Silver, gold, platinum, diamonds, rubies, even cold hard cash – we take measures each day to protect them. Some methods are more drastic than others and we frequently use locks, banks, safes and alarms to ensure their safe protection.
We lock our homes, cars and businesses too, all to safeguard our personal possessions and the things that are important to us.
Yet every day, we put something so valuable at risk, that once it is lost you have no hope of ever recovering it. We all have the exact same amount of it each day and no one can stockpile it. It constantly renews and tomorrow we will start off with a fresh batch of it.
Some of us squander it; some make the very best of it. It’s so valuable and yet so common that many of us take it for granted. What I am talking about, of course, is TIME.
No one knows when “our time” will ultimately end, but we do know that every day we are given 24 hours or 1,440 minutes of it. It is up to each of us to make the most of that time and do everything in our power to protect it from being lost without productive use.
We are confronted daily with a myriad of choices for what to do with our time. Among those opportunities are a vast number of time stealers that are ready to unmercifully take what we don’t protect. Time is much like steam rising from the top of a boiling pot of your favorite pasta – once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Like any security flaw, you must first identify the weakness, then put measures in place to protect it, so let’s look at a few time stealers and see if you can relate.
Lack of Planning
This is evident when you show up to the shop and the day takes on a life of its own. You tend to surf from one challenge to another, and really don’t get anything accomplished until after you have put out most of the fires. You know the feeling – some of these days you feel exasperated and drained playing Johnny the Firefighter!
One of the easiest ways to combat this is to start off each day with a list of items you want to accomplish. Consider it your road map for the day. As with any journey, you may have a few side trips, but by the end of your day you’re closer to your destination. Starting out your day with a plan will keep you on track and you’ll get a lot more done than a day with no plan at all! Don’t get bogged down writing everything. Start with a list of six items, and work on each one until the list is complete. Then start on your next list of six items.
These can be the Black Hole of time stealers! According to a recent study, the average person spends nearly an entire day each week on their smart phones (22.75 hours to be precise), and that we check our smart phone once every 2 minutes and 43 seconds – that’s 356 times day! Here are a few tips to manage these digital distractions.
- Check the internet and answer emails only during your down periods. Keeping up with things on social media won’t really change their outcome.
- Turn off notifications.
- Use the Do Not Disturb function during critical focus times.
Have you ever found yourself working on a project when someone pops in with a “quick question?” Well, it is never really quick and it takes you about 15 minutes to get back on track once you wrap things up with the person who just dropped in.
Have a method in place to communicate to your staff whether you are available or not. When I was at my shop, I had a sliding sign on my doorway. If I was on “Green Time,” I was available for any need. If it was on “Red Time,” everyone knew that this was not a good time unless we were dealing with an emergency. This worked out really well for us and I have shared it with others who also have put it in place effectively.
In the office, an interruption can be inconvenient, but in the bays an interruption can be catastrophic. Missing one key item during a repair can result in really bad results. Loose hose clamps or a loose or missing oil drain plug can cost big bucks if they cause a major component failure. Forget to torque a wheel and you’ve just set yourself up for a significant challenge. Needless to say, loss of time, money and physical harm can be the result of interruptions. Having a system in place to minimize them can be a huge difference maker in time saved, money earned and customer satisfaction.
As an owner, you are most likely off the counter and your service advisor is ordering parts online, right? If not, they should be, as it boosts their productivity and the accuracy of what’s delivered for each job. Remember this: in your role as owner of the shop, your phone rings for different reasons. Just because it rings doesn’t mean you have to pick it up. Let it roll to voicemail and get to it when you have the time. Also, if you really want to be focused, set your phone on Do Not Disturb so you won’t be tempted to pick up a ringing phone.
Whether it is with a customer, vendors or employees, professionals have been found to spend 17 hours a week in meetings!
- Carefully plan the objectives ahead of any meeting and set time limits that you want to dedicate to a specific area. This is particularly appropriate for your vendor and employee relationships.
- Schedule the time that works best for you to visit with your parts rep! This may be uncommon in the auto repair industry, but I guarantee that when you put this in place you will get far more out of the sales call than you do from a drop-in visit.
- To avoid spending too much time in a meeting, have them standing up and keep each one to no more than 10 minutes.
Know How to Say ‘No’
As a rule, if customers or employees can dump their issue at your feet, they will. We had a customer who needed a 90K service done in two hours. They were heading on their vacation that afternoon and had simply forgotten to come in earlier. While my answer was “Yes, I can get you in and perform the service,” the work was completed later than they wanted because it was on our schedule. They might not have been able to leave just when they wanted to, but their lack of planning was not going to be an emergency on our part.
Because we are in the service business it is usually in our nature to want to please our customers, whether they are internal or external customers. Learning when to say “no” can be a benefit not only when it comes to being more productive timewise, but also financially.
The bottom line is, if you don’t guard your time, no one will, so take inventory of the areas that need to be addressed. Doing so, you will give yourself more time to do what pleases you. The result will be a happier you and a more profitable shop!
Want to share your time-stealing tips? Drop me a line at: