As a professional landscaper, you know first hand how hard it can be to manage your time. The nature of our work means it is often hard to plan around our ever-changing deadlines and tasks, and on top of this, we are constantly having to adapt to outside interruptions.
Unlike desk-workers, our schedules change day by day. Much of our time is spent out in the field, scheduling appointments, meeting clients and vendors, and purchasing materials, leaving little time for organizing our calendars. In many ways this is a blessing – heck, if you liked working behind a desk you probably wouldn’t have entered the world of landscaping! However, this modus operandi can work against us when we try to apply mainstream time management advice to our workdays.
The problem is that most of these well-intended systems are written by time management experts with no understanding of how this industry works. They are designed to suit those who work in one location, who don’t have to contend with external forces like the weather or last-minute cancellations. A rigid, hyper-structured schedule might suit office workers, but for landscape professionals, this kind of planning is not only inconvenient but impossible. We don’t want our days planned to the T because we know that no matter how hard we try, it will never play out the way we want it to.
So how do we find a balance between time management and flexibility? The good news is that there are lots of ways we can start making better use of our time without locking ourselves into impractical timetables and schedules.
Set reasonable expectations
Setting and then missing appointments or deadlines is one of the leading causes of workplace stress, particularly when you work in a client-driven industry. If your plans seem like a squeeze when you’re making them then the chances are they will feel even tighter when you add in all the unpredictable stuff that tends to arise each day.
Rather than trying to keep everyone happy at the planning stage only to see it fall through, be generous with your “in-between” times so that you’re not rushing. It’s always better to be early than late. Allow yourself plenty of space between appointments, and don’t be afraid to tell someone it will have to wait until next week.
Break your week into flexible blocks of time
According to business coach Brian Howard, we work best when we split our time up into blocks. Our days consist of three 4-hour time blocks. For landscapers, it can be helpful to think of your workday as two of those time blocks, with lunch in between. Each work block should be fully devoted to a work priority – for example, if you are in sales then this will look like appointments or proposals – and allow you to focus for long enough to make real progress.
This approach also means you can spend less time traveling between destinations. Commit to being in the field or at the office for at least four hours, and aim to complete all outstanding tasks that you can in each location.
Ideally, you shouldn’t be dedicating two consecutive time blocks to the same priority, but if this is unavoidable then try to balance this out the next day. Viewing your day in these blocks allows built-in flexibility. No worries about missing an appointment because your morning site visits ran long. Or plan a guilt-free afternoon off with the family knowing you’ve already blocked time to complete your office work that evening.
Take a break
In a culture where taking a break is often equated to laziness, it is no surprise that national productivity levels are on the decline. Allowing your body and mind regular intervals of rest is essential for avoiding burnout and can have a profound effect on productivity.
Ideally, you should be looking to establish:
- 4 hours off every day
- 1 day off every week
- 2-3 days off every month
- 1 week off per quarter
Little and often is almost always more restorative than cashing in all your time off in one lump sum, and will help to establish a healthier work/life balance.
To get the most from your rest intervals, make sure you set clear boundaries when it comes to working. With technology easier to use and more pervasive than ever before, this can be hard. Never in the history of society has it been so easy to continue working once you get home – emails, texts, phone calls vie for our attention 24/7.
This always-on work culture can be overwhelming, so it’s important to remember that you are in control of your time. Assign a time to switch off your work phone, and do everything in your power to stick to it. Get comfortable saying no to tasks that put unnecessary strain on your time. Brian Howard suggests asking yourself the following questions before taking on extra responsibilities:
- If I say, “No” will I damage a valuable relationship?
- Will saying, “No” cost me financially?
- Will saying, “No” jeopardize my employment?
- What other opportunities will saying, “No” allow me to pursue?
Establish discipline as a habit
There is no such thing as “disciplined” or “undisciplined” people. Every single one of us has the power to either quit or power through a given task, and whichever we do the most will become our default response.
Often we go through periods of lacking discipline due to at least one of three reasons.
- Lack of motivation
- No clear plan
- Low self-confidence
It is crucial to be clear about why you are doing each task on your list. People find it much easier to stick to a job when they know exactly what the impact of doing it will be. In the same vein, it’s important to know what steps you need to take to get there. Break each task into actionable blocks, then follow them methodically.
When we don’t believe we can achieve a goal it can be tempting to give up or put less effort into the journey. It’s your brain’s way of protecting you from what it sees as “inevitable failure”. But often these feelings are the manifestation of low self-confidence, rather than a reflection of your ability to achieve. It is important to accept that at times we all lack confidence, but the way to improve is to keep powering through. Remind yourself of times that your hard work paid off, and capitalize on your arsenal of strengths
Streamline your day
Whether you are in the landscaping industry or not, there are companies out there working hard on the next piece of software that will make your life easier.
If you don’t adapt technologies to help you manage your day-to-day activities, you can bet your customers will notice. And in this climate, when options are seemingly limitless, often it’s the most nimble, quickest companies to react and adopt new technologies that will come out ahead.
LandOne Takeoff has everything you need to manage your bidding and estimating in one place. You can manage plans, share ideas with customers, and generate materials lists on the spot. You can even make purchase orders through our integration with LandscapeHub.
Imagine how many projects you’d win if you were able to give accurate estimates without leaving a customer’s home. With LandOne Takeoff, you can.