How to make change happen when you’re too busy.

You are the lucky person put in charge of facilities maintenance management for your company. You could never have imagined the amount of chaos surrounding keeping things working at all of your locations, but now your here. Also, that phone doesn’t stop ringing.

You know there is a better to handle of all this. There has to be. Otherwise, it’s going to become unmanageable. However, where do you start making things better when you are already too busy.

The bad news is, it’s going to take much work. The good news is there is a process you can follow, and the work is worth it. There is a way to make maintenance less chaotic. The secret is making things better happens when you carve out a small amount of time each day to work on the most important thing you can improve. Let’s get started.

Step 1: What do you want?

So many people never make improvements because they don’t know what they want. They show up, react, go home, react, go to bed, wake up, and do it all again. Reacting to urgent issues, others demands, and everything else that comes across your plate is no way to live. So stop.

You have to know what you want, or you will waste your time doing what everyone else wants. It is worth spending time deciding on the outcome you want. This idea is called intentionality, and it’s a game changer.

The first thing you need to do is get up early before the rest of your company even wakes up. Keep your phone somewhere else. Grab a pen and a paper. Spend time dreaming about what your job would look like without the chaos. Visualize it. Feel it. Internalize it. This ideal version of your job…this is what is at stake. None of this will become a reality if you don’t take action. This vision is what you are working to achieve.

Next, spend time outlining your ideal process. What happens when something breaks? What happens next? Next? Next? Keep going until you have something laid out, something specific, that can easily is easily explained to and understood by your team. You probably won’t get this done in one session. That’s ok. Repeat it tomorrow. You are going to be using this time before your company wakes up to your advantage in the future. Go ahead and get used to waking up early. It’s worth it.

Step 2: Decide what’s important.

You are going to only work on the next most important part of your new process. It’s only through focus that you are going to improve. So let’s be clear. Just work on one thing at a time until you complete it. This suggestion sounds crazy. Maybe it is, but if you don’t follow this advice, don’t bother getting started because you are likely to fail. Working on multiple parts of a project at the same time divides your attention. You won’t work through the difficult parts, and as a result, you won’t complete anything.

So how do you decide? The best way I have found to make this decision is to follow this question that I learned from the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling.

All else remaining the same, what is the one thing that, if improved, would provide the most significant benefit. The answer to this question is what you focus on until you complete it.

Step 3: Break down the project into tasks and track progress.

Chances are, the area you pick will have the scope of a project. You are going to need to break it down into tasks and track your progress. The easiest way to do this is to pick a date you plan to complete the project.

Let’s say you pick creating a sign-off form for vendors as your most important project and you are giving yourself three weeks to get this done. The ideal endpoint is completing the sign-off form and training every vendor to use it? The steps involved in this project might include:

  1. Decide on what needs to be on the sign-off form.

  2. Sketch the layout of the form.

  3. Create the form using a word processor or spreadsheet.

  4. Create guidelines and consequences for vendors.

  5. Train vendors on form, guidelines, and consequences.

  6. Monitor compliance and issues.

  7. Make adjustments.

Grab a piece of paper and draw a bar across the top. Since there are seven steps, divide the bar into seven sections. List out the steps below the bar. In each of the seven sections, write the corresponding number. Below each separator, write the date the task is due. Make sure you look through the list and schedule anything that requires collaboration with other people as soon as possible. In this case, it’s the training. Go ahead and get that on the books. Now, get to work, and fill in each section as you complete your tasks.

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Step 4: Complete and repeat.

Once you complete your project, repeat the process. Once you get in the habit of continually working on one area of improvement, you will find yourself with more time and less stress. Also, since you already have facilities maintenance on your plate, you’re probably going to earn yourself yet another area of responsibility.