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Streamline Your Schedule – 4 Small Tweaks That Will Boost Profit and Save Time

Do you ever feel like your schedule could be more efficient? Like you have too much downtime in between jobs or you’re spending too much time driving around and visiting customers?

Or, are you having a hard time estimating how longs jobs will take, so you’re unsure how long to schedule for them? Maybe a repair takes longer than expected and throws off your entire schedule.

Or, are jobs that take less time than expected leaking money from your business?

If you’re like most handymen, the answer is…YES. And here’s the deal – Scheduling mistakes can cost you thousands of dollars per month. No, not just a few hundred dollars…thousands.

I’ve had all of these problems in my own handyman business, and and I see them all the time with my coaching clients. Often, when I have a client track their schedule for a few weeks, they’ll have days where they work 8-9 hours, but only bill for 3 or 4 hours.

That means up to 5 hours was spent working yet making no money. 5 hours!

That’s a LOT of money left on the table in just one day, not to mention how this can add up over time.

Now, these issues are often a pricing/quoting problem. But, in this article, I want to focus on your schedule, and a few small tweaks that you can make to dramatically reduce wasted time, so you can make more money in fewer hours, boost your profits, and feel more productive.

And these are all small tweaks. Nothing major. It’s not going to take more effort or time to do. All you have to do is make the decision to implement them.

Just to be clear, this isn’t about scheduling apps or software. Those are secondary to a good strategy.

And, instead of tweaks, let’s call them “scheduling laws,” because they require that you follow them like they can’t be broken. But again, they require little effort, which is important because nobody wants more things on their to do list.

Let’s save you some time!

Scheduling Law #1 – Limit Your Schedule

Instead of scheduling jobs 5 days per week, or even worse, 7 days per week, limit your work days to just 3 days.

That’s right. Only schedule jobs on a few days per week. Let’s say Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but you can choose any days you want.

This is counter-intuitive, but it works. When I did this with my business, I continued to get the same amount of work done, generate the same amount in revenue, but I worked far less because my schedule became more efficient.

I had to become more efficient, because I no longer had the option to waste time. Parkinson’s Law demanded it.

Never heard of Parkinson’s Law? It’s the concept that describes how projects tend to expand to the amount of time they were given to be completed. Of course, it’s not always true. Sometimes things take twice as long as scheduled. But, when we give ourselves too much time to complete a project, we tend to become less efficient and waste time simply because we can afford to.

Just think back to school when you had a big paper due. Maybe you’d be given two weeks to complete it, but you ended up writing the entire thing the day before it was due. Two weeks was way more than you needed, but you found a way to drag it out to the last minute.

Or, think about how productive you are on the last day of work before vacation, simply because you need to get shit done before you leave.

By giving yourself less time to complete projects, you force yourself to get right to what matters, stop dilly-dallying, and just get the damn work done.

This gives you the benefit of making the same amount of money in less time. And there’s another huge benefit. If a project ends up taking longer than expected, you can use the extra days in the week to finish it.

Now, of course, I’m not saying you should only work 3 days a week (although you could). The point is to limit the schedule to just three days until you are booked out for the next two weeks. Once you are booked out more than two weeks consistently, open up another day in your schedule.

If you’re just getting started, you might want to limit your schedule to just one or two days. Again, once you are consistently booked out two weeks in advance, open another day.

Then, use your free days to work on marketing, pricing, or even over-analyzing your fantasy football roster if that’s what you’re in to.

Scheduling Law #2 – Schedule Small Jobs In Batches

If you focus on small repairs, you probably have some jobs that take 30 minutes and others that take two days. And you probably have them scattered throughout your week.

If so, you could save a lot of time by batching your small jobs, and doing them all on one, or maybe two, days.

How do I define a small job? Anything 3 hours or less.

Doing this accomplishes two things:

  1. You can pack a lot of small jobs into a single day (especially if you follow Law #3 below).
  2. You leave more time open for the medium and large jobs, which can be more profitable.

Scheduling Law #3 – Give “Arrival Windows” for small jobs

Whenever you schedule a service call with the cable company, a larger HVAC company, or even a plumbing company, you’ll notice they give you a “window” of time you can expect them to show up.

They’ll say “we’ll be there between 2pm and 5pm,” for example. They’ll almost never give you an exact time.

Why do they do that?

Because it’s more efficient, which means higher profits.

They know that if they give an exact time to the customer, they’ll have to leave a lot more padding in the schedule to meet those commitments. That means fewer jobs done per day, more downtime, and less profit. Either that or they’ll constantly piss off customers because they’d never be on time (something many of them still do anyway).

The reality is that you never know how long a job will take until you get started. And even then you might run into hangups.

