Words, Choose Them Wisely

Choose words wisely in your construction contracting business

Words are precious

Words are very precious and using them wisely sets you apart. When you own a construction contracting business, you must communicate many different things in many different ways. And, while you need not have a degree in English Language Arts, it is a good idea to understand how using the language well in a variety of circumstances can set you apart from the crowd.

Therefore, we’re going to dive into five things to keep in mind about words:

  • Contracts that are the best they can be
  • Marketing that hits the mark
  • Communicating wordlessly
  • Avoiding empty words
  • Swearing consciously

Words in Contracts

When it comes to construction contracts, there are a few words you need to keep in mind. They are, “Who’s the best construction knowledgeable attorney in town?” Or words like that.

From writing contracts to approving contracts, a good construction-centric attorney is your best bet. And, if you ever wonder how powerful words can be, try going to court with a poorly worded contract.

So that you get an idea of why engaging the correct attorney is so important I offer this:

One day in Contract Law class, the professor asked one of his better students, “Now if you were to give someone an orange, how would you go about it?”

The student replied, “Here’s an orange.”

The professor was livid. “No! No! Think like a lawyer!”

The student then recited, “Okay, I’d tell him, ‘I hereby give and convey to you all and singular, my estate and interests, rights, claim, title, and advantages of and in, said orange, together with all its rind, juice, pulp, and seeds, and all rights and advantages with full power to bite, cut, freeze and otherwise eat, the same, or give the same away with and without the pulp, juice, rind and seeds, anything hereinbefore or hereinafter or in any deed, or deeds, instruments of whatever nature or kind whatsoever to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding . . .”

See what I mean? 😉

Marketing Words

Whether you choose to do your marketing in-house or source it out, the words used in your marketing strategy will make the difference in landing the right jobs. Of course, pictures can be vitally important in your marketing efforts. But keep in mind, a few well-chosen words can make good photos shine even brighter.

Be sure to look at the section titled, “Trust-based words,” in this article from FIVESTARS discussing The Top 42 Marketing Words that Tempt and Turn Off Customers. 

While you’re at it, look over the sections titled, “Overused words” and “Words that could get you into trouble.”

No Words

Sometimes you communicate with a close friend or relative with no more than a look. And, even if you’re not a mom, you’ve likely experienced “the mom look.” You know what I mean, Mom gives you “that” look, and you know you better stop doing that or start doing this.

Here are two important things to remember about wordless communication.

Something left unspoken is usually intentionally omitted for a reason.

Something implicit is understood without words.

So, whether your communication is toward employees, subs, general contractors, your friends or family, or your peers, there are times when words are unnecessary and might even dilute the message.

Also, in an intriguing article, by Alison Davis, you’ll find five ways to dramatically improve your communication (without saying a word.) 

Empty Words

One day in early October, a representative of the City of Phoenix dropped by our place to let us know we might have a water leak. He started by explaining that our water usage was much higher in September than it had been in August. “Hum,” said we. “No one lived in this house in August, that likely accounts for the difference in water usage,” we explained.

“Nope,” said he. “This amount of change can’t be explained that way.”

Then the fun began. He used an empty word, a metric that neither Tonya nor I understood. Weird part? Neither she nor I can remember which term he was using. We figured out it was a unit of measure, but it had no place in either of our knowledge banks.

Perhaps he thought we were the “dull crayons” in the box.

The thing is, like most folks, Tonya and I understand two different water usage units of measure quite well. One is gallons. The other is dollars. If at any time the fellow had used either of those terms, we would have readily understood what he was trying so desperately to get us to see.

When the water bill (which uses “dollars” as its unit of measure) arrived, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that there was a water usage problem.

Lesson: When speaking with regular folks about something known well in your industry, don’t expect them to understand the terms associated with it. They will be empty words and not allow you to communicate effectively.

Swear Words

While some swear Sailors can out-swear Construction Workers, we’re not sure that is true. At any rate, I’m not here to tell you not to cuss. I’m here to tell you to choose your words wisely, including your swear words.

The term, “expletive deleted” became somewhat of a joke following the Watergate scandal. (You can find a brief explanation here.)

Be that as it may, there are three good reasons to minimize the use of words that fall into the “cuss” category.

Offending clients or potential clients is at the top of the list. Why take the chance?

