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

Building Castles and High Rises

Building company culture into your team.

Building streams

This report is going to follow two diverse streams which converge to make one river of thought. The first stream has to do with an encounter on a modern city sidewalk and the second with a look at the building of a medieval castle.

Building high rise office structures 

On Tonya’s and my recent trip to Salt Lake City, we had occasion to walk from the convention center to a nearby grocery store. Therefore, we passed through a covered sidewalk which was designed to allow foot traffic to pass safely by a project under construction. As we walked, we noticed three construction workers scurrying past us in the opposite direction. I, being that kind of tourist, asked, “What are you building?”

The quick response from the fellow in the lead was, “America, one building at a time!”

Kapow!

Both Tonya and I were elated with his answer.

In addition,  may I suggest if the people on your crew answer the same way, you’re likely doing something right.

Building an ancient castle in the twenty-first century

Castles aren’t easy to come by these days. Come to think of it, they never were.

For instance, there is this interesting project going on now in France. The folks involved are building a medieval castle with the tools and techniques of the 13th century. The building is expected to be completed in 2023.

An interesting finish date, considering the project first broke ground in 1997. Not bad for a project which, from its inception, was expected to take a quarter of a century to complete.

This castle isn’t to live in. This castle is a classroom in progress.

Guédelon is the world’s biggest experimental archaeological site – and some would say the most ambitious too.”

In other words, stonemasons, blacksmiths, carpenters, woodcutters, tilers, rope-makers, dyers, the builders of the castle seem to look at their part of the project in two ways. For the first way they discuss what they’ve learned. Then, in the second, how proud they are to have been able to contribute.

The streams converge

Above all, what strikes me concerning these two stories is the pride these builders take in their work. Whether the answer is, “I’m building a castle,” or “America, one building at a time,” the question is always out there – what do you do? Where do you work?

Building the answer into your company culture, helping employees see how their contribution matters isn’t always easy. Yet it is worth it.

And, the key is to inspire.

As a result, this is where the river begins to flow.

It is a crazy idea which the folks naming military operations have used successfully for a few years now. Don’t get me wrong, it was they who got it wrong many times along the way until they began to understand how useful the nicknames they used for their operations could be. This article, Naming Military Operations is a War of Words, from the USO website is lengthy, yet quite informative concerning the power of a name.

Building great names to encourage your team

The simply corollary for you as a commercial construction business owner is to use the art of naming projects in such a way as to shape perceptions, boost morale, and reinforce policy objectives. It is a subtle yet effective way to encourage your employees to “own” the importance of each project.

Here are some examples, so you can see what I mean.

You could call your job building the new emergency hospital by the hospital’s name (and bore your staff) or you could use the name “Mission Life Saver.”

If your crew is providing work on the new Mercedes Benz dealership, consider naming the job “Project Hot Wheels.” Or, you might try “Mission Luxurious Rides.”

Did you get the grocery store contract? Think about calling it “Project Nourishment.”

3 ways to find memorable names

  1. If you’re into word play and developing great project names – do it yourself.
  2. Perhaps there is someone in your office or on your crews who would enjoy providing the names – give them the privilege. Do you have word-wise teens at home? Give them the task.
  3. Ask your team members for suggestions – then choose the best one. Or combine a few of the suggestions to come up with the top name.

Another way to use the nicknaming strategy

You can use the same strategy of nicknaming for your in-house projects.

Shop organizing day becomes Operation Thunder.

Documenting office systems can be given the nickname, Project LifeBlood.

And, choosing a new office or shop location might become Mission Possibilities.

You get the idea. The nicknames add an importance level to your various jobs as well as in-house projects.

Building Castles and High Rises and Everything Else

The work you take on in your construction contracting business is important! Be sure your team knows that.

 

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.  

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. 866-629-7735

Building Construction Jobs

Construction building takes finding great employees who want to stick around.

Building Construction Jobs

Building construction trades need workers

Over and over, we hear from our clients and other construction contractors one of the biggest problems they face is getting field workers. The reasons for the reduced workforce have been gone over so many times, my guess is I’m not the only one who is sick of hearing them. Yet, if you’re just aching to know, this article lists a few.  I’m sort of over the “why” of the equation and would rather see a “how” come into play.

Of course, if I could give you a definitive “how” to get people back in the construction world, it would be game over. I could pick up my paycheck and move on to other endeavors. If I could sweep thousands of skilled and trained people on to construction sites, we would all be winners in a very short time frame. I can’t.

I’ve written a few articles about how to look for and how to try to keep good hands on board. They range from How to Hire a Knight in Shining Armor to a 3-part series concerning creating achievement-based bonus programs that don’t stink. You can find them here, here and here. And, they’re worth trying.  

But, could there be more?

Do you want to see people enter the trades again?

Building construction in my dad’s day

Watching my dad lovingly rub his hand across the piece of wood he had just sawed, sanded, or nailed in place was a part of my everyday world from childhood to adulthood. Dad saw the materials of his trade as more than simple objects. He loved to touch the wood, hold the tool, “see” that which would be. He leaned into his craft with soul.

Yeah, the finished project was good. The joy in saying, “I built that,” is not measurable. Yet it was all the bits and pieces which came before which gave him daily pleasure.

It was the:

  • coffee-marked blueprints
  • smoke-filled air in the morning meetings (yep, cigarettes were part and parcel)
  • silly or suitable nicknames of coworkers
  • crazy jokes and stunts they played on one another
  • help they gave one another in times of need

It was also:

  • sighting down a 2X4 checking for flaws
  • knowing what to do about the crazy knotholes
  • “seeing” what was to come and knowing what would and would not work
  • understanding how to hold tools properly
  • getting the best outcome from the tools in his hands

Later it became:

  • getting the most out of the crews in his charge
  • knowing who he could count on to get the job done
  • mediating disputes among workers or trades
  • planning and scheduling
  • hiring, laying off, and firing

Still later it became his dream of:

  • puttering in his workshop
  • refinishing and refurbishing furniture and other items
  • building the long-delayed wall of shelves Mom wanted
  • helping my hubby and me restore and remodel our first home
  • serving as a volunteer on non-profit building projects

Yes, even after retirement it was the love of craft which kept his heart singing.

Building construction needs a new workforce

Helping people see, hear, and feel the day-to-day that makes up the ethos of being in the construction trades is (or should be) a part of your regular planning and action.

Set aside at least one hour a week to plan and strategize how you will reach the unreached groups of people who will fit in your industry. Once you’ve gotten a plan together start acting on it. Put it on your calendar.

Here are a few tactics:

Make sure all the high schools and colleges in your area know you (or someone in your employee) will be available to present on career day.

Talk to the directors or counselors at community colleges or trade schools concerning how you can work together to help the students.

Work with your trade association’s efforts to train and educate your present and future employees.

Let your friends, neighbors, and colleagues know you’re hiring and training. (Tell the person waiting on your dinner table, the clerk at the grocery store, your hair dresser, and the person who is balancing the tires on your truck. Tell everyone.)

Speak with the folks at the National Guard concerning how you can work with them. 

Sign up with recruiting firms.

Visit halfway or transitional houses in your area and speak with the director about people who are ready to move on. Remember there are facilities like this for women too.

Get involved with any construction training centers in your area. If your trade isn’t represented, consider working with them to develop training.

Look for organizations like the ACCD (Association for Construction Career Development) found here in Arizona and get involved. 

Use all your social media channels to get the word out about your openings.

Put banners on your office and shop.

Building construction is head, heart, and hands

If ever a segment of the work-a-day world depended on the trifecta of head, heart, and hands, it is the construction industry.

From the build-dream to the build-completion all three units remain involved.

Before Dad became a carpenter, he drove truck for a lumberyard. It was his job to take “stuff” to the jobsites. So, he touched the materials. Then, he heard the job sounds. And, he smelled the wood. He saw the camaraderie among the workers. Yep, he was hooked.  

Helping people find their way into the trades is going to take time and it is going to take a paradigm shift in the thinking of many educators and parents.

Plus, it will take making a few changes in the thought processes of those already in the trades. For example, what if you thought of yourself (your construction company) as a talent development unit? Young people today understand the concepts behind mentoring even if they don’t use the word. They want someone who “gets it” to stand by their side.

It may take being willing to take a chance with someone who needs a second chance. It could be that the you have to learn new things in the areas of leadership, business acumen, or even the basics of entrepreneurship

Building construction is honorable and respectable

Sure, you need people who have skills. You also need people who have the ability to learn. And, you need people who understand they aren’t simply pulling wire, or laying shingles, or joining pipe. You need people who know they’re doing their part to give someone a place to work, a place to worship, a place to heal, a place to sell their wares, a place to lounge before boarding, a place to eat and celebrate, a place to relax while traveling, or simply a place to look at and admire on those travels. Look for people who can see how important their part is in building America.

