Unplug for part of each day and watch your productivity rise.



Is most of your day spent fielding incoming calls and/or emails on your smartphone? Does your ever-ringing or vibrating smartphone keep you from focusing on the task at hand?

I’m betting it does.

The truth is you don’t know how to get control of your business or your life because it’s always devouring every minute of your day. And it doesn’t matter if you’re an owner/operator of a small business or someone who owns and operates a very large company.

The first thing to understand is that multitasking is an illusion of efficiency. Plenty of studies are proving that short, concentrated time on a single task is more effective than trying to do multiple things at once.

The second thing to understand is the owner needs to spend some portion of each day working on the business if he ever hopes to build the successful business he dreamed about when he first started. This is true even with the one-truck shops I work with.

You can’t do that until you begin unplugging! And you need to start unplugging at least a portion of your day.

This is not easy. It’s downright frightening. As a matter of fact, one owner of a small contracting company I work with lost all the color in his face when I grabbed the phone from his clenched fist. It was illuminating to both of us how much he clung to his phone.

Remember, I was only advocating doing this a couple hours a day. Later on, he learned how to do this process and now we both laugh at how hard it was to break his addiction to be constantly connected.

The plan to unplug

To properly unplug, you need a plan such as the one I used with this contractor.

1. Designate one office person -typically, a customer service rep - to answer the cell phone from 8 a.m. until noon each day. If you don’t have someone in-house, hire an outside answering service and train its reps on the next steps.

2. Give the CSR the written list of the top six people who are able to get right through to you. Here are some good examples:
  • Your spouse;
  • Your kids;
  • Your mom and dad;
  • Your key customer or customers;
  • Your key supplier or vendor; and
  • Your key subcontractor.

3. If an inspector or owner needs to speak to you about a job that is going on today, have the CSR forward the call to you. This call only gets to you if and when the job can’t progress without speaking to you first.

4. The office person will not address your emails in any way if they’re coming to you on your cell right now.

5. You should be checking your email about once every two hours.

6. The office person should have the schedule of which techs are working where.

7. If it’s a material or part issue where staying on your written list of approved vendors won’t solve the problem, then it’s OK for the office to contact you to determine the next best way to handle the issue, as long as the following information is provided:
  • What exactly is the material needed?
  • Is it needed now to finish the job?

8. Office personnel should use the company’s CSR manual to answer the phone per the scripts. If you don’t have a full-blown CSR manual, write out some common scenarios and a couple scripts to handle them.

9. The office person should let the caller know he’s glad to be of service since you’re not available for the next two hours.

10. Whoever answers your phone also should be sending you a very brief email summary about what is being put into the computer so you don’t get an unnecessary call.

It’s smart to check your email at regular intervals such as every two or four hours rather than constantly stopping what you’re doing to address something that can typically wait. If your world or theirs is going to fall apart in less time than that, you need to re-examine why that is and fix it.

There are more steps, especially for someone who runs a larger contracting company with even more customers and staff calling and emailing them all day long. The biggest problem owners of large contracting companies create is their desire (need) to micromanage everything as they did when the company was tiny. It can’t happen as you grow. It’s not healthy for you or for those who work for you.

Understand that demanding perfection is a waste of energy and actually demoralizing to those who want to help you. Pursuing perfection through understanding, training and practice is worthwhile.

No matter what size company you are a part of, unplugging is going to be tough at first! But, having done this process with a number of contractors from both big and small shops, I know that no one regrets doing this;  they only wish they’d done it sooner.

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