Manage Energy, Not Time


“Once you know how to be more efficient, you don’t go back to your wasteful ways.”

This was something Tom Delaney, the Professional Landscape Network’s director of government affairs, said to me recently during an interview.

He was talking about how landscape businesses aren’t running the same way they were before the Great Recession. The recession’s silver lining: Businesses reexamined every facet of their operations and cleaned out waste and redundancy.

According to kaizen, a Japanese term that roughly translates to “change for the better,” there are two types of work: value-adding and non-value-adding. “Anything that doesn’t add value for someone somewhere should be targeted for reduction or removal, because the stated goal of kaizen is to constantly improve the tangible drivers of value: quality, cost and delivery speed,” explains Matthew May, author of “The Laws of Subtraction.” “The best way to do that is to eliminate all the things that hurt quality, raise costs and slow things down.”

Kaizen and lean thinking have also been referred to as “continuous improvement” – “hundreds of small changes that could be affected immediately,” May explains, breaking kaizen down into three simple steps: “First, create a standard. Second, follow it. Third, find a better way. Then repeat.”

Recently, business strategist Carol Roth shared some productivity tips she collected from entrepreneurs and business consultants. Here are some of those productivity tips that landscape contractors can use to help kick-start their process improvements on the road to increased efficiency.

1. Delegate. “The tendency we see in small to medium businesses is the philosophy that I can do it better, faster and easier if I do it myself. But at what cost?” says Rosanne Dausilio of Human Technologies Global. “Pay someone to do the job, train them in the manner in which you want it done, and then do what you’re good at.”

2. Remove hurdles. “Productivity is squashed by restrictions and unneeded processes,” says David Sears of Print Resource. “My chief role as CEO is to serve my teammates and remove their hurdles in the process. Companies don’t generate profits, people do.”

3. Keep meetings short, to-the-point and engaging. “Invite only those who need to be there and will benefit from the content,” advises Lisa Fraser of Lisa J. Fraser Business Coaching. “Include something inspirational or motivational so attendees leave the meeting feeling good about what took place.”

4. Employees have ideas; listen to them. “Finding out what your employees think will increase production; ask for their advice,” says Kellie Auld of Simply Communicating. “They are the ones doing the job and this will allow them to make it their own and take pride in its growth – knowing they contributed to that growth.”

5. Align goals. Ensure everyone is working toward a common goal daily. “If you set a team goal and break it down into different tasks within each department, then everyone will have a list of things they know they need to get done every day to get closer to that goal,” says Sara Schoonover of TicketKick. “Set clear guidelines as to what everyone’s responsibilities are to avoid overlapping redundancies and encourage all to report to each other as tasks get done.”

6. Say “no” when necessary. Filter out distraction and focus on what really matters. “This is hard to do but it’s absolutely necessary, since accepting every meeting request, inquiry, lead or opportunity that presents itself will pull you in too many directions, and you’ll never get things done,” advises Nathan Beckord of VentureArchetypes LLC. “Tuning out the noise is the shortest path to hyper-productivity.”

7. Measure everything. “What gets measured gets done,” says Troy Harrison of SalesForce Solutions. “Whether it’s invoices processed per hour or sales calls per week, it can be measured. Without some sort of performance metrics, work expands to fill the time allotted and management has no real way of knowing if they are properly staffed as long as everyone is ‘busy.’ It takes work to set up metrics, but it is far worth it in the long term.”

Ultimately, more time doesn’t increase productivity as much as managing the time one has. As Lena West, founder and CEO of , says in the American Express Open Forum: When it comes to productivity, “I don’t believe in managing time. Time is a constant. Everyone gets 24 hours. It’s more important to manage energy.”

Nicole Wisniewski is a 15-year green industry veteran and award-winning journalism and marketing professional. She is a senior project manager in The Davey Tree Expert Co.’s marketing/corporate communications department. Visit her blog at or reach her at [email protected].