Time management in construction< Back to Blog
Ask any construction project manager what could make their life easier and we think the answer you’re most likely to get is ‘more time’!
When running a construction project, the day-to-day workload can be something of a juggling act – there’s work schedules to manage, deadlines to meet, budgets to stick to, labour and subcontractors to organise, meetings to arrange, safety matters to attend to and much more.
But, wishing for ‘more time’ to tackle these tasks just isn’t going to work. The real answer is effective time management. Get this right and the project will successfully and efficiently meet its programme targets and budget and be profitable. Get things wrong and you run the risk of unnecessary costs, delays, liquidated damages and a downwards hit to profitability.
Here’s five strategies to help construction managers manage their time well:
1. Give the schedule pole position
The project schedule should always be at the forefront in any construction project manager’s mind. This is literally the ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘how’ and ‘who’ guidebook for the project, so paying close attention to it makes a lot of sense. Any deviation from the schedule can create all kinds of knock-on effects later down the line so the number 1 tip is for project managers is to review the schedule on a regular basis and use it to create daily, weekly and monthly task lists.
2. Prioritise tasks (and try your best to stick to those at the top of the list!)
While the schedule is a great way to identify what tasks are required, as anyone who works in construction knows, things don’t always go to plan. Issues with deliveries, subcontractors or safety can crop up at any moment – all taking the manager’s attention away from their planned tasks.
In this kind of environment, how do you prioritise the ‘to do’ list.
There’s a multitude of books you could turn to for answers and systems. The Eisenhower Matrix, for instance can help you prioritise tasks by their urgency and importance, sorting out the less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or not do at all.
Anther simple idea is to take five minutes over your morning coffee to ask yourself: “What’s the most important thing I need to accomplish today?”, then set your phone to issue alerts at various points of the day so that you can question if you’re still focused on that task. If, at the end of the day, things haven’t progressed, ask another question: “What can I do differently tomorrow?”
You might also do the same thing over longer periods in relation to bigger business goals – for instance, asking at the beginning of each month, what the key goal for that month is, then setting weekly reminders to check whether the tasks you’re prioritising are contributing or hindering the achievement of that goal.
For many construction managers, the project is their ‘baby’ and that makes them reluctant to let go of some of the key aspects of its care.
But delegation is a sure-fire method for managing time better. So, review your task list and ask whether there’s anything you can pass to another team member (e.g. an administrator, foreman or second-in-command). You may find that you need to invest in some training for whoever you’re delegating to and, initially might need to spend more time with them so as to provide clarity about your instructions. However, the long-term benefits will make that time well worth it. Delegation provides development opportunities for workers (which can raise morale), and, in the future you’ll simply be able to delegate those tasks without any further explanation.
Remember the most successful construction projects are usually those where the whole team is invested in the project’s success. Share the load!
4. Make meetings actionable
Love them or hate them, meetings can be an important way of bringing the team together to discuss issues and make decisions. That said, the reason people often dislike meetings is because they don’t see them as having any real purpose – they’re just a waste of time!
So, the first thing to do is only run meetings when there’s a specific purpose in mind and an expectation that it will end in actions.
- Before the meeting, be sure to create and distribute a clear agenda.
- Start your meeting by reminding people what the main purpose is.
- Monitor the meeting so that discussions don’t stray too far from the agenda.
- End the meeting with a set of actions and a timetable for their completion.
- Follow-up the meeting by distributing notes and reminders of set tasks.
5. Tool up
It’s not only the on-site labour that needs tools. These days, project managers can access all kinds of project management software or apps which automate many management tasks, serve as an important channel of communication and save a whole load of time.
By providing a central resource for the project that all team members can view, this kind of software helps to ensure there is easy access to documentation/ information, supports task assignment and management of the schedule, and enables messaging and reporting mechanisms to flow across the team.
Take a look here for some of the top-rated project management tools for construction right now.
What’s the best use of your time?
When you’re managing a project in a constantly busy environment like construction, it can be hard to stop and think about how you can best use your time. Hopefully these five strategies will be of some help but there’s one last thing to add: remember to take a break now and then!
Adding scheduled short-breaks to your day might seem like yet another interruption and kind of counter-productive, but it can actually be the opposite. Taking a moment to pause, take a fresh look at the job in hand and re-evaluate goals can be key to achieving both effective time management and improved productivity. Try a short 15-minute break mid-morning and another one mid-afternoon and extend this to your team to see how it affects their productivity too.
Do you have any time-management tips to add? Let us know over on Facebook.