Time Management After Downsizing

      When you lay off your office people, how do you stay on top of all the stuff they used to do? April 13, 2010

I'm sure some of you guys are in the same boat as me. At the end of last year I reduced my staff from 12 on the floor and three in the office, to seven on the floor and one in the office (me). I let go a project manager and a drafter from my office complement, and decided to go it alone. Lately I'm having the toughest time staying focused and on task. Between sales, estimating, drafting, field dims, payroll, accounting, e-mails, phone calls, vendors, and a million other things we deal with daily - I'm feeling stretched at best. The days are getting longer, and I think I remember what a weekend is.

More frequently than ever, I am making stupid mistakes. Anything from missing dims on drawings to making an error on a door order. Most of it comes down to just not taking the time to check my work. It seems some customers also get pretty mad when it takes two days to get a return call. For those of you that are facing similar challenges, what changes have you made to accommodate some of the extra hats that you are wearing today, that you may not have been wearing a year ago? The easy answer would be to hire some help, but the reality is that I cannot afford that type of commitment until I see some stability in our workload.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor W:
My first suggestion would be to outsource your payroll and accounting. While I realize the accounting may be problematic, depending on your setup, outsourcing payroll is so easy even I could do it. I would also suggest that you check into hiring some part-time semi-retired help. I know a number of people who retired but have been screwed up by the economy and need extra income to offset things. I have been in your shoes and there is one lesson I learned that I hope you don't. Mistakes can cost you a great deal more than the help would have.

From contributor G:
A couple of obvious but not so obvious things: As much as possible handle things as they come up don't put them aside for later. Otherwise you are in effect doing thing twice once when it comes up and again when you did it out of the pile and re-orient and do it a second time. Hire an assistant. Everyone's response to this idea is that you end up doing it yourself anyway. If you try it you will find this is quite useful. Executives have been using secretaries since the beginning of time for a reason.

From contributor T:
Check out David Allen's book "Getting Things Done". His system and theories are a great way to organize the hundreds of things that you have going on in your head and put them down on paper. It will relieve that constant pressure to keep track of everything you have to do and it will also give you a systematic approach to prioritizing your work load. I use it in conjunction with a software program called Task Merlin that made by an independent company but it is based off David Allen's book and teachings. When there are a lot of things going on it is most effective but like anything it is no magic bullet and will take some effort to set up.

From contributor M:
Keep your 'To-Do' list with you at all times, and write down everything you have to do whether business or personal. Work off the list, review several times a day. If you still need some help with the list, give a priority code of A, B, or C to every item.

From contributor P:
I am in the same boat. Outsourcing payroll and accounting is a huge help. Turn the ringer on your phones to the off position. Check messages and return all phone calls at 11A.M. and 4 P.M. Let everyone know that you are doing this. It is tough at first but you get used to it. Interruptions during the times that you are doing design and ordering are most likely what is causing your mistakes. Same goes for email. It is a waste of time checking more than a couple of times per day. Have a meeting for a few minutes each morning with your lead shop man. Have a job review where you and he sit down and look through and check all of the paperwork for the jobs. This will help to eliminate your errors and omissions. Our customers need our attention but be a little more conservative and realistic when it comes to making promises about giving quotes, service calls, extra parts etc.

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