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Productivity Tips and Tools for Trade Professionals

What if you could free up just 30 minutes of your day? What would freeing up three hours a week mean for your business or, more importantly, your family? At SUPPLY.com, we know that being productive and finding time to do more is often the biggest challenge PROs face when it comes to running their businesses. It’s like that old saying; “there aren’t enough hours in the day” to get it all done.

If you’ve ever tried to become more productive, kudos, but finding the “secret sauce” can often feel like just as big of a time killer! To help you become your best self, we talked to a few PROs to find out what reoccurring challenges exist in the industry today, and we researched common themes for increasing productivity among PROs and small business owners alike. We’ve identified things you can do in the office, on the go and on the job site, as well as general tips from industry leaders that will help you spend less time inside someone else’s home and more time in your own.

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Work Smarter

The first stop in becoming a more productive worker is improving your own work ethic. After all, having a great office space or the latest technology at your disposal matters very little if you lack a productive mindset. Below, we’ve outlined some quick tips that you can use to form a solid base of productivity during working hours.

Master, Don’t Just Manage Your Time

The Construction Industry Institute shows that craft workers typically spend less than half of their time on tasks. The remaining time is spent on unproductive activities, such as waiting for equipment and materials, waiting for instructions or waiting for work areas to be ready. To put it in perspective, if you are a worker who spends only 30% of your time on direct work, your greatest opportunity for productivity gains is to focus on the 70% of time spent off task. In other words, reducing the amount of time you spend off task will produce greater benefits than attempting to improve your efficiency during the time you spend on. 

Schedule everything

  • Schedule a daily portion of time for managing email. This includes responding to customers, planning future jobs, and handling spam.
  • Add blocked time for social media, and hold yourself accountable for checking and updating sites (especially your company pages) during that time.
  • If you plan on going on estimates in the evening, make personal time during the day (gym, family, etc…) to maintain your work-life balance.
  • If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now!

Break up your workflows into smaller chunks of time

Use your dedicated SUPPLY.com Account Manager

  • They can put together estimates, check pricing, run lead times and more.
  • You’ll never wait in line again.
  • Deliver items directly to your office or even the job site

Slow down

  • You know, measure twice and cut once.

Over Communicate

Don’t take chances assuming your crew knows all the information, even when it comes to seemingly “common sense” things. Keeping a clear and open line of communication is critical, especially when the inevitable surprises pop up.

Always put your crew in a position to succeed

  • Use email, phone, text, or smoke signals. Whatever it takes to make sure messages are received.

Use group texts and chats

  • Group relevant crews together on your phone so that everyone gets the same message and is on the same page.
  • Text for something quick – if it takes more than two texts, make it a phone call.
  • Free tools to use: WhatsApp, Slack or GroupMe

Be prepared

  • Make sure directions to the job site are put into someone’s phone before leaving (scanning traffic for the fastest route).
  • What makes this job unique? Talk with your team about any weird obstacles that will need to be addressed, particular customer needs, etc…

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Use Tech

With modern technology, it’s easier than ever to get more done with less. Refer back to our 17 Essential Tools for Your Small Business for some helpful tech tools and resources to keep you performing at peak productivity.

Use smart email apps (for desktop and mobile)

  • Send, organize, snooze, schedule and quickly browse emails to stay connected with your customers and your team.
  • Free tools to use: Spark, Outlook (yes, even for Gmail)

Automate Processes

  • IFTTT – If This Then That, puts the internet and connected accounts to work for you.
  • Working in Excel? Check out this guide for beginners to help fine tune your skills.
  • Use Calendly for scheduling phone calls if you do phone consultations. Customers can put time directly on your calendar.

Use Your SUPPLY.com PRO Account

  • Simply click Send Cart to Rep to quickly get an estimate turned around.
  • Access your Order History to view past purchases and track packages.
  • View Estimate History to quickly re-order common purchases.

