I’m 5 weeks into a home construction project, and have been challenged daily on surviving this endeavor. Did I mention that I run my company primarily from home 24/7? On top of having two kids and a paranoid cat that hates loud noises? Plus a husband who works 45 minutes away, and must. be. at. his. job. by 7am every day?
Yeah, that’s me.
We decided to add a “mud room” onto our home – so basically I can stop obsessively cleaning and griping that my formal living area is littered with kids shoes and sports equipment. Now that we’re in the throws of construction, this grand idea is perhaps kicking back at me.
And because I work from home and am known to be detailed oriented, (hey – this addition is my brainchild), I can just add this onto my plate, right? Easy-peasy. It’s certainly not as demanding as coding a prototype, running strategy for companies, or launching a product, right?
After I have learned these lessons the hard way, I hope each lesson can save your sanity, work, project and personal life.
Construction 101 – 201
Like it or not, since you are the person that everyone will see the most, you will be on point to make critical decisions, unexpectedly. My advice to personally survive this is to educate yourself before the project begins.
Learn how to read plans. Understand the type of help that will do each line, squiggle, block and circle on the plans. Even though you are not responsible for project management, knowing what’s going on and how it could impact your work schedule is critical.
Know the “contact points” where two different workers need to work together, and know the demarkation between the crew’s objectives. If the sequence does not make sense, ask your GC about it. When new crews are coming onto the site, they may ask you questions, and the more you know, the less time you spend away from your work, or worse – giving them bad directions. I have been surprised how many times two crews looked at me for the answer on these little yet important decisions.
The GC is your new BFF
Know that your GC is on your side and will do a great job handling the contractors. But if there is too much or too little interaction with your GC a myriad of problems can arise. You and the GC should establish a communication pattern covering the most critical project elements that is most conducive to your sometimes unforgiving work schedule is critical to maintain sanity.
Start and end the week with a GC project meeting. Cover the important things like: daily work and contractor schedule, inspections, onsite management and decision points, and most importantly payments due. We also talk about my work travel plans (so there’s someone here to secure the place and give help) a week in advance. If these meetings are regimented and routine, the stress around your project management participation is alleviated.
“Let’s chat later.” I’ve had to establish with my spouse when he wants to talk about the project and I need to get work done, and just cant talk now. He just has to wait as most big construction decisions don’t need to be talked about at 10:30am on a Tuesday. Putting brain energy toward your business instead of directing it to your construction during the workday is a must do.
Our Saw Horse Dance. Every morning seahorses awake, and do a dance with their spouse before taking off for the day. My husband and I do a “Saw Horse” dance, because we catch up every night and discuss the projects and any upcoming decision points. I usually have a list written down to cover, and use that as our agenda so there’s a beginning and end to the shop talk, and we can then talk about being a family or something else important.
Weekend work is now the norm. There’s always extra business that can’t get done during the construction cacophony. I’ve been adjusting some work activities that are not compatible with loud noises and interruptions to be finished during the weekend. Planning out your projects that accounts for your tolerance to noise and interruptions will reduce your stress. It may mean no more late nights/ late mornings, but the better quality output is worth the sacrifice. Having a spouse on board to support the extra work and play with the kids while you’re finishing projects is super helpful too.
Project manage the construction to avoid your worst fears. Put in place the right tools to help you avoid stressing out and stay focused on your work, not the project.
For better budget management:
- Build your own project management spreadsheet and bonus points if you add in cash flow/ payment tracking.
- Take pictures of every contract, invoice, and keep them on your phone.
For better project management:
- Get everyone to use a project management tool. We use Evernote, and it’s been a saving grace. Checklists, reminders, collaboration spaces (chat rooms) super helpful vs. always adding important ideas on text strings.
For better work efforts:
- Add a new calendar type called “Construction” onto your calendar and block out noisy/ distracting construction times a week in advance. This way when you need to set up a meeting, you know if you can actually talk at your house or if you need to pick a different location.
- Get earplugs or noise canceling headsets. Not hearing the contractor conversations is really helpful.
For the emergency work conversations:
- Find out where you have the best noise cancellation and access to WiFi. I found out that by being inside my parked car with the doors shut is still in my home’s WiFi signal reach for those unplanned / must-do calls.
- Delay conversations until the crew is on their 30 minute lunch break. 11:30 – noon every day I have critical calls, planned.
For making better construction decisions:
- Our kids are getting used to our Saturday mornings filled with construction discussions and then something fun. Going to hardware stores, lumber yards first thing on Saturday helps keep decisions moving.
For accommodating hard deadlines:
- To accommodate restricted commercial hours, I’ve been taking a late lunch break before the kids get out of school, and visit the businesses who have restricted hours. It meets the deadline requirements, and sets time aside for good decision making.
I know I’m the most productive in the morning. And I’m the GC for my business, so I need to spend that brilliant and depleting brain power on my company’s projects, and not on the construction project. I’ve adjusted my schedule to now account for the potential construction distractions in addition to the other responsibilities that I’ve signed up to fulfill. If something arises that’s not worth my highest brain power, I try to delegate it to later in the afternoon or night. If decisions require more thought than 3 minutes, I delegate it to my GC, or put it on my list to review that night with my spouse.
I also know when I need a break. I hit that wall earlier last week, and my husband took time off of work to jump in, and it’s been a saving grace. We got things accomplished that I could not shoulder alone – and that too has kept my stress down.
Construction and Working From Home can be a brutal combination if you don’t stay on top of what can affect you the most adversely. Be honest with yourself about your thought and contribution quality, and get everyone involved to understand those needs. And always remember, this too shall pass.