Secondly, there are often better words to get the message across. Having a wide variety of words at your command goes far in proving your intelligence.

And lastly, it is the “shock and awe” factor. There are those times when you need to get the attention of your audience quickly and effectively. Throw in a word they’re not accustomed to hearing you use, and you’re likely to get their attention in short order.

Think of it like using pepper as a spice. Some dishes are greatly enhanced through the judicious use of pepper. But too much pepper and the dish is ruined.

The other night (through no fault of my own) I overheard a few men having a long and loud argument. You see, I couldn’t understand most of what they shouted at each other, but for some reason I could hear them repeatedly telling one another what to do with their sex lives. Perhaps they had a vague notion the words they were using were meant to be offensive. I mean, each of them intended to offend the others. But, because of the repetition and overuse of the same two words just floated into the air, not into the ears of any of the parties involved.

Words are why

And that, my friends, is why I decided to write this article in the first place. Using words wisely makes a difference. It is one way to set yourself apart in the construction industry, or for that matter, in life.

 

We desire to familiarize you with business concepts which will make it easier for you to be a better commercial construction business owner through our blog posts. Some are new ways of looking at things, and others are refreshers.

Schulte and Schulte Provides Accounting, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs! Call us 866-629-7735

 

6 Wacky Thoughts to Avoid in Your Construction Office

Avoid these wacky thoughts so your construction business runs better

Wacky thoughts and things come at us from every direction. Things which make us do a double take. And thoughts which have us putting on the brakes.

Some wacky things are just there, and you can’t do anything about them. For instance, unexpected weather changes and natural disasters.

On the other hand, some wacky things are rather enjoyable, like magic shows and flash mobs. (This is among my favorite flash mob videos – check it out.)

Wacky thoughts to avoid

In your construction office (more likely in your head) there are some wacky thoughts which you’re better off avoiding. Look at them as the “forest of doom,” and avoid them. Your day and your office will run more smoothly when you come to your senses and take the path away from that dreadful forest.

Wacky Thought number 1

I’ll remember this, I don’t need to write it down.

Ouch!

Everything from the gift you need to purchase on the way home, to the great idea to improve your construction contracting business needs to find its way to the written page.

This article from Dustin Wax on Lifehack explains why we remember what we write. It’s fun to see his explanation of the mental Catch-22 involved. “In fact, it seems that writing anything down makes us remember it better. On the other hand, not writing things down is just asking to forget. It’s a kind of mental Catch-22: the only way not to have to write things down is to write them down so you remember them well enough not to have written them down.” 🤔

 

Thus, here’s the kicker, writing it down means writing it down. Put down your phone, your iPad, your laptop, or other digital device and write it down! Read the article, you’ll see why pen and paper win out.

Wacky Thought number 2

Of course I’ll remember where I put this, it’s important.

When you find yourself at a loss concerning your ability to remember where you placed something – on purpose – it may be because you didn’t practice well enough what scientists call “effortful processing.” The thing is, if you don’t purposefully think about the placement in the first place, there’s no way you’re going to remember it later.

At first glance (and keeping Wacky Thought #1 in mind) you might think writing down the location would be the final solution. Turns out, you’re only partly right. Because there is every chance, over time, you’ll forget where you wrote it down. If you’re placing an object in a “safe place” because you’ll only need it every six to twelve months or sometime in the future, it’s possible you’ll need a better memory keeper.

Crazy as it sounds, that place is your brain. Yet, that depends on your ability to participate in effortful processing. And, writing it down can be helpful if it is a part of your purposeful processing.

It might look like this, “I’m putting Mom’s wedding ring in the treasures box at the back-right corner of my closet BECAUSE I want to give it to my niece in the future and it is a real treasure.” Write down where you put it and why you put it there. That will be a good memory boost.

And, if you do forget, here are some steps you can use to try to find your lost object.

  • Instead of panicking, sit down to think.
  • Let others know what you’re searching for, they may have seen it.
  • Use your own thought processes in your favor. If you were putting the object up today, where would you put it?
  • Yet, don’t assume it won’t be in a particular place because you would never put it there.
  • Conduct your search as if you’re a detective searching a crime scene – inch by inch.

If all else fails, buy another one. If you’re like me, you’ll find the original a day or two later. 😜

Wacky Thought number 3

This is a task I do pretty regularly, there is no need to put it on the calendar.

