Priority Planning in Your Construction Business

Priority and prioritizing set you up for the win.

Priority Planning in Your Construction Business

Priority – it’s a task

“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”  Former U.S President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Prioritizing your daily tasks is simply smart business. You greatly lessen the chance you’ll get caught up in busy-work and heighten the chance you’ll get something of significance accomplished. That’s it in a nutshell.

The first step is to understand the importance of your calendar and your to-do list. There are those who are adamant that ditching your to-do list and using a calendar alone is imperative. And there are others who espouse using both calendar and to-do list. No one I know of suggests ditching your calendar. Most people have a fairly good idea concerning how to use their calendar. Fewer understand how to get the most functionality from their to-do lists.

A while back, I wrote this blog, Before You Give the Paper To-Do List a Pink Slip Consider This. It is full of information you can use to up your game when it comes to taking full advantage of a to-do list.  Yep, there’s more to it than simply jotting down a few things you can later check off.

As you can see, I’m still firmly in the camp which espouses using both a calendar and a to-do list.

A winning priority

I would like to add one more piece to this prioritizing puzzle. Whether it comes from your to-do list or from your calendar choose one WIN for the day.

Look at it this way. What is the one thing you need to complete today which will move you forward in the way you’ve already determined to go? Yeah, I know you have lots of different chunks on your plate. Which one is most important? This doesn’t mean you won’t do any of the other items. It does mean you will (most days) get one important task done or started.

How we do it

Here at Schulte and Schulte we address it this way. Every weekday morning in our virtual huddle each of us states the one thing we plan to do for the day which will be a win. And, it isn’t just any old win. It needs to be a win which reaches our companies stated goal of assuring that our clients are equipped to “run with the big dogs.”

And, this is what it sounds like – “I’m going to help X company run with the big dogs by completing all their billing for the day.” Or it might sound like this, “I’m going to help X firm run with the big dogs by meeting with them to clear up the payroll issue they’re having now.” Or the words might be, “My plan is to help our clients run with the big dogs by writing a blog post which helps them be better at prioritizing.” 😉

Determining task priorities

Determining your priorities will obviously be based on your long-term goals and your strategy for reaching them. (We’ll get to that in parts two and three of this series.) Yet, there is a quick way to determine which of your daily tasks should be placed in the win column for the day.

Looking at both your to-do list and your calendar ask these questions:

  • What is due today?
  • Does this really need to be completed or is it a waste of time?
  • How much of this have I already completed?
  • Can I shift that task to someone else?
  • How many people will be affected if I do or don’t get this task done?
  • Have I put this off in the past?
  • Is this task part of an ongoing project or a one-off?

One other useful tool for determining daily priorities is to always keep in mind what is best for your clients. I know that sounds trite. Yet, there are times when we become so caught up in the mechanics of what must be completed, we forget the reason they must be completed. And, when considering our clients’ needs is injected into the equation the determination becomes somewhat easier.

Prioritize your daily tasks for the win

The likelihood of getting one significant thing done goes up exponentially when you put thought into prioritizing your daily tasks.

This has been the first in a 3-part series dealing with prioritizing in your construction contracting business. In the second part the information will center on prioritizing your business goals. And, in the third part we’ll take a look at planning for the interim – the strategy part.

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.

Want to know more about us or about how we can assist you? Get in touch here. Or call Toll Free: 866-629-7735

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.