Make work out of what you have to do
Contractor tip of the month
By Damian Lang
When you don’t have enough work to do, you will make work out of what you have to do. That’s what my mom told me years ago. With nine kids, they had plenty of overhead to cover, so maybe that is why she and Dad always kept plenty of work laid out for us kids to do back then. The same is true in business. Has your office staff informed you that they are so busy, not a single one of them can take on another task? Or, does it just depend on how they define “busy” that keeps them so busy?
I am on vacation at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, with another mason contractor, his kids, my girls and their friends. It sure is peaceful at 5 a.m., sitting in this motor home writing, while the girls all get their rest for another day riding roller coasters. (Of course, I will be riding with them, refusing to ever put my hands down before they do while we ride.) It also is a good feeling to know my desk is clean when I get back in the office. How’d I do that? Glad you asked! I made myself commit to not leaving for the trip until I was caught up on all the messages and mail that had been piling up.
The girls and I planned to leave no later than 10 a.m. Friday morning, which meant I had to finish in the office by 9 a.m. At 6:30 a.m. that morning, I was faced with a couple of days’ work needing to be done in 2.5 hours. Not knowing where to start, I decided to start with the far left side of my cluttered desk, and then I would circle right until I cleaned it all off. There was a lot of junk mail from the political parties that I would normally look at, but not today. Although my inbox was full of funnies and things from clients and friends, I deleted those messages off my computer without reading, while quickly responding to the vital messages I had.
With no time for distractions, when one of my managers knocked on my door, I asked him how important it is we talk right that minute as I could call him once I got on the road. He said that would be fine. I did the same with the messages on the answering machine and other calls I needed to make, which lead to me banking about 10 calls to make on my four-hour drive here. Making those calls on the way saved me several work hours, while making my drive here just fly by. Can you believe I left with a clean desk, empty inbox and message bank in the 2.5 hours I had allotted?
Looking back on what I had piled up to do, less than half of it was important to the success of my companies; the rest was non-essential – things I would have done if I had more time. Wait a minute, what about the rest of our employees? Are they all working on the most vital parts of their jobs? Or, are they spending time working on those same non-essential things that I let pile up?
So maybe we should all take a page out of mom’s play book: Make sure that we, and each of our people, have plenty of work to do and don’t just make work out of what we have to do to stretch out and fill our day. And maybe more important than that, make sure the work we do contributes toward the success of the company, so we aren’t using our best energy up on non-essential tasks ranging from things like creating lengthy reports that don’t get read (or even understood) by anyone but the person who creates them; tracking useless data that no one ever requests; scouring junk mail, or playing fantasy football. Each minute we take doing those non-essentials is a minute you never get back. Wouldn’t you rather spend your time doing the things that matter most?
About the Author
Damian Lang is a mason contractor in southeast Ohio and inventor of many labor saving masonry systems and products. Lang has served as the Marketing Committee Chairman for the Mason Contractors Association of America. He is also author of the book Rewarding and Challenging Employees for Profits in Masonry. To network with Damian on contractor tips or tips you have and would like published, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-749-3512.