Business Smarts: Productivity Hacks from the Pros - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Business Smarts: Productivity Hacks from the Pros

Productivity is a major focus for lawn and landscape businesses as there is limited time in the season to get certain tasks done.

However, as a leader, your individual productivity can suffer for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s handling unexpected fires or being pulled into unplanned phone calls or meetings, your limited time can be devoured by interruptions that need to be addressed immediately.

While some of these matters are urgent and should be handled as soon as possible, others realistically can wait or be handled by someone else.  

“Distractions are endless, and sometimes I struggle completing tasks because I get pulled away to put out a fire, or even interject myself into something I don’t need to,” says Doug McDuff, president of Landscape America, based in Wrentham, Massachusetts. “I think it’s ok to close your door, shut off your alerts on your phone, and focus on your work for a couple of hours. If a truly big issue occurs, your team will still find you. Most of the time, you don’t need to be ‘on call’ and can help solve problems when you finish your task.” 

For Bruce Allentuck, LIC, president of Allentuck Landscaping Co., based in Rockville, Maryland, he utilizes block scheduling.

“Over the weekend, usually on Sunday before dinner, I sit down and write down all of the priorities across our companies that I can foresee for the week ahead, most important ones on top,” Allentuck says. “I use OneNote for this because it syncs well across my devices. Then I put them on my Google calendar in blocks of time and by category color (i.e. client needs, staff needs, marketing etc.). I try to keep blocks to 45 minutes and no more than an hour.”

Allentuck schedules his most important tasks in the morning as that is when he is most productive. He says it’s important to leave some white space for unforeseen interruptions.

“I also understand that sometimes people need to see me even if it doesn’t fit my schedule so I don’t mind,” Allentuck says.

Allentuck has been implementing this productivity method for over two years and learned it from his coaches in Breakthrough Academy.

Pam Dooley, owner of Plants Creative Landscapes, based in Decatur, Georgia, says their leadership check-in on Monday provides a week ahead synching of their highest priorities. They also have a Friday look back call.

She has been using this tool for two years, but they’ve been finetuning their agenda to keep these check-ins as productive and focused as possible. Dooley says retired CEO of Ford Motor Company and Boeing Alan Mulally’s Business Plan Review inspired their check-ins. They’re also working on their own version of the red, yellow and green priority management.

Projects that are on-plan are green, tasks that are off-plan but being dealt with are yellow, and things that are off-plan but not yet being addressed are red. Dooly says they also try to “eat their frogs” which is where they deal with the things they want to do the least, such as responding to an angry customer.

“If I can eat my frog first thing, and not allow it to linger, my days have a better opportunity of staying on track!” Dooley says.

Time management and productivity are very important to Tony Nasrallah, president and founder of Ground Works Land Design, based in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a fan of to-do lists but writing notes on loose-leaf paper isn’t the most effective for him.

“Trello has been my latest trick,” Nasrallah says. “It’s a completely customizable cloud-based to-do list that I share with specific team members. I’ve created swim lanes within Trello so that when I start working on a task, or complete one, I update the status. I can create multiple Trello boards for different verticals within my business. Best part – there’s a free version.”

Nasrallah says since they implemented Trello six months ago it has been a game-changer. Ground Works’ technology director Adam Swank and several other office staff members recommended the tool to Nasrallah.

Similar to Allentuck, McDuff uses his Outlook calendar to stay on track with daily, weekly, monthly tasks.

“I book appointments with myself to prepare for meetings, reminders of conversations to have with team members, and even to just think without distractions,” he says.

McDuff was the predominant salesperson for his company a few years ago and developed this productivity method out of necessity as he could not afford to waste time during the day.

“I found that if I put seemingly obvious tasks in my Outlook calendar, it forced me to stay on track getting back to the customer with their quote, and also prevented me from getting distracted by other things that popped up during the day,” McDuff says.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the content manager for NALP.