Even some daily tasks should be included as a part of your working calendar. “Pretty regularly” is too vague. Too vague in every sense of the word. Once a week tasks can be easily forgotten if you don’t have a calendar reminder.

Rashelle Isip, a professional organizer, productivity consultant, coach, and author, offers insight concerning why you should schedule tasks into your calendar.

She says:

  • Turn a task into a tangible item.
  • Focus on your work.
  • Have a record of your work.
  • Practice your time management skills.

You can see her complete article here. Check out the 3 tips she gives for scheduling tasks into your calendar.

Wacky Thought number 4

Why would I bother creating a checklist; I know the steps involved.

I am and have always been a fan of checklists. So, you would think I would have a lot to say on this subject. Truth is, I do.

Yet, I think Brett & Kate McKay, of The Art of Manliness, have said it all, better than I could. Check out their article here. They even include information concerning how to make an effective checklist.

Plus, I love that in the section of their article titled, The Power of Checklists in Action, they have a subsection titled, Construction.

Wacky Thought number 5

It won’t take long to check out (name your favorite social channel) after I make a post there.

My guess is, if you’ve had this thought, you’ve already followed it up with these words, “this time.”

As my mom, who was ever the lady, (yet could on occasion be brought to the breaking point of frustration) would have said, “My, my, I do believe that is a bit of horse do-do.”

There are 3 ways to avoid wasting time on social channels:

  1. Avoid them.
  2. Use tech to block them.
  3. Schedule them.

Using social channels to market your construction business is a good thing. On the other hand, using social channels to waste time . . . well, you know – a bad thing.

Because, liking, commenting, and being “social” on social channels is a good thing, it can sometimes be a challenge to know where to draw the line. What I’ve found that works best is to schedule social time. When the time is up, you’re done. You can schedule social for once a day, or for several times a day. Or, get someone else to help you or do it for you. 😉

Wacky Thought number 6

I’m just going to plow through this project until I get it done, I don’t have time for breaks.

I know, I’ve felt it too. There is a deadline, or a challenge, or something tangible on the table meaning getting this project done soon is imperative. Yet, taking breaks can have the effect of helping you do better work without wasting time.

Meg Selig, writing at Psychology Today, provides a summary of recent research and thinking on the value of taking breaks. She lists and explains 5 important reasons.

  1. “Movement breaks” are essential for your physical and emotional health.
  2. And, breaks can prevent “decision fatigue.”
  3. Plus, breaks restore motivation, especially for long-term goals.
  4. Breaks increase productivity and creativity.
  5. “Waking rest” helps consolidate memories and improve learning.

She also mentions when not to take a break.

She goes on to provide information concerning how to plow through when you really can’t take a break.

Great Thought

If you’ve walked into the “forest of doom” (and who hasn’t at one time or another) you can still find a path out. Practice avoiding these 6 Wacky Thoughts and see how much better your day, week, and office runs.

 

It is our desire this article (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) is helpful in assisting commercial construction contractors build better building businesses. http://www.schulteandschulte.com/blog/

Providing Accounting, Contract Document Management, and Advisory Board Level counsel for small to medium commercial construction subcontractors.

So you can Run With the Big Dogs. Call us! 866-629-7735

How to Put the Schedule Back in Your Schedule

Schedule your day to improve your productivity.

Schedule your day to improve your productivity.

Show your schedule who is boss

You’re a busy construction contracting business owner and you feel the pinch. Your schedule can be your best friend, or it can bite you in the butt.

Do you remember the TV show Monk? Do you recall how Monk frequently described his abilities this way, “It’s a gift, and a curse?” The same can be said about the very real situation of being in the construction industry. One of the best parts of being the owner of a construction company is the variety and the constantly changing set of challenges. Yet, the worst part of being in the construction industry is the variety and the constantly changing set of challenges. It’s a gift . . . and a curse.

The simple action of building a set of routines into your daily activities gives you the best chance of showing your schedule who is boss. Get this right, and your calendar becomes your ally rather than your enemy.

Anchor your schedule – in the morning

The first step in dealing with your variable schedule issues is to design a workable routine. By scheduling at least some amount of routine into your day you have a better chance of conquering the end of day what-the-heck-happened feeling.

