that I can think of that will work. The first, the more straightforward, is to reserve dates in reference to the 1st week in November. In the chart below the week number is a row of dates read straight across (numbered with a very light grey number in the rightmost column). The boxed row, for instance, shows the “8th week of November” (even though the dates are in December, I know the naming is confusing initially). If you assigned a client to Sundays in the “8th week of November” their event would fall on Dec 14-20th every year. Other clients could be safely given any other weekday in the 8th week, or any weekday on other “weeks of November” and never conflict with this event. But, admittedly, that “week” is rather arbitrary, just because I laid out the chart starting on Sunday. The big advantage is you could look at any calendar (that starts on Sunday) and count the weeks to an existing event and tell right away if a new event would ever conflict.
A more flexible solution is to have the client pick a 7-date range in which they want their event to fall; even a convoluted request like “the Saturday before Christmas unless it is later than the 20th then we want the second Saturday before Christmas” from above. This client would want the late date no later than 12/20, and an early date of 20-6, or 14, so Saturday 12/14–20).
Another example, on the chart above, the yellow dates are ones on which a client of mine has held a brunch in previous years. The pattern, if continued, would have put this year’s brunch on the 20th. That was too close to Christmas for the client’s comfort so we switched this year’s event to the 13th (and presumably next year’s to the 12th) as indicated by the pink. As you can see, this new pattern breaks every rule of reference listed below the calendars, except one: this client is now booked on the only Sunday between 12/12–18.
If you get another client who wants the 2nd Sunday of December you need to translate that into the new system: it becomes the only Sunday between 12/8–14 (second week means 7+1 to 7+7, or 8-14). Oops, see that, there is a conflict! Your brunch already commands every Sunday 12/12–18, and this new event, Sundays 12/8–14, overlaps on any Sunday the 12th, 13th or 14th. The main thing is that now you know where the hitch might be and you can plan for it with your clients. Let’s try another: I have a client who always wants the Thursday after Thanksgiving. Let’s translate that to the new system. Thanksgiving, as we can see on the chart, is always 11/22–28, so the week after is 11/29–12/5. To protect that client’s booking you cannot book any Thursday that falls between 11/29 and 12/5. How about one final example: I have a client who books the second Weds of December and the following Thurs and Fri (which are not necessarily the second Thur and Fri, as is the case in 2016). Second Wednesdays fall between 12/10 and 12/16, so we would block out W 12/10–16, Th 12/11–17, F 12/12–18.
Now that you know all of this, what can you do with it? How about making a bookings-at-a-glance chart? Here is one I whipped up for my own use. Days of the week are laid out across the top, and each day is broken into chunks of time, broadly: morning, midday and evening. One the left are dates of the months. Fill the grid with X’s for each booking, as I have done here for each of the events we used in the above examples. When you consider a new booking like the Sundays 12/8–15 from above you can see right away that three of the days in that pattern conflict (the N’s and red X’s show the new event). You can also see that, though there are three dates that conflict, the three dates before are open, so you could suggest to the client that he take Sundays that fall on 12/5–11. A quick look at the original chart lets you see that this new rotation would mean that in 2016 he’d get 12/6, and 12/5/16, 12/10/17, 12/9/18, 12/8/19, 12/6/20 and so on.