William Penn said, “Time is what we want the most, but what we use the worst,” and it is exceedingly hard to dispute this.
After 30-plus years of hearing contractors say, "I need to manage my time better" only to observe that at the end of the week their hair remains on fire and they're running around like mad, the only logical conclusion is that time management DOES NOT WORK!
Therefore, we must explode the myth of time management and think about how you invest and allocate your time in a radically different way. You must PROTECT YOUR TIME!
The following represent powerful ideas for protecting your time in innovative ways.
There are two universal constraints in life: time and money.
Contractors pay scrupulous attention to every penny that passes through their accounts, but they squander their other universal constraint.
Everyone gets only 168 hours per week—no more, no less.
How you utilize that fixed quantity determines the quality of your life.
All contractors want the same things: a prosperous business and a happy life. What are the best practices for doing both simultaneously?
Schedule family and personal time on your calendar first. That's your sacred time. Normally, contractors do it the other way around: "I'll get around to it when we are a little less busy and I don't have a big bid coming up." People try to squeeze in some family or recreation time into their busy work calendars. Turn that around. Schedule your personal, family, and downtimes first, and then let your business schedule fill in around it.
Work in two-hour sprints. It's exceedingly difficult for anyone to put her head down and focus for eight straight hours on anything. Think instead about working in two-hour sprints. Corollary to that, close your door so you can concentrate and avoid interruptions! So many people are conditioned to think of having an "open-door policy." That doesn't mean that your door has to be open all the time, it just means you need to be accessible to your people regularly. Work in two-hour sprints with your door closed and put up a "Do Not Disturb" sign. People will respect that, and you’ll get more accomplished.
Just say no to meetings. We've all seen statistics about how much of meeting time is wasted or directionless. Unless the meeting is genuinely important or there's a desirable potential outcome you can realistically expect, just say no. Instead, ask: "Can we have a telephone meeting? A Zoom meeting? A hallway meeting? Can we step outside the building for five minutes and have an outdoor visit?" Just say no to meetings because most of them represent, frankly, wasted time.
Leave your phone behind. Experts estimate that people check their smartphones 150 times a day! How many of those attention-distracting checks end up being something either important, exciting, or urgent? Not many at all! Put your phone down, or better yet turn it off. Put it in a desk drawer and don't look at it while you do other important things. You're a busy contractor, and you can't afford distractions. Quit wasting your time staring at your smartphone.
Make checklists and use them. Back in the days of pencil and paper, we used a Day-Timer or a Franklin Planner; we were conditioned to make lists and check items off when completed. When things didn't get done, we'd simply move them forward. Today, countless apps and programs make list building easier than ever before. Make checklists and use them. It's psychologically gratifying to check things off your to-do list, and your productivity will soar.
Whether you're the most successful contractor in your neck of the woods, or you’re still in the aspiration stage, you get the same 168 hours a week. And the way you utilize those 168 hours determines not only the success of your business but the quality of your life. Protect your time as the invaluable resource and constraint that it is.