By the way, we do a little happy dance when we can help our clients find someone for their commercial construction business. We’ve done that. And, we do another happy dance when we add names to the payrolls of companies we know have been looking for workers.

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. 

Because we are a virtual “corporate accounting office” for small to medium commercial construction businesses, and because it is our goal to help those businesses Run With the Big Dogs we can assist you no matter in which of the 50 United States your business is located.

Call to see how we can be of assistance to you. Toll Free: 866-629-7735

5 Features You Must Rock in Your Construction Business

Rock Your Construction Business

Rock Your Construction Business

Have you ever looked around and wondered how you got to where you are? You may have inherited your construction contracting business. Or perhaps you’re among those who one day picked up your hammer and saw a better way of doing things. So you started your own business and now you’re on your way!

Whichever path you were on when you began “doing business as . . .” you’ve discovered a big road in front of you and it is time to move to the business side of being a successful construction contractor.

You Must be the Visionary

Your vision is where you want to see your company in terms of culture, market standing, reputation, and customer satisfaction. As a certain four-year-old amongst my associates puts it, “Ya gots ta own it!”

Only when you create and own the vision can you make it work. Stumbling along on the path of start-up contractors won’t get you where you need to go.

Your vision will be felt across the spectrum from employees, to subs, to clients, to pre-clients, not to mention the neighborhood at large.

Here is an example of how to move from path to highway:

You want your company to be known for the philanthropic endeavors it takes part in.

  1. You give of your time and resources to charities or individuals you feel need your help.
  2. You encourage your employees to do the same by giving them one paid day a year to take part in a charitable event.
  3. You recognize (perhaps in a formal setting) the employees and subs in your circle who are giving to others.
  4. You pay for your employees to complete a task on a philanthropic endeavor which takes multiple days to complete. You also ask them to contribute monetarily.
  5. You chair the committee at your local trade association which chooses a charitable endeavor and encourages others in your field to make donations of time and funds then sees the project through from beginning to end.

Making your vision exciting will also make it easier to pass on to those around you. Examples of exciting visions might include: to be the construction company everyone turns to when there is a difficult project, to be known as the company which completes their jobs faster than the competition, to be recognized as the area leader in customer service, to be the technical projects go-to company, or to become known for your philanthropic contributions.

While there may be other objectives concerning your vision these four are a good place to begin putting together your vision for your company –  your company culture, your company’s market standing, your company’s reputation (among both customers and employees,) and your customer satisfaction ratings.

You Must Make Decisions that Impact Multiple Functions

Your job is to run the business, not the projects. You need to be concerned with strategic planning and being sure it does not become an operational fix-it list.

A few of the basics you’ll be concerned with:

  • Making go/no-go decisions when deciding whether to take on a project.
  • Building a dependable team.
  • Deciding what your scope of services will be.
  • Becoming knowledgeable in sales and marketing.
  • Understanding changing technology trends both in the office and in the field.
  • Implementing efficient operating systems and successful training programs.
  • Determining what type of equipment is needed and when to purchase or lease it.
  • Knowing your numbers.

Remember, this is a journey. You may not have all these components cleaned up and ready to be put to use at this very moment, yet with determination and time you’ll find these things become part of your routine, become easier to accomplish with practice.

You Must Provide the Resources Needed Across the Organization

This is much more than buying the right computers for the office or the correct tools for the sites. This is about being sure you’re taking care of business in a well thought out and productive manner. You’ll find you:

  • Are constantly learning more about your trade as well as the industry as a whole.
  • Have more than one supplier on your list of go-to places.
  • Spend a minimum of 25% of your time finding projects and customers
  • Understand construction bid management.
  • Know about regulatory compliance and adhere to it.
  • Are adamant about safety standards and how they’re met.
  • Provide or find ways to train your team for their benefit as well as your own.
  • Develop the best benefits package you can afford for your team.
  • Know your numbers.

It may be necessary to pass on some of these responsibilities either through developing employees or outsourcing in some areas. Never the less, the buck will stop with you and your ability to surround yourself with the “right people” will be paramount in your decision making.

