When I was a boy growing up in the rugged wilderness of the Yukon, being organized and efficient really was a matter of life or death. Living in the bush was all about planning ahead and understanding what was needed in order to survive in an ever-changing and adverse remote environment.

Back then I spent much of my life working, adventuring, and expediting with trappers, miners, homesteaders, and hunters who had carved out remarkably successful lives in the wilderness. Looking back now, I'm still impressed with the organized and efficient models that went along with bush living and travel. How fast could you set up camp or break camp in comfort? How efficiently could quality firewood be cut and stacked for the winter? Did you have enough fuel? Was there backup equipment in case something broke or wore out?

That natural inclination I had for planning ahead, being efficient, and putting together a plan for adventures in the bush was something I never really lost when I moved to the city and continued developing my skills as a craftsman—it just evolved into learning more efficient carpentry techniques, utilizing proper tools and business systems, and gaining an understanding of economics, all in an effort to preserve quality, save time, and make money!

You've heard the adage work smarter, not harder? Well, time-saving is like that. Efficiency has more to do with thinking ahead about what you're doing before you do it than it has to do with just physically working faster. Rather, it's about pre-planning, identifying time-saving ways to work or do business, and being motivated enough to implement these ideas as a way of working or business system.

Our examples today will focus on three things: saving wasted money, increasing overall revenue, and increasing your value as an employee.

Consider These Questions:

  • As a contractor, have you developed certain questions to ask new leads that weed out the customers who may not be a good fit? (So you're not running all over town looking at every job inquiry.)
  • Do you have a system for quickly writing proposals? (So you're not bogged down by reinventing every write-up)
  • Do you have a clear written set of expectations for employees? (So they understand their value and are positively motivated to be efficient.)
  • Do you have your materials for each job ordered and delivered? (So you're saving time, eliminating constant returns to the lumber yard.) Tip: Dunn Lumber offers $20 local delivery in the Seattle area with no minimum or maximum order.
  • Are you in the practice of assessing the best place to set up work stations? (So you're saving time by keeping everything you need in one spot for the entire day.)

The list can go on and on—I've even designed specific ways to use a shovel that minimizes impact on my body and reduces tiredness, and re-thought the clothes I wear to minimize heat loss and maximize protection from the weather. The custom boots I wear save my feet and back, well worth the cost to save me from working in pain. Here are five more easy steps you can take to streamline your production and maximize your productivity.

Five Simple Time-Savers

1. Clean & Organized Jobsite

I cannot stress this enough! An organized jobsite saves time and looks professional to the client. Cleaning is really key to saving time in a work area because it's easier to find tools and materials, saves manpower on a final clean-up, and provides a positive environment within which your employees will be working.

2. Truck, Tools, and Clothing

Taking the time to organize your tools in your vehicle—where everything has a place and there is a place for everything—will not only save time, but will also show you care about your craft as a serious profession. Get a vehicle that can carry a sizable arsenal of tools and materials, and plan your clothing to maximize working comfort.

3. On-Site Work Planning

First thing in the morning, try to visualize the day's work from a logistical standpoint. Determine the best spot for a one-time stationary setup of the workstation, organize all your tools first, and gather all the material needed. The fewer trips to the truck while working, the better!

4. Business Systems: Leads

Create a system for fielding calls from first-time potential clients. Your questions should be designed to find out if they will be a good fit to work with your company. Ask questions like: Where are you located? When do you want the work completed? How did you find us? Do you have pictures? What's your budget? All these questions are designed to save you time. Don't waste time chasing every lead around town—establish a prescreening process that acts as a gate, only escalating the projects that fit your criteria for a job.

5. Business Systems: Proposals

Create a quality professional system for bidding on jobs. I created a template for producing what I call a preliminary proposal that processes through my office very quickly. I also have a template for producing firm estimates. In this way, nothing is forgotten because I have a list of all the elements of my type of projects. The preliminary proposal offers a rough budget to the client, and if the client is overwhelmed by the number, I just avoided going through a full proposal process that could take several (unpaid) hours!

Have you intentionally implemented any time-savers in your workflow? Which of these examples would provide the biggest time-savings to your business?