Thought for the day: The client is paying you and your crew to produce a product and to manage your job well. To work efficiently and intelligently, I suggest a daily planning period: a half-hour at the same time each day in which the lead carpenter or project manager sets up activities, people, and materials for the next two weeks.

Designate a specific place — an out-of-the-way “office” in the client's garage or even in your truck — to map out your goals and the staff and materials you'll need to accomplish them. Stock it with forms, checklists, and a fax machine. Keep a running update of:

  • Tasks to do tomorrow, to start in two days, to start in one week, and to start in two weeks.
  • Subs to call.
  • Materials or tools to order.
  • People to line up.
  • Decisions you need to remind the client to make.
  • Think about contingencies. If the forecast calls for rain, develop a rain plan and a sun plan. If you need materials, arrange for delivery. In worst-case scenarios, pick them up on your way home, but use your time well by creating lists of other items to pick up at the lumberyard.

    Get your boss to put the planning period into the administrative budget. Assure him or her that it will keep the job on schedule.

    Carpenters love to produce, so setting aside time to think and write may seem unproductive. But you'll quickly learn that planning ahead makes you much more efficient. Your crew and boss will respect it, and your clients will brag about how smoothly their project has gone.

    Next month: the organized workspace. — Tim Faller, Field Training Services,