You might go into a job thinking it will take two hours, and it ends up taking 5 minutes. Then the next job might take 3x as long as expected. You just never know. That’s why you need to give yourself some room to shift things around. By giving your customer a window of time for your arrival, it gives you that wiggle room.

This might be a little uncomfortable to implement, but there is a lot to learn from larger service companies. If this didn’t work, they wouldn’t keep doing it.

Scheduling Law #4 – Use the Proper Unit of Time To Schedule Jobs

Once the estimated size of a job gets larger than 4 hours, stop measuring that job in hours, and instead measure it in half days. And once the scope of a job exceeds 12 hrs, start measuring it in full days. And, if the time estimated to complete a job exceeds a week and a half, start measuring it in weeks instead of days.

Then, round up.

Just like you would round up to the nearest hour if estimating a small job, round up to the nearest half day, full day, week, or month depending on the size of the job. You would round up on both the time you schedule for the job, and the amount you quote for the job.

Is this overcharging the customer? Maybe on occasion. But, the reality is jobs usually take longer to complete than you estimate anyway. What you’re really doing is protecting yourself from two things.

  1. Scheduling several hours for a job that takes 10 minutes and then ending up playing Candy Crush for two hours until your next job (i.e. making no money).
  2. Underestimating how long a job will take and overbooking your schedule.

Both of these cost you money and headaches.

Ok, so let’s use an example. Let’s say you are estimating a fence repair, and you think it will take you about 5 hrs to complete. Instead of basing your quote on 5 hrs, just allocate an entire day for that job, and quote for a full day.

There’s a good chance it will take longer than 5 hrs. And even if it takes less time, then the customer still gets their fence fixed, and you don’t lose out on a half day of income. Plus, it simplifies your schedule!

Here’s a quick summary of the 4 Scheduling Laws

Law #1 – Limit your schedule
Law #2 – Batch small jobs
Law #3 – Give “Arrival Windows” for small jobs
Law #4 – Measure job length with the proper unit of time

These 4 laws create a system for scheduling and is far more efficient and easier than scheduling jobs willy nilly, whenever you can “fit them in.” Doing so will help you make more money in less time, make your business more profitable, and make you feel more productive (feeling productive makes you happy).

But the benefits go beyond just making a one person business better. It also gives you the power to scale your business easier. If hiring employees is on your list of goals, ponder this for a minute.

Do you have any scheduling tips that have worked well for you? Let me know in the comments.

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  • Stanley McCall December 12, 2017

    Thanks for the three laws of scheduling. It is definitely a problem area in my business that I need to work on.
    I have one question. When do you give an hourly rate and when do you give a fixed price?
    I have a minimum of 1 1/2 hr. So most people have more than one thing they want done while I am there.

    • Dan Perry December 12, 2017

      Hi Stanley,

      I explain all of that in detail in “The $100K Handyman.” But basically, if it’s a common job I do all of the time, then I usually have a flat rate for it. If it’s a list of to-dos or small job, then I’ll go by time. If it’s a bigger job, then I might give a firm quote.

  • Mayur Nanubhai December 13, 2017

    Dan Perry,

    I loved this article, you always seem to come out with information when I need it the most. This whole month I have been running around with head cut off. working 6 days a week. But haven’t felt efficient, scheduling is my problem for sure. I am packing to many jobs in a week. I like all the laws especially Law #1, Working 3 days a week and giving yourself time to work on the business is a good idea. Thanks Dan.

    • Dan Perry December 13, 2017

      I love to hear comments like this, Mayur. So glad you found the article helpful, and I think you’ll find it even more powerful once applied.

  • Dan Farr December 14, 2017

    Dan,
    I like the idea of a window time frame for smaller jobs. I have always tried to stick to the scheduled time I would arrive. But find myself rushing through the previous job to make the next one on time. Have you found that customers are receptive to that? How big of a window would you suggest.

    Thanks

    • Dan Perry December 19, 2017

      Hi Dan,

      The window should be as big as you need it. It will be something you’ll dial in over time. Usually 2-3 hours toward the end of the day. Does the customer mind? That depends on the customer. You can always offer them the option of a scheduled time, just let them know you’ll need to schedule an entire half a day in order to do that, or schedule them as the first job of the day.

  • Rudi Schnieders December 15, 2017

    Dan,
    This has to be the best advice I have seen from you so far. Very timely, I was just thinking of ways that I could make myself more efficient. Batching small jobs and charging for full days on partials is going to make my life a lot easier.
    Thanks!

    • Dan Perry December 19, 2017

      Thanks Rudi! I’m excited for your business to become more efficient.