by David Rogers
For many shops, 2021 was like being strapped to a bull. This summer saw drivers cram 18 months of maintenance and repairs into a summer-sized window, and the most that many shop owners could do was hold on for dear life.
In the best of times, owning a shop can make a work-life balance nearly impossible. Every day can feel like a series of fires to put out, crises to manage, and problems to solve. A record-breaking summer only turns that stress and frustration up to 11.
But here at the end of 2021, you have an opportunity. The summer rush is behind us, and you have the time to create resolutions for a better 2022. Why not resolve to get off that bull in 2022? Why not resolve to create more time?
Why not start with your junk drawer?
You know the junk drawer. It’s the drawer where you stick all of the garbage you don’t want to find a place for. Takeout menus. Soy sauce packets. Batteries. Loose rubber bands. No matter what you keep in yours, if you want to start getting time back in your life, go home and dump out your junk drawer.
I know that this seems like a classic case of missing the forest for the trees. After all, if life wasn’t so busy already, there wouldn’t be a need for a junk drawer to collect all of the unsorted odds and ends for later.
But not only will this exercise be helpful, it’s also an extremely apt metaphor.
Every time you have to reach into that drawer to find batteries for the remote control or candles for a birthday cake, it takes three times longer than it would if it was organized and all of the items were put away where they belonged. And the procrastination that led to a drawer of junk is exactly the same procrastination that is leading to chaos and fires and lost time in other areas of your life.
Every time you take a call or clear out your inbox or micromanage parts returns instead of having a difficult conversation with an employee or customer, you’re adding a new unfinished task to the junk drawer in your shop.
And until you dump out these drawers and deal with the messes, you’re choosing to live as a victim to chaos and fires. You’re choosing to let others control your time and happiness.
These are your messes, and only you can clean them up.
The cleanup has to be done by you because talking isn’t the answer.
If you take from your employees – by asking techs to build their own estimates or advisors to clean up the problems you caused – they’ll resent you for it and leave. If you take from customers by cutting back on your hours or services, they’ll resent you for it and take their business elsewhere.
You cannot squeeze people to create extra time for yourself. In the same way that if you need more money you need to build more value, if you need more time you need to build better structure.
That’s why dumping out that junk drawer at home is the first step. It’s forcing you to remove a time-wasting problem by eliminating it. There’s no shortcut to putting items away where they belong. You have to remove the problem item by item until the problem no longer exists.
What are the “junk drawers” at work that need to be dumped out? Maybe you can think of some right now – broken processes that you know lead to problems with vendors or customers that you’ve always been too busy to train the team to correct?
Stop choosing to be a victim. Today is the day to stop letting a preventable issue happen again and again.
And then when you’ve eliminated the stuff you know is a problem, it’s time to start using the best disinfectant known to shop owners: sunlight. You have to start shining a light into every corner of your shop to find problems so they can be eliminated long before they creep up and suck away your time and happiness.
Do you know how long it takes to do an oil change in your shop? How does it compare today to six months ago? Are the processes you trained in a year ago still being followed today? Maybe you have a shop management system that lets you measure and track this, or maybe you just need to grab a stopwatch and an Excel spreadsheet and measure it.
To be clear, the point here isn’t to replace old time-wasting tasks with new ones. It’s to start today by clearing out the clutter and excuses and victimhood, and then to carry that momentum into every area of your shop.
Because, ultimately, the goal is to build processes and systems and measurement and training that you can then use to delegate responsibility to your team. But you can’t expect your team to hold each other accountable if you’re not setting the example yourself.
Is 2022 is going to be any different? Is this the year when you finally start to get the work-life balance you want so badly?
If so, it’s because you made the choice to stop being a victim to the chaos, quit procrastinating, and started to delegate.
That’s a tall order, I know. Delegation alone means setting out to educate, train, and hold your team accountable. If you haven’t started to clean out your junk drawers, it might even seem impossible.
So let me end with a word of encouragement.
You’ve put your heart into your shop. You undertook immense risk to build something you could be proud of, something that would make life better for you and your family and your employees. You’re already capable of incredible things.
After all of that hard work, you deserve happiness. You deserve rest and relaxation and to enjoy the fruits of your labor. The work to dump out these “junk drawers” and destroy these time-wasting problems is no more difficult than anything you’ve already done, and it will make your 2022 more than a better year…it will make it your best year, emotionally, personally, and financially.
There is nothing you can’t do in 2022. I believe in you! Now go dump out that junk drawer at home and get started!