When I talk to facilities maintenance professionals, time management is one of the topics that routinely comes up as a significant challenge.
It's easy to understand. Facilities maintenance management is a tough job. There are endless problems to solve, people to serve, contractors and technicians to manage, and costs to control. It's common for a to-do list to get out of control.
Over my career, I have developed and taught a time management strategy to facilities maintenance managers which helps eliminate the overwhelming nature of the day-to-day work.
It's based on the principle of grouping work into four categories and then prioritizing them correctly.
Important and Urgent: This is work that is both critical to your success and requires immediate attention. (i.e., an emergency work order)
Important and Non-urgent: This is work that is critical to your success, but does not require immediate attention. (i.e., developing a process, working on vendor relations, or getting updates on work orders)
Unimportant and Urgent: This is work that is neither critical to your success, but distracts you and tries to get your attention. (i.e., email, responding to other departments' questions)
Unimportant and Non-urgent: This is work that is neither critical to your success, nor does it require your immediate attention. (i.e., social media, a conversation with a coworker, reading the "news")
This is the order in which you should prioritize your work. However, people tend to fall into the trap of spending the most time on Unimportant and Urgent tasks. They answer every email and phone call as it comes in, no matter what the importance of the incoming requests are.
In the facilities maintenance world, this means that more time is spent on new work orders, giving updates to people when they are asking for them, and not being able to focus on a single task for longer than a couple of minutes.
There is a correct way for facilities managers to order their day which will lead to immediate improvements in creating more time and reducing the length of a work order's lifecycle. This method will result in better vendor relationships, lower costs, higher efficiency, and higher effectiveness over time. Finally, facilities management professionals who put this method in place will have more time to work on improving their facilities maintenance programs.
Facilities maintenance managers need to stack their day for success. They have to start their day working on important work that will make for less work later in the day.
Start your day with emergency work orders. A real emergency is only an emergency when it affects the sales, safety, or security of the business. If it does not fall into this category, do not work on it. If it is in this category, it takes priority over anything else you are doing, no matter the time of day.
Next, update every work order every day. This may sound like a lot of work, and it will be a lot of work at first. It is, however, the most important work a facilities manager can perform to influence the performance of their program positively. You will need a way to track this process. If you don't have a facilities maintenance software, you will want to use a spreadsheet to keep track of every open work order, the status, and the updates over time. There is a list of the information you need to track in our free eBook. You can download it here.
Start with your oldest work order. Pick up the phone can call the contractor the work order is assigned to and ask for an update. While you have the contractor on the phone, ask for updates on every work order assigned to them. If you are unable to get an update, make a to-do to follow up later in the day. Repeat this process until you complete every open work order. I have a great video on how to get what you want on a phone call on LinkedIn. Here is a link. I highly suggest you watch it to improve your effectiveness on the phone.
Once you get through your list, go ahead and check email and voicemail. You might have answers from your follow up requests waiting for you in one of those inboxes. Don't get distracted by anything that is not important to getting work order updates. You will have time to work through other items later.
Next, work on assigning new work orders to contractors and all of the to-do's you created earlier when you could not get satisfactory updates.
After you follow up on all of your open work orders and to-do's entirely, work on email and voicemails again. Clear out your inbox, archiving and deleting anything you do not need.
If you put this strategy into place, you will find you start getting updates without asking for them because you will train your contractors and the people you work with on your expectations. You will get through your daily updates more quickly, and you will have more time to work on making improvements to your processes.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you would like to learn more about our best practices and strategies for running effective maintenance programs, you can download our free eBook, "How to Start a Maintenance Program."