In my last column, I addressed problems that can sabotage
managers, and listed 10 ways to control interruptions. This month,
I’ll look at ways to help you become more productive.
Those of us in the kitchen and bath industry tend to spend a lot
of time in meetings, and often, people we meet for very legitimate
purposes don’t know when it’s time to leave. Here are a few ways
you can edge people toward the door when they’ve overstayed their
1. Once you understand the essence of what someone is talking
about, start to summarize and then make a statement designed to end
2. When people don’t take the hint that the meeting is over, stand
up and shake their hand to plainly signify that the meeting is at
3. When someone still won’t budge, even with hints, get up and
excuse yourself and leave the office yourself.
4. When the discussion no longer serves a valid purpose, there’s
nothing wrong with saying, “You’ll have to excuse me now. I have to
get back to work.”
5. Some people just naturally ramble and can’t stop talking. When
this happens, you have to be prepared to interrupt and bring the
discussion to an end.
6. Keep your responses as brief as possible.
7. Suggest taking a break. This will get people out of your
8. Practice prevention by establishing a time limit at the start of
the meeting, such as, “Tom, I can only give you five
9. For formal, pre-planned meetings, have an agenda and time frame.
When the time is up, summarize and conclude the meeting.
10. Stage a “mini-crisis.” Everyone relates to these in a small
business. Example: “You’ll have to excuse me now because I promised
Mrs. Smith I’d call her at 10:00.”
In addition to meetings, daily work routines are usually overlooked
as potential sources for saving time. Step back and look at basic
tasks, and try to simplify, combine or eliminate them to give you
more time for higher priority projects. Here are some tips for
streamlining daily routines:
1. Discipline yourself to stay on top of routine matters.
2. Relay general information by memo or in group meetings rather
than repeating the same thing several times over.
3. Delegate routine tasks to subordinates.
4. Don’t fill in for absent team members. Instead, cross train
others to handle another person’s job.
5. Assign periodic responsibilities, such as training new
employees, to someone else.
6. Clean up your desk and office so time isn’t wasted looking for
7. Shorten, eliminate or combine meetings.
8. Learn to recognize what never has to be done, and forget about
9. Have people come see you rather than you go see them.
Almost everyone complains about the volume of paperwork they must
handle. Your challenge is to control the amount of paperwork you
have to deal with. Consider some of these ideas to help you:
1. Write only when you have to. Written response are time
consuming, so always consider other alternatives before replying in
2. Save time by replying to requests directly on the memo or letter
rather than preparing a separate reply.
3. Use your subordinates to lighten your load.
4. Eliminate distractions when you’re doing the bulk of your
paperwork, since they disturb your concentration.
5. Be careful with the filing process. One of the biggest time
wasters associated with paperwork is having to look for something
that was misfiled.
6. Purge your files on a regular basis. It saves time and
7. Avoid procrastination in replying to written material. Too
often, we’ll read the letter, memo or other correspondence and then
put it aside for later reply. Don’t wait. Handle papers once.
8. Remember, when you do have to write, keep it short. It will save
you time, and will hopefully encourage others to do the same.
In our kitchen and bath firms, the owners, managers and supervisors
wear a lot of different hats. It’s been proven that one of the best
ways to increase personal efficiency, as well as the team’s
productivity, is to delegate duties more effectively. If done
correctly, it should also reduce your personal job stress, since
you won’t be struggling to do everything yourself.’
Many people are reluctant to delegate out of fear that the work
won’t be done correctly. This is a hurdle that can be overcome by
carefully planning how, what, when and to whom you will delegate
Use the following procedures to help in this regard:
1. Establish specific goals to be accomplished. Decide exactly
what you want done, the time frame for completion and the priority
of the task in relation to other work.
2. Select the right co-workers for the job. Although routine tasks
can be pretty much farmed out at random, more difficult assignments
should be delegated based on employees’ talent and workload.
3. Discuss the details of what you want accomplished with the
person selected for the task. Try to make assignments that will
challenge workers without overwhelming them. Encourage workers to
contribute their ideas concerning how the job should be done.
4. Be clear about priorities. Let the workers know how the assigned
task fits in with other work assigned to the individual.
5. Establish controls in the form of periodic checkpoints, where
the worker should brief you on the progress of the work. This will
allow you to monitor how well the employee is moving ahead toward
the completion of the task.
6. Determine limits on what the employee can and can’t do in
completing the assignment.
7. Support the results, even if the project doesn’t turn out as
well as you might have hoped. Refrain from criticizing employees if
they made a good faith effort to succeed. Show them how they might
have done better. By not being critical, you will motivate them to
be more willing to accept the challenge of new assignments.
As business continues to be good, our plates continue to be full
sometimes too full. The challenge, then, is to learn how to manage
your time and your work more efficiently.