There’s a construction business commodity that’s incredibly important but often in short supply. Despite needing more of this resource, companies can’t buy it because it’s not for sale. It’s time.
Busy owners often have trouble managing time properly. In fact, the ultimate failure of some construction businesses can be traced to poor time-management habits. Even if you think you allocate time effectively, there’s probably room for improvement. After all, when you can’t get more of something, you need to make the best use of what you have.
4 Best Practices
Review these four simple and practical time-management practices and consider adopting them:
1. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
Delegation is the most important theme in time management and is, therefore, worth repeating. Letting go, especially if you tend to micromanage every aspect of your business, is hard to do. But if you allow others to pitch in, you can focus your time on the most important aspects of the job.
Delegation isn’t simply a matter of assigning crew managers to knock off tasks on your to-do list. It also involves training and mentoring so that both you and the managers feel comfortable when responsibilities are handed over.
The risk of poor delegation is that tasks won’t be performed to your expectations and you’ll be tempted to claw them back. Not only is this demoralizing for managers, but it’s a waste of your time. Try to set aside the mantra “if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself,” and recognize that different people may accomplish goals differently.
2. Set priorities.
It’s not always easy to identify what’s truly “urgent” and what can wait. Often, what seems to be extremely important at first glance can be postponed, at least for a while. Consider establishing a system to label activities that warrant your immediate attention and those that are important, but not critical.
For example, you might allocate tasks to lists labeled “top priority,” “second priority” or “third priority.” Pay attention to where you’re spending precious time. If you find yourself continually diving into the third group while the top priority list is full, you’re probably not using time efficiently. You may even be harming your company.
3. Don’t procrastinate.
Are you the type of person who waits until the last minute to accomplish tasks? Maybe this behavior has worked for you in the past, or you believe that you work better under pressure. For most procrastinators, however, such bad habits eventually catch up with them and harm the quality of their work.
Look deep inside to understand what drives your procrastination. It may not simply be laziness. It’s possible you’re afraid of disappointing clients, workers or other stakeholders. Or perhaps you’re in the wrong business.
Be honest about the reasons for your procrastination and then try to fix them by setting small goals. For instance, aim to cross off three items on your top priority list each day. Gradually increase the number of items until you feel you’re using your time productively.
4. Block out distractions.
Distractions can also trip up contractors trying to make the most of their time, for example:
- Technology in the form of email, texts and social media accounts. Consider dealing only with work-related communications during business hours, and forward less-important messages to your managers to handle. Let friends and family members know when they shouldn’t contact you (unless there’s an emergency).
- Meetings that waste time and are counterproductive. Before you sit down, ensure that the meeting is, in fact, necessary, set a firm agenda for it and conclude the meeting as soon as you’ve covered the agenda items.
- Recreational habits such as watching TV or playing video games. Everybody needs occasional breaks, but you should restrict sports-watching and gaming to 15 or 30 minutes stretches, then force yourself to get back to work.
Thanks to new technologies, it’s possible to automate some tasks — such as allocating costs to your accounting system and getting job-site status reports — so that they don’t take up as much of your time.
Find What Works for You
For most people, effective time management is personal. What works for one construction business owner might not be effective for another. But if you’re struggling to meet completion dates and your habits are negatively affecting clients, you owe it to your yourself and your company to tackle the time-management issue head-on.