You Must Build a Culture Others Want to be Part Of

Some say, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” There is this wild thing that happens when you move from being the do-it-all guy to being a construction contractor with a team of employees and subs in your arena. Then the saying changes, “If the workers ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy – especially your customers.”

It pays not to get caught up in thinking which goes like, “I pay them to do a job, they should just do it.” Motivation comes in many forms. Making your construction contracting business fun, or exciting, or glamourous, or fast paced, or challenging is up to you. Your vibe will indeed attract your tribe. This is where hiring for attitude rather than experience can pay off big time. Bring in the guys and gals who can be taught the necessary skills because they have the right attitude about your customers and your business.

And guess what? Your employees want you to be generous. They want you to be generous with information. Let them know not only how you want things done, but why you want it done that way. They want you to generous with your time and your praise. A real pat on the back, a handwritten note, an awards dinner for “job done well,” all come to mind. They want you to be generous in training and coaching them in ways that will move them up the ladder in your company.

One last caveat concerning being the boss. Being “liked” by your employees is not a good or healthy goal. Being “respected” by your employees is a goal worth striving toward.

You Must Deliver Performance

Set high expectations.

Bring in systems as well as talent to execute each phase or portion well.

Figure out what your people need to do their job better, and help them get it. It could be tools, training, or knowledge. It could be advice or intervention. It could be as simple as targeted feedback.

Know your own strengths as well as your weaknesses and build your team using that knowledge.

At every turn, ask your customers how well you and your team are doing. Use that information to grow your business to be the best it can be in every way.

Your call to action

Determine to Rock Your Business by putting this information into action. Print it. Reread it. Save it. Use it.

JOBBER: Business Management Solution for Field Service Companies

 

At Schulte and Schulte, our passion is in working with any company that fits under the construction umbrella.  This includes construction service businesses like plumbers, HVAC techs, roofers, landscape techs, etc.  Some of the apps that have been, and will be, featured in this blog series are feature filed and do have elements that would be beneficial to construction service businesses.  However, we feel strongly about finding an app or software solution for each of our clients, and this month’s featured app, Jobber, is a great solution for anyone in the construction service industry.

 

 

 

Jobber is geared toward any company that focuses on construction field service. It is a comprehensive business management solution that will aid any small to medium-sized construction service company. There are three main areas that we’d like to focus on as we dig into this app: Client Features, Team Features, and Business Features.

Client Features
Jobber has some features that will impress your clients and help keep your client information organized. It has an excellent customer relationship management (CRM) tool to keep your client’s information and communication organized. As you communicate with your different clients, whether by sending a quote, getting an e-signature, or reminders to follow up with clients, Jobber keeps track of all communication and saves it in each specific client’s file to help keep you as a construction service business owner more organized.

Team Features
These Team Features integrate both the Jobber computer software as well as their mobile app, which is available for both tablet and phone on iOS and Android. Included are various tools like Scheduling that allows you as the construction service business owner to easily create new jobs for clients and assign them to your team with only a few clicks; Map View Routing that will automatically send notice to your team as they are out in the field giving them the information that they need to get to and work the next job; and GPS Tracking so that you get a clear picture of where your team is at throughout the day as well as tracking employee hours and labor costs.

Business Features
Jobber gives you the ability to send out customized invoices so that you are in control of what your clients see on their invoices. It also has the option included of accepting payment for service right at the jobsite. Also included are Reports that provide a bird’s eye view of how your construction service business is doing, Time Tracking that makes it easy to review and complete payroll, and Accounting Sync that seamlessly integrates with QuickBooks Online to assist with your monthly bookkeeping.

We love Jobber, and would love 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!

KNOWIFY: Manage Your Entire Contracting Business in One Place

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 bit deeper into our favorites.

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

Knowify is an app that is a huge help to any subcontractor, whether that be commercial or residential. Some of the features that won us over at Schulte and Schulte:

Job Costing & Estimating
With Knowify’s powerful estimating tool, you can plan your jobs, itemize your material budgets, and schedule your people to create comprehensive cost estimates. These estimates can be translated into bid line items with a single click.

Bids, Contracts, & Service Work
You can quickly create bids and contracts on your own letterhead and send them through Knowify for electronic signature. You can also easily create service tickets and schedule technicians on work orders.

Time Tracking & Scheduling
Replace the whiteboard, create and maintain your schedule in Knowify so that all your people can see what needs to be worked on while they are in the field. As your people work on work orders, they can punch in time and reimbursements via Knowify’s mobile app. As your people put in time, Knowify will track how you are performing on each job compared to your budgets and estimated costs.

