By Tom Camarda as featured in Construction Today

Proper Time management increases productivity and profit.

Time is a finite, valuable resource, and managing it efficiently is critical to the successful, on-time completion of construction projects. How managers and employees manage their time affects performance, productivity and profitability. Accordingly, failure to deliver projects on time usually has negative financial consequences for construction companies and their clients. Although the principles of time management are not rocket science, they are easily forgotten in the rush to put out daily fires.

Here are 13 best practices in time management that can help ensure efficiency and the timeliness of project completion.

1. Establish time as a corporate value. Time management starts with truly valuing time as a non-renewable resource. It doesn’t grow on trees, it can’t be manufactured, and it can’t be slowed down. Everyone’s time is valuable, from the company president’s to the janitor’s. For leaders and managers, time management is a double duty – managing both their own time and the time of employees. Unless time is valued and measured as a resource critical to the company’s mission from the top down, people won’t always use it wisely.

2. Link time to money. Time is money. Strike a good balance between performance-based pay and time-based pay. While performance-based pay is an effective incentive, it can be taken too far, driving people to move so fast that they compromise the integrity and quality of the work.

3. Set and prioritize obtainable, reasonable goals, objectives and tasks.
Understand the company’s key performance indicators and the tasks and subtasks that contribute to the successful completion of each project. Establish how individual tasks fit into the larger scheme of a project and prioritize the order in which they need to be completed.

4. Set realistic, executable timelines.
Unrealistic schedules set people up for failure. Create and communicate reasonable schedules for tasks and subtasks, allotting sufficient time to allow people to accomplish them while meeting quality standards. Provide the resources people need to complete the work on time.

5. Track progress.
The most common time management mistake is setting a goal for day 10 and then waiting until day 10 to see if the goal has been met. Between days one and 10, someone has to take responsibility for ensuring that daily accomplishments are on track. Many businesses have adopted in-progress reports (IPRs) as a standard operating procedure to help project management track and report on results.

6. Communicate and listen.
Open lines of communication between managers and subordinates, as well as laterally among teams. This helps to keep everyone on the same page and working toward the same goal. Remember that communication has to be a two-way street – top to bottom, bottom to top, and peer to peer. A good business practice is peer review, which gives everyone responsibility for making on-spot, on-site corrections.

It is important for everyone to be willing to listen and respect the viewpoints of others. Even seasoned employees with 20 years’ experience may learn something from a worker who is new to the company. People who are unwilling to listen sometimes create problems that result in impediments to growing and learning and, as such, waste time and energy.

7. Create efficient operations. To avoid wasting time as well as the successful completion of projects, develop systems that eliminate duplication of effort, redundancy and overlapping tasks. Make sure everyone knows the tasks for which they are responsible and that they understand the company’s quality standards so rework can be avoided.

8. Remember: Haste makes waste. Multitasking is overrated and overused, and it can be a detriment to quality, timeliness and efficiency. Everyone can multitask to a certain extent, engaging in two or perhaps three simultaneous activities. However, beyond that, one’s ability to manage, track and control concurrent activities deteriorates with a diminishing return on quality.

For the sake of project quality and integrity, make sure employees can focus on the task at hand. Time is finite, and trying to compress it by stuffing it with too many activities is not good time management. It leads to mistakes, which impede a project’s progress.

9. Hold people accountable to established standards and expectations. Employees need to understand fully what their roles, duties and responsibilities are and the quality standards to which they will be held accountable. The unpleasant duty of confronting an employee about substandard performance can be avoided by being clear up front about the company’s standards, expectations and consequences for deviating from established parameters.

For some people, procrastination is a lifestyle and a habit, and it’s one of the costliest problems in business. Every minute that is wasted costs money and puts the project’s timely completion at risk. Since it’s more difficult to break bad habits than it is to start good habits, it is helpful for managers to invest time up front teaching employees how good time management increases productivity and performance and decreases stress.

However, sometimes procrastination is not a sign of laziness. People have a tendency to avoid tasks they consider too difficult or unpleasant – normally the result of a lack in skill sets, which can be remedied with training.

10. Use positive reinforcement. Balance praise and counsel, carrot and stick. When people are on task and highly motivated, positive reinforcement keeps them at that level. This practice works not just for managers and their workers, but also between peers and up the chain of command. Like a bonus or day off, a simple pat on the back from one’s peer or manager acknowledges a job well done and reinforces positive behaviors. By the same token, if someone has failed to accomplish a task, a good manager needs to determine the root of the problem and verbally contract with the employee to change behavior.

11. Use technology. Make sure people have technology tools that make communication and information management more efficient. Cell phones ensure 24/7 communication lines among work crews; vehicles equipped with GPS are not likely to get lost on the way to a job site; calendaring software keeps tasks from falling through the cracks; and job-costing programs help avoid wasting time on unprofitable projects.

However, technologies are just tools. Owners need to know what their costs are, where their breakeven is and how they make money.

12 .Respect other people’s time; honor commitments. Respect everyone, and treat people fairly based on their individual merit, fitness, capabilities and potential. This ensures honest, open communication, which leads to greater buy-in into the company’s vision and mission. Committed employees, in turn, work both harder and smarter to bring in projects on time and on budget.

13. Time management comes down to good project management. Project managers have to see both the big picture and the small pieces of the puzzle. As the old adage goes, the devil is in the details. Little things that are out of focus can erode time and efforts.

Loss of Profit

The basic purpose of any business is to turn a profit. Although firms provide value and benefits to clients, shareholders, employees and the community, at the end of the day, they can’t do so without making a profit. Bluntly stated, in the absence of profit the business has failed.