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The Coaching Corner with Michael Riegel: Time Keeps Marching On

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Time is that one resource that professionals struggle to manage effectively because once it’s spent, it’s gone, and you can’t create more of it. Time management can be significant challenge for a few reasons. We like to dig deeply to develop comprehensive understanding. In construction, we are often risk averse and that can translate into advocating for a level of precision and certainty that becomes counterproductive. Layered on top is the fact that we, as humans, are terrible estimators of time and our recall around tasks and time spent is pretty faulty. So, what are some strategies to improve personal and team time management?

Collect the data. Track your activities for a week so you can get a better assessment of where you may be losing valuable time. This will give you a better sense of how long particular tasks actually take as well as the frequency of interruptions that derail your thoughts and progress.

Planning is often the key to effective time management. This is even more important if you are working on time-sensitive or deadline driven projects. If you are starting a new project or assignment, these are six planning questions that can be helpful:

1. What do I or we need to accomplish?

2. What are the individual tasks I or we will need to accomplish?

3. What are the priorities and dependencies associated with those tasks?

4. How much time is needed to allocate for each task?

5. When will each activity get done?

6. How much flexibility is need for the unexpected? I believe in Murphy’s Law – if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Building in time for the unknown is critical to meeting deadlines.

Understand yourself and set boundaries. Everyone has a period of the day when they feel most productive. Those boundaries can include setting an out of office message on your email and phone to reduce distractions, offering alternate meeting times, and removing your cell phone from your view.

Tackle one task at a time. Many people believe that multitasking is a more effective way to work. Essentially, though, we can only really work on one task at a time, so it is best to give one task 100% of your attention than 50% of your attention to two competing tasks. And, as you work through each task, make sure you are scheduling the critical work for your prime productive period of the day.

Managing time effectively can be a challenge under the best of circumstances. It becomes increasingly more difficult with the increased complexity of tasks and projects. In the construction industry, we are accustomed to and often enjoy complexity. So many variables and options to consider and account for. It just means that we have to even more conscious and planful of how we spend our time.

Peter Drucker, author and management consultant captured it as “until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.”

If there are topics of interest or situations you would like me to discuss, feel free to email me at or just let me know about your challenges and successes.


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