Where does all my time go? I’m working as hard as I can, and I still cannot keep up. There simply isn’t enough time for everything.
Do these expressions sound familiar? They are the common laments of supervisors and managers everywhere. It seems that no matter how hard we try, we just cannot get it all done. So, with the problem defined, let’s see whether there is anything we can do to help solve it.
Let us begin with some realization. In the type of work we do, and in the very busy world in which we live, there is a lot to do. Supervision and management of construction projects, as well as performing craft work on construction projects, are complex tasks. They require constant attention and the application of a multitude of skills on our part.
Construction projects are continually increasing in complexity, thus adding to the burden. Projects contain new technologies; new specialties, tools, equipment, techniques and project delivery methods are developing; and project timelines are shortening. In addition, the world around us is becoming more complex and demanding as we go about our personal, family and social lives. However, one thing is constant: there are only 24 hours in a day.
How can you keep up, and how can you get it all done? As supervisors and managers, one of the most powerful time-management tools we have available to us is planning. Planning, as we have noted previously in this column, is one of the five fundamental functions of management, and it is, indeed, a powerful management tool.
“So,” you ask, “what does planning have to do with my difficulties with time?” Or, you may say, “I already have too much to do and too little time to do it. And now you want me to take the time to plan?” Some have even said, “Even when I carefully plan my day, so many unexpected things come up that I do not have time to get to the things I have planned. Therefore, the time spent in planning is a further waste of my time.”
Planning absolutely can help with the fact that you do not have enough time for everything. Planning allows you to visualize what you would like to get done. Then you can arrange those things into a pattern and into a set of priorities. Planning allows you to determine what your priorities are among the many—too many—things you need to do. Planning won’t help you finish every task, but it will help ensure you finish the most important tasks.
The chaos factor
Short-term and long-term planning enable you to list what you need to accomplish, where you need to go, and how fast you must complete your tasks, but you cannot specifically plan for the unexpected. When the unexpected occurs, as it inevitably will, and if you have taken the time to plan, then you can compare these unexpected issues with your plan and can determine whether these current unexpected issues are worth your immediate attention.
In addition, since you know some unexpected things will occur, you can and should specifically budget some time to handle these unexpected issues. By planning to encounter unexpected issues, you have enabled yourself to address them if necessary.
In summary, to have more time is, in many ways, to plan better. Plan better for the short term and for the long term, and you will find that you have more time for what is really important.
Future articles on this topic will look further at some other tools and techniques that can be put into practice, which can be of help to us. We all know we need all of the help we can get when managing the relentless march of time, amid the endless list of things to be done in the complex construction management world.
ROUNDS is the AGC endowed chair and professor of civil engineering at the University of New Mexico. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. SEGNER is a professor of construction science at Texas A&M University. Contact him at email@example.com.