By starting and ending your work day with a set of routines (some describe it as rituals) you are better able to focus on the daily issues which are sandwiched between them. The morning routine and the end-of-day routine become your anchors.

Your lifestyle, your personal attributes, and your business needs should all be considered when developing your routines. Do you need a morning routine which will add to your peaceful meter? Or do you need one which will be motivational? Do you need to have one routine follow another? Think of them as optimization routines and you can begin to see how important they are to your day.

In fact, done correctly, your morning routine will give you momentum, not take it away. And again, done correctly, your end of day routine will give you “mental permission” to shut it down and enjoy your family, friends, and “play time.”

This article from Forbes names 6 morning rituals designed to make you productive all day.  And, this Business Insider piece about athletes is fun, yet may give you food for thought concerning creating your own morning (or pregame) rituals.

Anchor your schedule – at the end of day

End of day routines are a signal to the brain. They let you know it’s time for a specific mindset, a different action, or change of pace. They act as triggers, if you will, to aid you in more effortlessly getting ready for something else to take place.

On the dodoist blog there is an excellent article about ways to close out the day.

Look it over. It is full of great information. You’ll see that something as small as clearing your desktop (both physical and digital) is a good way to let your brain know you’re moving on to something else. Among other things, you’ll learn about the “doom loop” and how to deal with it, plus how you can end your work day on a high note even when you might otherwise feel as if it has been a less-than-productive day.

Schedule the rest of the day

No, I don’t mean fill in the blocks. The blocks tend to be filled in with other people’s needs, with appointments, with . . . well, you know, the stuff-of-calendars. Yet, I do offer these three suggestions to make your schedule (and therefore your business) better equipped and more productive.

  1. Be sure to schedule in regular (make it daily) time for tasks that improve your construction contracting company. You’ve heard it before, but I’m throwing it in there again. Work on your business, not in it.
  2. Set aside at least an hour each week for continuing education.
  3. Understand the difference between tasks and events. Tasks can take place anytime during the day, whereas events have a specific starting and ending time.

Remember, even though you assign different levels of importance to each of your tasks, your calendar doesn’t. An hour is an hour no matter how you’ve spent it. Determining ways to include or remove tasks or events from your daily schedule based on their importance moves you from constantly scrambling to regularly nailing it.

Schedule the time

Schedule the time (make the time) to include calendar maintenance as a part of your daily routine. Making your calendar work for you depends on your ability to work your calendar. Monk had another oft used statement. This one went, “You’ll thank me later.” Develop your calendar skills in order to put the schedule back in your schedule, you’ll thank me later. *wink*

Your call to action

Be sure to include Schulte and Schulte, a construction-centric bookkeeping and financial advisory firm in your schedule. We’re extremely good at lightening the load for our clients. Don’t wait, call now 480-442-4032 or Toll Free: 866-629-7735.

17hats: All-in-One Business Management Software

In this monthly post, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to one of the many apps that we at Schulte and Schulte endorse and recommend to our customers.

As a firm of construction accounting specialists, we love to help companies in the construction industry with their books and finances, part of that help is finding different apps or software that can help our clients out.  During this monthly feature, we take a look at several apps that we love at Schulte and Schulte, LLC, and dig a little deeper into our favorites.

This month, we would like to introduce you to 17hats.

As a business owner, there are multiple “hats” that you will wear as you go about running your business.  By hats, we are talking about the different roles you will play on any given day, from accounting, marketing, client communication, lead development, etc.  17hats is a brilliant piece of software that is designed to integrate each of these different hats into an easy to use business management tool.  We could go into detail talking about each of the different tools that are built into 17hats, but for the sake of time we will highlight a couple of the features that we appreciate the most; specifically the Overview Page, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Workflow Management.

Overview Page
This dashboard is what you will see whenever you log into your 17hats account.  It has been designed to incorporate a 3-day calendar view of all events and to-do’s that you have set up.  Underneath the calendar is a list of all action items from every ongoing project that you have, as well as a list of client email correspondence that is needing your attention.  This dashboard is customizable to include this above information, as well as other options available for you.  It is a really handy tool to get a bird’s eye view of what needs your attention on any given day.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
A lot of effort has been put into developing this CRM tool to make it easy to use.  As the above video shows in its example of adding a new lead and the development of that lead into a client, 17hats utilizes its CRM to assist you in keeping your contact information and projects accessible. It also stores all email communication and documents sorted by client.  This means no more searching through your email account for that important message from a client’s project you are working on.

