BB #004 How To Get More Done In Less Time

Feb 05, 2023

Hey there! 

Welcome to the Balanced Construction Executive.

Every Saturday morning, you'll get 1 actionable strategy for mental health and career growth in the construction industry.

Each issue will help you grow in 1 of 5 ways:

  1. Find better work/life balance
  2. Get your next promotion
  3. Build your personal brand
  4. Get better at stress management
  5. Develop strategies to be more productive

This week, we will focus on #5- Develop strategies to be more productive.

BCE #004: How To Get More Done In Less Time

Read time: 3 minutes

Everyone knows the feeling.

You leave the office and go to your job site.

You run into every sub and vendor you’ve been needing to talk to.

You get hit with 100 questions.

You get tasked with 10 new things you need to do.

Meanwhile, your phone is buzzing in your pocket over and over again.

By the time you’re back in the office, you have 37 new emails.

PLUS the 10 new things from your site walk.

Doubt starts creeping in.

“How am I going to get all this done?”

Then stress hits.

It’s pretty impossible to avoid it.

Unless you have a bulletproof system for getting through your emails and to-do list.

I discovered an amazing system last year to do just that.

It’s called Inbox Zero.

And it will help you get done more in less time so you don’t get stressed every time your emails start piling up.

Here’s what it is and how to use it so you can reduce stress and be more productive with your email and to-do list.


Inbox Zero

Merlin Mann created Inbox Zero because he recognized constantly responding to high volumes of email causes problems.

  • It’s stressful.
  • It’s distracting.
  • It decreases productivity.
  • It takes away your sanity bit by bit.

"Clearly, the problem of email overload is taking a toll on all our time, productivity, and sanity, mainly because most of us lack a cohesive system for processing our messages and converting them into appropriate actions as quickly as possible” - Mann

Mann created Inbox Zero in 2004 as a simple email response system, and now it’s popularized by Executive Coach Matt Mochary in his book, “The Great CEO Within”.

Here’s how it works, step-by-step:

  1. Unsubscribe from marketing emails or spam.
  2. Designate specific times of the day for checking email- preferably once in the morning and once in the afternoon (I do 10 AM and 3 PM)
  3. Turn off email pop-up notifications (I still haven’t done this but I’m tempted)

The goal: Get more done in less time.

And when you do check email - at your 2 designated times - get through it rapidly to get your inbox at 0 or close to it.

To do this, move each email into 1 of 4 buckets:

  • Do It Now
  • Next Action
  • Waiting For
  • Some Day

Let’s walk through each:

Do It Now

These emails are the easy ones...

If they will take 2 minutes or less to respond to, then respond immediately. Get them off your plate now.

Simple enough.


Next Action

These emails require additional thought or effort.

Read the email, and if it will take you longer than 2 minutes to respond, create a “Next Action” on your to-do list. In other words, don’t respond now. Instead, save it for later so you can finish cranking through emails.

Pro tip: when you write down your “Next Action”, make it so simple you don’t need to refer back to the email to get the task done.


Bad "Next Action": Respond to email about waterproofing

Good "Next Action": Respond to [client’s name] on waterproofing and send her backup pictures


That way, when you get to that item on your to-do list - whether that day or another - you know exactly WHAT you need to do and WHO it needs to go to. Every second you save is another second for deep work.


Waiting For

These emails are the ones that can get you into the most trouble because there’s no immediate action you can take. 

  • You need someone else’s input
  • You’re waiting for more information
  • You need approval before proceeding.

Which is why you should file them as “Waiting For” on your to-do list.


Example: Send project report to [client’s name]. Waiting for report from [vendor’s name] as of [today’s date].

Send project report to Laura. Waiting for report from CM Testing as of 2/18/2023.


As you’re closing out your to-do list every day, browse through the “Waiting For” section. If you notice it has been a few days or weeks and you’re still “waiting for” that report, then create a “Next Action” to “follow up with [vendor’s name] on report”.

Don’t waste mental energy trying to remember lagging tasks.

Track them and follow up once they're hot.


Some Day

These are the big picture ideas. Maybe someone from your executive team has a strategic plan or goal they want to set for next year. Or a direct report mentions an improvement that you like but are not ready to implement.

Basically, these are importantnon-urgent items you should track.

Add them to a “Some Day” section on your to-do list. Then review it on a weekly basis.

Once you’re ready, act.


Next Steps

On Monday when you get into the office, use the principles of Inbox Zero to rapidly get through email, organize your tasks, and create time and space for deep work.


As a reminder, your to-do list should be organized like this:


  1. Check email twice daily
  2. Respond to the easy ones
  3. Create action items for the hard ones
  4. Keep your inbox at 0 or close to it
  5. Do more work in less time

Email and task management are keys to balancing work and life, getting promoted, and generally controlling your time.

I hope this newsletter gives you a framework for better email and task management.

That’s it for this week.

Thanks for being here, I really appreciate you.

See you next week, and happy growth in the meantime.

Your friend,


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