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Mark Richardson's Think Business: Are You Feeling Overwhelmed?

Many remodelers are feeling overwhelmed these days. Mark Richardson offers advice on managing.

May 11, 2011

We are experiencing very interesting and challenging times. Interesting in that we are being forced to look at new opportunities and learn new skills to both survive and thrive.
While this new world order has created some interesting times, it has also been quite challenging. One of the basic challenges that has an effect on both our professional and personal lives is “overwhelm.”
Overwhelm creates anxiety and can also consume and paralyze us. Over the last few years, the level of overwhelm among clients and remodelers alike has dramatically increased resulting in diminished effectiveness and more stress. A friend of mine who is a time-management nut said he (and we) spend between one and two hours a day addressing unnecessary emails. With the advent of the Internet, we now somehow feel the need to share everything with others and as a result, we are inundated with information. Our brains, (at least mine) can’t handle it all. Even more frightening is the reality that important nuggets often slip through the cracks as a result of all this noise.
Harvard University released a study a few years ago revealing that more products had been developed for home improvement in the three years prior than had been developed in the previous 100 years. This proliferation of products has overwhelmed our ability to stay current and relevant for our clients. The Internet has given everyone access, which, while positive, has created more questions than answers for the best remodeling solutions.
Another element of overwhelm is pace. Time is not on your side. The pace of everything is so fast, it forces you to drop what you are doing to react, or fall short and miss an opportunity. Client expectations, when it comes to response time has shrunk from 24 hours in years past, down today to a maximum of one to two hours. We are mobile creatures, who are now connected (tethered) 24 hours a day, seven days a week to necessary mobile devices and to others.
Over the years, I’ve developed the following tips or thoughts that I’ve found to be therapeutic and actionable.
1) Write down five to 10 reasons why addressing overwhelm is important. These might include: reduced stress, keeping promises more often; accomplishing more; increased sleep, etc. This exercise is effective because if you have strong and clear reasons “why,” you will be more likely to muster the conviction to fix it. Again, write them down.
2) Plan. Norman Vincent Peale said, “Plan your work today, EVERYDAY, then work your plan.” As a time-management coach, I have found that 95 percent of business people compile to-do lists but not plans for the day. A typical to-do item is often too broad, like, “build deck,” which is not the same as blueprint / material list / flow chart / budget etc. If you can apply the same knowledge to your day, as you do to a remodeling project, you will be much less overwhelmed. You can go to the Case Institute Web site and watch “controlling your day” for some tips. You can also pick up one of many good books on the subject.
3) Reduce “reactive” time. Here’s a question: what percentage of your day is reactive (where others exert control) versus proactive (where you exert control). The answers vary dramatically. Those with less reactive time each day are less overwhelmed. The two primary sources of reactive time at work are your clients and your team. So on Monday make a list of your five to 10 active clients that might want to interact with you that week, then proactively communicate to set a time to meet and talk. More times than not, they are appreciative of your professionalism and will accommodate you taking the reins. Similarly, when a team member interrupts you, ask if you can set a time to meet to address their issue. You will be less distracted and they will appreciate your undivided attention. Neither of these will work 100 percent of the time, however you will see your proactive time increase and your level of overwhelm subside. (The ideal place to be is 85 percent proactive.)
In closing, we need to make addressing this issue a priority. It is like a rubber band. At some point it will snap. And when it does, the resulting blow can have professional and personal consequences.

Mark Richardson is co-chairman of Case Design Remodeling and the Case Institute of Remodeling. He is a member of the NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame and an Affiliate at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Richardson is the author of the best-selling book, “How Fit is Your Business,” and a forthcoming book, “Business Themes to Live By,” to be published this fall.

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