Workflow Management
The video above gives a snapshot of the process involved within 17hats’ Workflow Management.  You are able to create templates for almost everything you will end up passing onto a customer, from engagement/proposal questionnaires and feedback forms, quotes, invoices, and more.  It has e-signature technology built into the app to allow anything that needs a signature or feedback from a customer to be sent from the app, and also allows you to track what has been sent.  17hats has a one-way sync that will allow you to sync invoices into QuickBooks Online, which is music to our accounting ears.

We love 17hats, and would like the opportunity to share it with you.  If this sounds like an app that you would be interested in checking out, please let us know!

CoConstruct: Custom Build and Remodel Software

In this monthly post, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to one of the many apps that we at Schulte and Schulte endorse and recommend to our customers.

As a firm of construction accounting specialists, we love to help companies in the construction industry with their books and finances, part of that help is finding different apps or software that can help our clients out. During this monthly feature, we take a look at several apps that we love at Schulte and Schulte, and dig a little deeper into our favorites.

This month, we would like to introduce you to CoConstruct.

CoConstruct is geared specifically for custom home builders and remodelers. This software is designed to include everything that goes into home building from initial client leads, all the way through punchlist and warranty work. The video above gives a brief overview of the software in action, particularly the financial setup of a project start. CoConstruct has a lot more features baked into it than we have time to get into here, but we want to highlight a couple of the features that we believe set CoConstruct apart from other similar apps and software.

Keep Your Clients Informed – “If the clients ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”
Keeping your clients informed as the project progresses is an essential part of any custom build, and CoConstruct takes a lot of the time involved in doing this off of your hands. Included in the software is a client-only web portal that shows them the information they are looking for; 24-7 access to selections, costs, photos, conversations, job calendar, and more. This gives them the opportunity to know exactly where the project is at, and also allows them to share progress photos and your work with their friends through social media, which translates to referrals for your company!

Improved Client Communication – Kiss the “he said, she said” goodbye
CoConstruct has patent-pending communication technology that allows all communication between your team, client, and trade partners to be found in one place. This allows everyone involved in the project to be on the same page, and if changes happen then everyone involved will be in the communication loop without having to worry about forwarding emails, IMs, or text messages to all of the relevant parties.

Finish Strong – Leave a great last impression on your clients
CoConstruct makes it a priority to see your client’s projects through to completion, even while you are moving on to new jobs. You won’t get caught dropping the ball with your clients and subcontractors regarding warranty work with the reports and reminders that will come up, months and years down the line. It’s the “little things” like this that can make or break a great referral for your company, and CoConstruct has your back.

We love CoConstruct, and would like the opportunity to share it with you. If this sounds like an app that you would be interested in checking out, please let us know!

Scale Your Construction Contracting Business

Escalating your business to the next level

So, you’re ready to scale your construction contracting business. It is time to move to a new level. You have plans, thoughts, and ideas about moving into the big league. Read on, because there is a brief primer ahead to help you begin to work through that process. But, before we go any further, I’m going to tell you the same thing my dad had to remind me of on more than one occasion.

If it was easy, everybody would do it

Scaling isn’t as easy as finding the right app, purchasing the correct software, or hiring the right superintendent. It is a process, with many components, and it requires commitment.

I’m not trying to take the wind out of your sails. As a matter of fact, I hasten to add, while you can’t change the direction of the wind, you can adjust your sails in order to reach your destination.

What the heck does it even mean?

A little more than a decade ago I came across the term and the idea of scaling your business. In context, I sort of had an idea of what it meant, but wasn’t completely sure. How about you? Do you know what it means? If not, this definition and explanation of scalability found on divestopedia is short, concise, and is worth your time to check out.

Identify ways to upgrade processes on the path to scaling your business

The most basic take-away from divestopedia’s article is a scalable business is one that focuses on the implementation of processes that lead to an efficient operation.

You’ll need to identify those processes which can be reproduced at a rapid rate, without generating increased costs. Think in terms of automating certain processes that currently require time and hands-on interaction.