Knowify is truly cloud-based. You can access your Knowify account on your desktop computer, laptop, or tablet; it’s time tracking is most easily handled through the mobile app that is available for either Android or iOS.
We’ve been impressed with Knowify’s truly unified, fully integrated platform. All of its different modules (contracts, time tracking, purchasing, and invoicing) integrate seamlessly to ensure that the products and billable time covered by our client’s contracts are billed correctly.

We love Knowify, and would love 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!

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.

Store Smart, Hunt Less: The Best Ways to Organize Your Construction Contractor Shop

When you or your workers waste time looking for material, tools, or equipment, dollars are flying out the door

If you’re organized, even a small shop can be a comfortable size. If you’re not, well, then a shop of any size will get crowded.

Have you been in your shop and heard, or said things like this?

  • Has anybody seen the box of washers?
  • Do you know where the shop-vac is?
  • What happened to the long, flat-head screw driver? I was just using it.

If you have, stay tuned, I’ve got some ways to help you move from the contractor’s dreaded “treasure hunt” to an efficient and serviceable shop even Ben Franklin would approve of. Because you know . . . when you or your workers waste time looking for material, tools, or equipment, dollars are flying out the door.

Organized + Systemized  

Whether your construction contracting shop is used for storage only or also includes some amount of fabrication it makes sense to have all the items in it organized in a handy and useable way.

Here are three goals to keep in mind as you go about the task of organizing your shop

  1. Providing a safe environment
  2. Managing inventory
  3. Being able to find what you need when you need it AND seeing to it your workers can find what they need – without needing you.

Buy In to tackle the organized shop project

If you’re a one-man operation, then the only person you need to get to Buy In is you. And that may be a bit tricky. Remind yourself of the outcome before and during the process. You may even decide to reward yourself with a new tool or some other desired item when the shop is all organized and living in all its glory.

And, if you see you’re going to need some help with this organize-the-shop project, you’ll need to see to it the others working with you understand why this change and the labor involved will make a difference not only for your company but also for them. You might start by reminding them of the third goal as mentioned above, “Being able to find what you need when you need it AND seeing to it your workers can find what they need – without needing you.” You may also consider a small bonus, or a gift card for dinner out, or a shop-wide we-did-it party at the completion of the organizing venture.

Need more info? Check out this article from Entrepreneur about getting employee buy in.

Depending on the size of your shop and the number of items in it, this project may take only a long Saturday, or a few work days. It may also be such a big project it will need to be divided into several parts and completed in stages. This is where you’ll find the next step to be vital to conquering the messy shop blues.

Organize an organizing plan

Unless you’re ready to add more space to your shop by adding on or moving to a larger facility you need to deal with the square footage you already have.

Start by looking at the layout. Do you have a blueprint or schematic of your shop you can check out? If not, grab your tape measure and get busy.

Having a plan or even a prioritized list saves you the effort of stopping, deciding what’s the next thing to do, and then rebuilding momentum each time you move on to a new task.

Determine the necessary components

Begin with or establish new places for your stationary tools

Then consider all your options in these areas

  • Go vertical with a multitude of shelving and rack options
  • Think of using overhead ceiling racks
  • Determine your need for specialized holders (such as a wire spool holder)
  • Bring in component drawer sets or toolboxes

If you set up your storage system with some empty cubbies, empty drawers, and empty shelf space, you’ll be buying yourself some time before having to re-reorganize.

The principle organizing principles to consider

  • Know the difference between a want and a need (You know what I mean.)
  • Sort by category (the category that makes the most sense to you, for example by job type or by tool type)
  • Store like items in the same area or space (for example, all fasteners in one storage area)
  • Keep larger and heavier items low (and on wheels when that is an option)
  • Make it easy to get to (only one barrier layer – no drawers inside closed cabinets, for instance)
  • Store items closest to where they will be used (get multiples of the exact same tool, if it will be used in several different places during any given day)
  • Keep frequently used items most easily accessible (Think “coffee cup” and you’ll know what I mean.)
  • Consider developing “ready to go” boxes for items you will transport frequently
  • Remember – getting rid of something makes room for the future

Now get to it

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could push the do-over button? Well, depending on the size of your shop you may actually be able to do something pretty close to that. If your shop is small the first step may very well be akin to pushing the do-over button because you can take advantage of the option by moving everything out of the shop space. Ah, now you can do-over by following the steps below before moving items back in.

