Contractor Note
Contractors can honestly assess priorities to determine what to do now, what to do later and what tasks might be better done by someone else. Source: iStock
That saying, applied to worker productivity, is trite. However, often said is often true, particularly when it comes to the approach to productivity in the United States over the last generation or so. We work hard at work, and work hard at working harder. It’s what we do and often the trait that separates the successful from the get-bys.

For contractors, this is a complex riddle. Days have just 24 hours. Hours have just 60 minutes. No smartphone app can change that.

So, contractors have to make themselves a mile wide and an inch thick trying to cover everything. For small contractors, this is doubly true. You have contracts, networking, marketing, promotion, billing, accounts payable. Oh, and actual work to do — not just the work that your actual work creates, like billing, or the work that keeps your actual work going, like networking.

From my editor’s desk, I see two solutions: prioritizing and off-loading. These tactics in tandem help me understand what to do next and make sure that next thing is the best task I could spend my time on at that moment. Let me explain.

Prioritizing gives perspective. Ask yourself, what’s important to me? The answer might be family. Maybe you want to double your business revenue. Maybe it’s both, and you want to build something with your business that you can leave to the next generation. Answer the question and be as honest with yourself as you know how. It’s important. The answer itself isn’t important for the discussion here. But having an answer is.

Now, write your answer on a sticky note and tape it to the dash of your work truck. Tape it to the monitor in your office. Tape it to the back of your smartphone. Tape it to your forehead so you see it when you look in the mirror (pro tip: write backwards on that one). Point being, put it where you’ll see it every day.

After that, filter your to-do list through that answer. Start each day with your three or five most important tasks on a sticky note or typed into your smartphone. Your answer to the “what’s important” question tells you the order. For example, if growing your business revenue is your highest priority, how would you order this list?

  • Do accounts payable.
  • Finish RFP paperwork for county job.
  • Take work truck in for oil change.

Of course you’d want to prioritize request for proposal paperwork — i.e., potential new revenue — over an oil change or paying your bills. That doesn’t mean the other things don’t get done. It just lets you know which to do first.

Which brings me to my second point: off-loading. Small businessmen have plenty of options now for shedding work that doesn’t belong on their core task list. For example, say you’re a drilling consultant. You’ve spent years getting to know your niche and you advise people and companies on the best way to put a hole in the ground. You’re good at giving instructions. You excel at estimating the right fluid mix for this geology or that. But you keep getting behind in your billing because you find it dull and keep putting it off. Find a service to do that for you.

Maybe you’re in the field a lot and miss calls because it’s a remote area. Did you know there are services that answer calls for you and send you a digest of them?

Yes, these services will cost you. But, price them out and compare that to what you’d spend on an employee to do the same thing. I don’t argue against employees, but if you have only 10 hours of work for someone a month, it likely makes sense to hire a service instead of an employee. Plus, a service won’t trigger even more work with the IRS like an employee would.

It all comes down to the best use of your time. Is filling out an RFP going to potentially earn you more money than the cash saved by answering your own phone or doing your own billing? That’s up to individual contractors (or saleswomen or marketers or editors). But the big advantage of this high-tech world is options for people like you and me. Those options help us truly do more with less.

Stay safe out there, drillers.

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