One example of this type of automation can be found at your local supermarket, where you’ll find four or more self-check counters manned by only one person.

Another example is how we, at Schulte and Schulte, LLC work with you through accounting software or SaaS and various apps implementing an automated process.

Speaking of apps, this List of 17 construction apps for 2017 is a good place to begin your research into some ways to simplify, update, or structure some of the functions necessary for running your present and future job sites.

Of course, there are other technologies which are no longer the stuff of science fiction, but are already being embraced and are quite literally changing the landscape of the construction contracting field as well as the landscape around us.

  • Robotics
  • Drones
  • 3D printing

Look into what each of these technologies are already being used by your colleagues as well as your competitors. Think in terms of investing in what will bring the most ROI not only now but in the upcoming years.

10 important scale driving measures to take

Scaling your business goes beyond buying the latest technological item or system. There is more to the whole notion of scaling your business. Just as you put in time and effort to start your business, you’ll need to put in additional time and effort to scale your business. Following is a list of actions you’ll need to consider.

  1. Update and reshape your business plan
  2. Line up any necessary funding
  3. Pay attention to your consistent brand messaging across divisions, locations, and mediums
  4. Embrace standardization (scalable companies have effective tools for measurement)
  5. Hire people smarter and more talented than you
  6. Outsource what makes sense
  7. Focus on ROI
  8. Document everything
  9. Plan for the little things
  10. Keep trying until you find what works

In order to scale you must indeed be proactive rather than reactive. Begin building into your business those standardized functions which will continue working whether or not you’re at the helm.

OK, now where is the blueprint?

Not here. I won’t be able to offer you a “Your business blueprint,” yet I have given you enough information to begin putting your own blueprint together. And, good news, (caution — big self-serving plug here) we at Schulte and Schulte, LLC are ready, willing, and able to aid you through accounting advice as you take the scaling up steps.

In case you are wondering. Yes, we have built into our plans and strategy the scaling of Schulte and Schulte, LLC. One of our favorite parts of the plan is that as your construction contracting business scales we’ll be on the scaling escalator right beside you.

Before You Give the Paper To-Do List a Pink Slip Consider This

Yes, you know high on our priority list at Schulte and Schulte is helping our construction contractor clients ditch the paper. Yet, here I am saying, “No! Get some paper and a pen. We’ve got work to do.”

Sometimes scaling your contracting firm is aided by something as simple as a pen and a piece of paper. The truth is, there are a number of reasons for putting pen to paper when it comes to the short list of action items you need to be reminded of each day. I’ll mention the four I find the most important.

It helps you remember

One of the reasons for hand writing a to-do list is you remember better that which you write. It seems the very physical act of moving ink (or carbon) across a piece of paper helps your brain with its multitude of memory tasks. One example is a grocery list. Write it down, and even if you forget to take the list to the store, you’ll have a better chance of remembering what was on it. Try that with the list you made on your “forgotten” phone and you won’t have the same outcome. This article from Dustin Wax at Lifehack explains more about the science behind why we remember what we write.

It allows you to “see” the progress

You can see progress with a to do list and that feels good. Seems many people (I’ll admit, I’m one of them) feel so good about checking things off the list they even jot in an unplanned task which they’ve just completed so they can check it off.

It gives you a sense of relief

There is that “whew” moment, a sense of relief when being able to cross certain items off the list. Perhaps the action item was one you’ve been needing to accomplish for quite some time or one which you dreaded doing. Either way, checking it off your list can aid you in that welcome sigh of relief. It is as if that little X or mark-through is the period at the end of a sentence. Or better yet the exclamation mark. Done!

It is a benevolent task master

This is probably the most important reason I find for having a well written to-do list.

You’re able to focus your energy.

You don’t enter your office, shop, or job-site wondering what should be done today. You have a list.

It enables you to remain strategic.

You aren’t (as) tempted to do things which are more time fillers than actual work moving towards specific important goals.

It allows you to be proactive rather than reactive.

Because you’ve allowed your calendar to inform your to-do list you know what next action step to take. (More on this a little further down.)

It is an important tool for returning to the tracks if you’ve been derailed.

Perhaps I should have said when you’re derailed. When you’re interrupted, you don’t need to stop to rethink which task you were working on, you simply look at the list.

It reminds you to have fun.

Even though you probably won’t put silly things on your list every day, you may find it a nice break to occasionally add something that is simply goofy to your to-do list.

  • Give someone in your office a copy of War and Peace, then ask them to proofread it.
  • Prank the boss or someone away on vacation (balloons, toilet paper, or aluminum foil comes to mind)
  • Walk sideways to the photo copier – every time you go there all day long
  • Skip rather than walk
  • Put a sign on your photocopier that says “New Copier – Voice activated – please speak your command” Watch the fun.
  • Carry your keyboard over to someone else in the office and ask, “do you want to trade?”

Now that you know why a paper to-do list is helpful, let’s move to how to formulate a truly workable to-do list.

What a cave man teaches about using a hand-written to-do list

I recently read an article in which several “up and coming” young entrepreneurs were asked to give their best “secrets” concerning the use of a to-do list. Some of the answers were useful, some not so much. Of the dozen respondents, there was only one who espoused the need to move from paper to a digital system. And it was that one which made me smile because of the mental image I had after reading her response.

I was listening to what she had to say until this sentence popped up, “Don’t limit yourself to the Stone Age when it comes to something as important as your productivity.”

Yeah, the Stone Age. So, of course I started thinking about this fellow grabbing out his chisel and tapping away on the wall of his cave to produce his to-do list for the day.

  • Find long-haired woman and drag her to cave
  • Throw spear into large mammal
  • Learn how to make fire
  • Berries
  • Dog

This was a pretty smart caveman-type-person. Let’s call him “Grug.”  Grug knows the value of a to-do list, and he is on the right track. But, he can improve his to-do list skills. Here is a quick critique of his entries.

Find long-haired woman and drag her to cave.

Grug, made the mistake many make with this item. Finding said woman and dragging her around is more likely a project. A project that may indeed have many steps, each of which can be separated out and added to Grug’s to-do list as needed on any given date.

If Grug had let his calendar inform him concerning on which date this project needs to be completed, he may have made a to-do list entry more like, “locate nearby village with long-haired women.” Future action steps on future to-do lists might include, “scope out perfect woman,” then “note when woman goes to water source,” and so on and so on. Grug’s to-do list should be the place he breaks down his long-term goals into actionable steps.

Throw spear into large mammal.

If this is a step in Grug’s short-term project of Feed the Fam, then he did a great job of adding to his list. This is likely an actionable step he can take today because he has completed the step of finding the beast already.

Plus, Grug remembered to start his entry with a verb. It helps Grug know immediately what needs to be done. He need not look at his list with perhaps the single word “mammal” and wonder, “What is this all about?” instead, he knows, “This is my next task and this is how I should do it.”

Learn how to make fire.

Good call, Grug. We’re with you on this one.

Berries and Dog

Oh no, Grug has forgotten his verbs. Chances are he might not have a clue why he wrote those entries. Pick berries? Dispose of rotting berries? Pet dog? Find dog? Feed dog?

One more thing – Grug should have used a tablet *giggle* to write his list. Cave walls don’t transport easily.

There are three main principles we learn from our dear friend Grug:

  1. Use your calendar to inform your to-do list, breaking down your projects or plans into actionable steps.
  2. Use a verb at the beginning of each item on your to-do list so you know right away what to do when you look at your to-do list.
  3. Keep your to-do list manageable and portable.

On that last note, a small notebook or a 3X5 card work well. If you want to have a running reminder of what you’ve already completed the notebook is a good choice. If you’re happy to have completed the list and will let the project speak for itself then tossable 3X5s might be your paper of choice.

What if Grug adds items to his to-do list that include dealing with his co-cavemen?

Grug should keep his to-do list for his own actions, but he can very well indicate on his list that he is delegating certain tasks to others. He should also include any pertinent data right on his list. For example, he should include contact information or at the very least where to find the information. And, if he plans to get in touch with Galg he should include what he is getting in touch with Galg about. He might say something like, “Call Galg about footwear idea.”

Getting back to the 21st century

If you have more to do than your memory can hold, figure out a better way to keep track of everything than just keeping it in your head. Building your modern construction contracting business depends on taking smart actions at smart times. Get in the habit of creating smart to-do lists and you’ll wonder what you ever did without them.

This is another in a series of articles all about organizing your construction contracting business. You can go here to find more.