I have a four- to five-page to-do list that I consult first thing in the morning—it’s almost my morning coffee. The list is segmented by client with one section for each active project where I itemize the tasks that I need to complete, as well as any related production activities. However, being so busy, I know that I’m not going to get as much done as I’d like, so I methodically go through and prioritize the tasks.

Prior to using the list, I had all of this information in my head—including client phone numbers. As I’ve gotten older and our projects have become more complicated, I find that I need to write things down. It’s the only way to really be comprehensive.

For each section, I ask myself what I need to get done to keep the project moving: What are the most urgent tasks? Are they part of a critical path for a future task? I place a priority on those tasks first and write down how long each one will take to complete. This helps me manage my time.

That project task list includes providing information to clients so they can complete open selections and decisions in a timely manner. Some items may not be part of the critical path, so they get pushed to a later date.

Another item on my list includes updating the allowance sheet for each job so that we have the most up-to-date information during our weekly client meetings. Under each client section on the list, I include the financial information so that I have a quick reference of the budget and the draw schedule.

I tend to assign the lower priority tasks to my superintendent or lead carpenter. This helps free up my time for more critical decisions and to help with team-building. If I assign one of them to gather a material list or make some follow-up calls, I still have to assemble the package for the client. As the production manager, I am ultimately responsible. I check in with my superintendent throughout the day so I can update the list when items are completed or assigned.

Selections & Suppliers

It’s great when clients have an interior designer to help with selections, but I still have to make sure that he or she has the information needed to make decisions and stay on schedule. When we’re in charge of selections, it helps that I’ve worked with my plumbing, electrical, and cabinet suppliers for years and we have a rapport when it comes to methods and allowances. However, once these suppliers finalize selections with the client, I have to update the allowance sheet—which goes on my to-do list.

When I cross an item off the list, I note the date that I completed the task. I keep the to-do list in the front of my production binder, which has tabs for every active project. I update the electronic version of that list every two weeks and print out a new hard copy, which has the date listed on the top. I also keep previous lists in a folder on my desk so that I can refer to them if there are any discrepancies.

The list also helps when I am out sick or am on vacation. Mark IV Builders owner Mark Scott and my superintendent use it to keep the production items and projects on schedule.