NALP consultant member Bill Silverman, of Springboard Business Coaching, offers advice for landscape and lawn care pros who want to take back 10 – 15 hours of their time each week.
Imagine if you could free up 10 – 15 hours a week. What would you do with it? Spend more time with your family? Make some time for yourself? Work on that long list of priorities to improve your business that you never seem to be able to get around to?
One of the most frequent complaints that I hear from landscaping company owners is that there is never enough time in the day to get your own work done. Do you feel that way too? You come in in the morning with a list of important things that you want to accomplish and go home at the end of the day feeling stressed out and frustrated, because few (if any) of these things actually got done. Rinse and repeat the next day, and the next, and the next….
Below are five ways to take back control of your time to maximize your productivity and impact at work:
1. Do your job and let others do theirs. When I ask business owners of any size businesses what their job description is, the most common answer I get is “That’s simple…I do everything!” Everything usually includes long days filled with things like working on the crew, fighting “fires,” running out for supplies, supervising crews, paying bills, accounting, and even cleaning trucks and bathrooms.
If “I do everything” is your job description too, this could be one of your major time management issues. If you fill your days with work that you could pay someone $10 an hour to do, then the work that really requires your special skills and talents will never get done.
One of the assignments that I give to my clients is to write their owner’s job description. This is an eye-opening exercise… you should try it! So what should you be doing as the business owner? Clearly, your role as owner will change over time as your business grows, so you will need to continually evolve your job description. But the success of your business will depend on the things that rarely make it on the list, such as planning, building your team, laying the foundation for continuous growth and continuously growing yourself as a leader.
Once your job description is done, simply list everything you do in your job today, regardless of how small, whether it’s running out for supplies or fiddling around on the internet. Then sort this list into tasks that are part of your job description and tasks that are not. Delegate the tasks that aren’t yours to the people who should be doing them. This will free up hours of your time that you can use to work on the most important things you need to do to build your business.
2. Put out some fires once and for all. Problems and fires are one of the major time sucks in your business. If you fix the things that are broken in your business, you’ll have fewer fires and fewer interruptions. For many businesses, there are two or three recurring problems that eat up 80% of your time. You may already know what these problems are. If you don’t, track the problems, fires and interruptions that you experience for a week or two. This will help you zero in on the biggest problems that eat up your time.
Once you know what the biggest problems are, pick one and solve it. Use some of the time that you saved in step 1 above to analyze the causes of the problem and plan and implement the best possible solution. Once you solve your biggest problem, pick your next biggest problem and create a solution for it. Just solving a couple of problems that are eating up your time can free up a significant amount of time and reduce your stress and frustration in the process.
3. Focus on a short list of priorities. There’s a great book that came out recently called “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown that talks about the mindset shift that has to happen in order for us to make meaningful progress in our business and life. The author says that most people believe that the best way to make progress is by trying to do it all. The net result is that we end up “making a millimeter of progress in a million directions.” Our energy, time and efforts is spread too thin, so nothing gets done. McKeown suggests that only when we stop trying to do it all, and stop saying yes to everyone, will we make significant progress on the things that matter most.
I like to think about priorities like an air traffic controller thinks about landing planes. You can’t land them all on the runway at the same time. So what I do with my clients and their management teams is have them focus on no more than three priorities a quarter. When they finish those priorities, then we will add new ones to the list.
Personally, I have been doing this in my own business for the last five years and it has made an enormous difference. And it has made a big difference for my clients too. It’s a great time saver and productivity booster. Try it!
4. Create time boundaries and rules…and follow them! I have found that the majority of owners who have problems with time believe that they need to be available and on call all the time at work. Consequently, they’re barraged by a never-ending flow of interruptions through calls, questions, fires and problems that knock their plans out of whack every day and make it impossible for them to get their own work done. They can’t get a moment to themselves because they have never carved out time for themselves!
Is that your problem too? If so, you need dedicated time to get your work done. Here are some thoughts on how to make that happen:
• Give yourself permission to unplug for an hour or two without answering or returning calls or emails, or fielding questions from your team. Your business will survive that long without your input and you’ll have some time to yourself to get your work done.
• Close your door. Create rules about when it is okay to disturb you and when it is not.
• Give more authority to your key managers. Make it clear which decisions you need to be involved in and which ones they can take care of on their own.
Carving out some time for yourself, can make a big difference in how much you get done during the day.
5. Schedule dedicated time in your calendar to get YOUR work done. Now that you have freed up time, schedule your most important owner job responsibilities into your calendar and do this work religiously! Experience shows that freeing up time is not a guarantee that you will use it productively. Other urgent but non-important tasks will keep competing for your attention. So, protect this time like a guard dog and use it productively on that important, but not urgent, work that is on your job description.
To make the most out of your free time, use the “power hour” technique to stay focused. Lock your door, turn off your phone and email, pick one of your priority projects, set the clock for 50 minutes and don’t stop working until the time is out. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done when you’re focused and uninterrupted! Reward yourself with a short break afterward.
Work on these five time saving ideas now before things get too busy! Freeing up your time will take some work on your part, but the results are worth it. You’ll have time to focus on the things that really matter in your business and time left over to focus on what matters in your life too.