If your shop is larger or if you need to organize in stages because of time limitations, you can still use the same formula

Set aside the time necessary

  • Put it on the calendar
  • Remind others involved
  • Stick to it

Clean out the entire shop or a designated space in the shop

  • Sweep and clean
  • Make any facility repairs necessary (including painting if you choose)

Sort

  • Group like items together
  • Arrange items by function or frequency of use
  • Label what goes where (Skip this step at your own peril.)

Get rid of the junk

  • Toss it
  • Donate it
  • Sell it
  • Notice how much more space you have (and smile)

Put your material, tools, and equipment in the “smart” places they belong

  • You probably won’t get everything perfectly right the first time
  • Tweek it in about a week after you’ve discovered the weak spots

Finally

Rinse and repeat until you have all spaces and areas clean, organized, and functioning well

This is one in a series of articles concerning pieces of the organizing puzzle for your construction contracting business. You can go here to find more.

The Tickler File, an Age-Old Tool for the Modern Construction Contractors Office

We’ve found most people fit in one of three categories when it comes to understanding and using a tickler file.

In which category do you fit?

  1. I’ve never even heard of a tickler file.
  2. I tried it and it didn’t work.
  3. I use and love my tickler system.

If you’re in the number one slot, hang on I’ll explain not only what it is, but how to use it.

If you’re in the number two space, please give me a chance to show you some new ideas, techniques, and approaches which might just move you into the number three category.

And, if you’re in the third spot, yay! You already know how this simple tool makes running your construction contracting office so much easier. Plus, there may be a few ways to use your tickler file you hadn’t thought of before.

So, what is a tickler file?

You may have also heard this file described as a pending system, a bring-up file, or a holding box. It doesn’t matter what you call it, the point is it’s a great tool for keeping your brain as well as your office organized.

The best way I can describe it is, “The tickler file is a system meant to tickle your memory, it’s a fantastic way to help you keep track of details you don’t want to have roaming around in your head, hiding out in virtual space, or lying around on your desk.”

We’ll start with the physical aspect of a tickler file, then move on to the latest concept of an integrated system (which includes your computer or other digital device) for tickling your memory.

While the tickler file has been around for a long time, David Allen a productivity consultant, re-popularized the idea with his bestselling book Getting Things Done.

In his system there are 31 file folders labeled 1 through 31, followed by 12 folders labeled with each month of the year. These folders are then placed in an easy to reach spot. For example, you could choose to use a desk file drawer or a desktop file box.

The file number which should be in the front of the file each day is the one corresponding to today’s date. After you’ve emptied today’s file, you move that number to the back of that section. The month which should be in the first slot of the 12 months is the month following the one you’re presently in. When you move “next month’s” files into the appropriate daily files, you also move that month’s folder to the back of the month section.

What goes in the files?

Documents you’ll need again soon, follow up notes, coupons, reminders to call back, bills to be paid, status reports, evaluations, tax related items, requests for feedback, event tickets, flyers with directions or instructions, warranty expirations, forms to be filled out, — really, simply any item or piece of paper which needs to be reviewed or acted upon can all go into the proper day of the month or left holding within future months.

Here is the rule-of-thumb I use when deciding which pieces of paper find a temporary home in my tickler file – if I’m not filing it or tossing it, it is a good candidate for my tickler file. Let’s face it, a tickler file truly is more effective and useful than looking all over bulletin boards, magnet boards, taped or tacked on walls, or a stack on your desk in order to find the paper you want. Plus, with a tickler file the risk of completely forgetting something beneath the stack is eliminated.

A real-life example of something that is hanging out in my tickler file right now is a flyer I received from Fry’s Super Market. It states that on the dates February 17th through 19th every VIP customer (meaning if you have a Fry’s card) will be able to save twenty cents per gallon of gas at the new Fry’s location in our neighborhood. Chances are great that on one of those dates I’ll need to purchase gas. If I don’t take advantage of the offer on the first date, I’ll move it to the next day, then the next. If, for some crazy reason, I haven’t used it by the end of the offer that piece of paper will find its way to file 13.

What comes out of the files?

Nothing. Well that is, nothing comes out of the tickler file if you don’t use it. Yet, if you get into the habit of faithfully using your system everything comes out at some point. It will either be acted upon or filed when the time is right. Which reminds me, only put in stuff that is really better done at a future date.