Plan, Prepare, and Evaluate

Planning and preparing will add time at the front end of projects and tasks, and in the long run, will give you insight into how you work. It’s important to be able to recognize and call out what’s working and what’s not. Without evaluating your efforts, you’ll never know how to improve.

Think of your time like a budget

  • Evaluate a 30-day period of where you spend your time, and look for areas where you can cut back, focus or invest more, etc…
  • Scheduling even the smaller details, like we mentioned above, will make this task easy.

Jot down to-do lists the day before or first thing in the morning

  • Don’t mess with the flow and schedule of the day to make lists.
  • Free tools to use: Evernote, Trello, Asana

Delegate and let your people do the work

  • Hire the right people. Success starts with having a good, capable crew.
  • If you prepared and effectively communicated with your team, they should be able to handle whatever is thrown at them.

Say “No” more 

  • You don’t have to take every job. If it doesn’t make sense (or cents) for your business, don’t do it.

Check in with your business goals and assess whether you are meeting them

  • Schedule a business planning day once a year or every six months.
  • Determine what’s working, what’s not, and where you can improve or cut back.

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Utilize Your Workspace

Once you have the proper mindset, the next hurdle on the way to productivity is the area surrounding you. A good workspace should be an extension of your own mind, increasing productivity without requiring too much upkeep or hassle. Check out our tips below for transforming your workspace into a familiar, energizing center.

Keep a clean and organized office and workshop

Realistically having a squeaky clean and organized office and shop is probably not going to happen, but taking little steps to help ensure that you and your team know where things are. If your team can find things and a system lives, it will make your life easier with less calls and more work.

Make things easy to find

  • Clearly label everything.
  • Put things back where they belong.

Organize and maintain your shop like you would your office

  • Use a labeling system.
  • Put things back (shop vac, tools, etc…).

Surround yourself with an inspirational and creative environment

  • If you have a showroom, display jobs you’re proud of.
  • Make sure there’s plenty of natural light.
  • Whatever is important to you, make sure you can see it everyday (family, hobbies, passions).

Working from home?

Your workspace should still be clean and organized as outlined above, but here are a few more things you should do to stay productive.

Make space for an office

  • Get off the kitchen table!
  • Get dressed (it sounds ridiculous, but treat your home office like a regular one).

Invest in ergonomic chairs and keyboards

  • Stop working from the couch.

Create a Mobile Desk

Turn your car or truck into a workstation so you can work from parking lots or anywhere before heading to your next estimate.

  • With unlimited data plans, tether your phone’s wifi with your laptop or tablet to quickly check in and follow up with customers. Newer vehicles now come equipped with wifi. Great for work, but also handy for shuttling kids back and forth.
  • Just like you would in the office, keep your mobile desk clean and organized.
AutoExec-GripMaster

This mobile desk from AutoExec conveniently sits in the passenger seat of your vehicle.

Take Care of Yourself

Most of the journey toward productivity happens in the brain, but that doesn’t mean your body can slack off on the way there. Especially in office environments, physical health is often overlooked in favor of mental solutions, but maintaining your physical healthy can often be all the difference in the world when it comes to maintaining a consistent level of energy (and productivity) throughout the day. Check out our tips below for staying healthy on the job.

Exercise

You are your business’s most important asset. Take care of it!

Make time for physical activity

  • Put it on your calendar and execute like you would anything else.
  • Morning workouts are proven to give you more energy throughout the day and to help maintain better sleep patterns.
  • Don’t overdo it! Know your body and your limits.

Eat healthy

Fast food is easy and cheap, but more often than not, it’s terrible for you. If you do eat out, try and avoid the burger spots. If it’s open 24 hours, it’s probably not the fuel your body needs to maintain peak performance.

  • Say no to fast food 5 days a week!
  • Brown bag it and pack a lunch.
  • Drink more water.
    • Invest in a durable water bottle.

These are just some ideas to help you get started. What works for you to stay on task and to create more time throughout your day? Let us know on Twitter or on our Facebook page.

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