While the construction industry is at perhaps its most unsettled time in history, I'm going to make the case that your biggest job isn't your biggest job. Instead, your biggest job is taking care of yourself.
In 2018, Dennis Engelbrecht, a highly experienced family business consultant at the Family Business Institute, listed various challenges the construction sector faced, including increased difficulty getting permits and inspections, rising materials costs, tight budgets, shortages in skilled workers and many more.
All that was occurring when Engelbrecht wrote that four years ago is going on in spades now. When I attended an industry leadership conference in Hartford earlier this year, I noticed attendees regularly discussed four things:
- Supply chain disruption
- Hiring and retaining talent
- Most contractors are bidding their highest volume jobs ever in 2022
There is still much work to be done to improve these lasting challenges, but taking care of yourself and your employees is something within your control.
When the day-to-day pressures are at their highest levels ever, you must ask yourself, "How can I serve my customers, my employees, my trade partners and my family if I'm not taking care of myself?"
Contractors are often rugged individualists and incredibly hard workers. Many of us grew up in an era when we absorbed that mentality often attributed to Vince Lombardi: "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing." Such a type of high achiever believes they don't need self-care, but the truth is quite the opposite.
With that in mind, here are five ways to take better care of yourself and, subsequently, show up as your best self for those that matter most to you.
1. Prioritize better sleep habits
Many people sleep with some electronic interference in their bedroom: the TV stays on late, or their tablets or phones are right next to the bed—talk about a great way to ruin sleep!
Your bedroom should be as quiet and dark as possible. Remove those devices and treat your sleep with the respect it deserves. Tired contractors make mistakes, and who can afford that?
2. Exercise (almost) every day
It's unrealistic to think a busy contractor with dozens of competing responsibilities can exercise seven days a week, but almost all of us can improve in this area.
Author and happiness guru Neil Pasricha says that simply getting outside is one of the biggest keys to sound mental health. If you exercise frequently and can do so outside, you're killing two birds with one stone—that's an excellent way to shed stress.
3. Create and maintain a schedule for everything important
You schedule your workday, doctor appointments and other important commitments. Why not make appointments with yourself and your family?
Schedule things you usually wouldn't think to write down: exercise, downtime, time with your spouse and family and time alone. Most importantly, schedule vacations and purposeful time away from work. When you're not working, leave that laptop, that cell phone behind. Put those tools away; if you're still tethered to the office electronically, you're not really on vacation.
Finally—and this really goes against the grain of typical contractor and business-owner thinking—schedule your free time first. Believe me, your business time will fill in all around it. Simply planning your off-work time is a necessary discipline to strengthen and use regularly.
4. Get organized
Every contractor reading this makes money because you're skilled in construction, but not necessarily because you're the most organized business person. There's no need to be a jack of all trades. Instead, hire someone with the skills to organize your workspace and home. Decluttering and helping to figure out what's crucial to your success and your ability to do your job makes an immense difference to your workflow.
5. Learn to say no
Successful contractors are sought-after professionals on the jobsite and off of it. The local bank, your church, the nearby hospital and any number of community organizations want your expertise on their boards.
How do you balance being in demand with limited time, energy and bandwidth? Learn to say no and to zero in on the things that provide the most personal and professional payoff—the biggest bang for your buck, so to speak, from your time investments.
Wayne Rivers is the co-founder and president of the Family Business Institute. He has authored four books about families in business and has appeared on multiple nationally televised programs.
He serves as an expert panelist for The Wall Street Journal and has been quoted by Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Entrepreneur, CFO, Family Business, The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other trade, local, regional and national publications.
For over 15 years, Rivers has produced a blog and written hundreds of articles for various magazines and trade publications. He has held workshops and lectures for trade associations, prominent companies and well-respected universities. Along with being an Informa Markets Infrastructure & Construction contributor, he has also been honored as a Fellow of the Family Firm Institute.