Also, in the past I would have advised sticking to the desktop box storage system because of the “out of sight, out of mind” concept. But now-a-days, there are ways to get around that problem and I will tell you about it a little further down. For now, I’ll introduce you to another way to build your physical tickler file.

Shrinking the tickler file

One reason the tickler file was so popular in the past is paper was a major problem in all offices. These days – not so much. Yet, there are still paper items which we all must deal with and that is where a shrunken version of a tickler file comes in quite handy.

The major concepts concerning the use of the full-blown version and the shrunken version are about the same. The difference is felt mostly in the space and time devoted to housing and using the tickler file.

Let me introduce the shrunken version I developed and use specifically for two reasons, 1) my office space is very small, and 2) I don’t have a large number of paper items to deal with.

I use only 8 folders and they’re labeled like this:

  • Monday
  • Tuesday
  • Wednesday
  • Thursday
  • Friday
  • Next Week
  • Next Month
  • Later

Just like the full-blown version, upcoming action items are placed in the appropriate day of the week, or one of the other noted files. At the end of the week, I check the “next week” folder and slot items from it into the daily files. I also place the “next month” folder into the midst of the daily files when “next month” takes place in the middle of a week. If there are items in the next month file which are to be used in week three or week four of the month I place them in the “next week” file and slot them in during the weekly review. Also, always check the “later” file at the end of the month. You may need to bring some items forward.

Did you say electronic tickler file?

Why yes, there is a way to have an electronic tickler file. Just be aware, like the (almost) paperless office the electronic system is (almost) paperless.

Matt Perman, on his site, What’s Best Next posted an article titled A Few Quick Examples on How to Make Your Tickler File Electronic. Check it out. It may be all you need.

Use it or lose it

Setting up the system takes minutes. Using the system also takes only minutes a day. BUT, getting into the habit of using a tickler file system is the hardest part. I know, I’ve tried on more than one occasion. In reality, the hardest part about using a tickler file is actually starting to use it.

Remember I mentioned I would tell you about the ways to remember to use your tickler file? One way to solve the problem is to place a “trigger” in your space. For example, you walk into your office, put away your personal belongings, and right there in the spot where you’re putting your purse or your lunch there is a note that says, “Check the tickler file.” Yep, make it the first thing you do each morning and that soon becomes a habit.

Another way to remind yourself is to put a repeating task on your digital calendar. You open your calendar and there the notice is – Check Tickler File. Your next step is to reach for your tickler file.

I read where some folks sent themselves an email with a reminder to check the tickler file. Find the way that works best for you and use it.

Wait, there’s more

Lest I sound like the annoying salesman on TV, I do want to let you know there are also some added benefits of using a tickler file you may not have thought of. One fellow shared that when he tried (again) to get his tickler file system going he purposely added some things just to get in the habit. He enjoyed music and was trying to learn some new songs. So, he added the lyrics to songs on a few days, reviewed the songs, then refiled them in upcoming days so he could review again. He said it wasn’t long before he was in the habit and no longer needed to “seed” the tickler file.

Studying for a new license, need to learn about a piece of software, want to understand an app better? Drop a note in your tickler file reminding yourself to take 15 minutes to study. Put the note back in tomorrow’s date or a few days down the road. In just a few days, you’ve put in an hour or more towards learning what you need to know.

Want to tackle an “extra project” (like organizing the office) but don’t have time? Drop notes in your tickler file in which the project is broken down into nibble size pieces. They might look like this, “clean top right drawer,” “straighten files A through C,” “rearrange top shelf in storage closet.” You get the idea.

Choosing the right tickler file system

Now that you know about all the benefits you receive from using a tickler file it is time to decide which works best in your office. (By the way, any of these systems will work well at home too. Think about getting all the junk off your kitchen counter and you’ll know what I mean.)

The easiest way to decide which system is best for your office is to determine how much paper you must deal with on a daily or regular basis.

  • Lots of paper – Go with the 43 files, you might like this ready-made unit.
  • A little bit of paper – try my system
  • Hardly any paper – make use of the electronic file

Adding a tickler file in your office is an excellent way to use an age-old tool in managing your modern construction contracting business.

This is the first in a series of articles concerning pieces of the organizing puzzle for your construction contracting business. You can go here to find out more about what has or will be showing up in the collection.