On a construction job, we take pride in how many things we can get done at once. Safety professionals panic when we share this dirty little secret. Believing we are more productive, we tackle several tasks at once. I have learned from some of the top construction managers in this industry that the opposite is true. Doing two or even three things or more at once kills productivity.
5 Ways Construction Managers Stop Multitasking and Improve Productivity
- Break the habit of multitasking and begin to focus. Negative effects of multitasking include stress, burnout, decreased quality of work or worse; think texting while driving. We have been conditioned to multitask. It is time to focus. The best Construction Managers make a To-Do list and focus on just one task at a time, even for a few minutes, without distraction.
- Remember David Allen and the Two-Minute Rule. Years ago, a construction manager I worked with recommended, “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”. In his book, David Allen reminds us that if you can complete an action in 2 minutes or less, you should do it right away because “it’ll take longer to organize it and review it than it would be to actually finish it the first time you notice it.” As an example, you can determine if an email will take 2 minutes to effectively respond or if it should be added to your To-Do list. Check out Mr. Allen’s website for many other ideas.
- Schedule work time in a Distraction Free Zone. Many construction offices and project trailers have open office floor plans with conference rooms for meetings. Effective construction managers regularly reserve a conference room to accomplish work that requires focus. The trick to this strategy is to leave the cell phone behind. A change of scenery that is free from the phone, email, and visitors is guaranteed to increase productivity, even if it is only for an hour or two. This may be a luxury you don’t have, so considering shutting off your phone and e-mail and adding a Do Not Disturb sign at your current work station.
- Schedule Time Blocks. Ever wonder how the best construction managers you know gets so much done in a day? They use time blocks. You can combine like projects or one large project and focus 100% of your attention to that action during a specific time. For example, block 15 minutes 3 times a day to read and respond to e-mails. Block 10 minutes to return phone calls – you will probably get voice mail and end up using only 3 minutes. Schedule a 45 minute block to get a new project started or move one forward. Using blocks of time to engage in a specific task allows full focus.
- Clean it up! Well run construction sites are not chaotic. The best jobs and offices are well organized and clean. Having materials for one task out at a time decreases the tendency for multitasking. Most of us don’t have a day to clean out our work space and reorganize. Taking 5 minutes every few hours to tidy up makes a big difference. You can cover two critical items at once – uh oh, sounds like multitasking! Seriously, in addition to keeping your office organized it is also a quick break in your work routine; another recognized way to reduce stress.
Focusing on one thing at a time is actually the most efficient way to work. If you are a chronic multitasker, start small and work towards focusing on one task at a time each hour. When you are able to do so for an entire day, reward yourself with lunch out or a round of golf after work.