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CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG

July 10, 2012

Don’t Wait Until You Feel Like Doing Something
Filed under: Productivity — Tags: — nedpelger

Do you ever struggle with procrastination? Sometimes it seems I’d be willing to do anything in the world except the thing I know I should be doing. My son Lex just sent me a blog post: The one-sentence solution to almost all procrastination (no, really) that I found helpful.

The refrigerator magnet type sentence is “Don’t wait until you feel like doing something.” Before you dismiss that as too glib and simplistic to be useful, think about lying in bed in the morning and struggling to get up. We don’t arise because we don’t feel like it. We try to talk ourselves into feeling like getting up.

If we try to cut out that step and try to act regardless of how we feel, we will do better. If you’re a long time reader, you know what I believe to be the Secret of Success:

Successful People Do the Things Unsuccessful People Don’t Want to Do and Won’t Do.

So the one sentence solution to procrastination fits neatly under that philosophy. We won’t stop struggling with these issues but we can get just a little better. You will be amazed how being just a little bit better will change your life. Don’t wait till you feel motivated, just try to will yourself to act. It gets easier with practice…usually.

And remember the wise words of the French writer Nicholas Chamfort:

Swallow a toad in the morning if you want to encounter nothing more disgusting the rest of the day.

Chamfort, by the way, knew all about pain. His botched suicide attempt is legendary. Rather than going back to prison during the crazy times of the French Revolution, he shot himself in the face with his pistol. He succeeded only in shooting off his nose and part of his jaw. Then he repeatedly stabbed his neck with a paper cutter, but failed to hit an artery. Finally, he stabbed himself in the chest. He suffered intensely for the next year, when he finally died from complications of his suicide attempt.

What can we learn from Chamfort? Don’t try to kill yourself and get started on that toad.

CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG

June 28, 2012

100 Years of Inefficiency
Filed under: Productivity — Tags: — nedpelger

In 1913, Pennsylvania passed a law called “The Separations Act”. The law requires any public entity to separately bid and award the General Construction, Plumbing, HVAC and Electrical portions of any construction project.

If you work in PA public projects, you know the nightmare of inefficiency that flows from this project delivery method. If you don’t, just imagine four contractors all contractually bound to the Owner but not to each other. One scumbag low bidder creates havoc for the entire team.

I just read in this week’s ENR letters that PA is one of the only states that uses this archaic approach. While the highly efficient Design-Build approach could be utilized in PA, the Separations Act effectively precludes it.

So the state continues to waste hundreds of millions of dollars because of political inertia. I hope PA legislatures work together to modernize the procurement process toward commonsense efficiency.

CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG

August 25, 2011

A Revolution in Learning
Filed under: Productivity — Tags: — nedpelger

A Wired article, How Khan Academy is Changing Education, begins with:

“This,” says Matthew Carpenter, “is my favorite exercise.” I peer over his shoulder at his laptop screen to see the math problem the fifth grader is pondering. It’s an inverse trigonometric function: cos-1(1) = ?

Carpenter, a serious-faced 10-year-old wearing a gray T-shirt and an impressive black digital watch, pauses for a second, fidgets, then clicks on “0 degrees.” Presto: The computer tells him that he’s correct. The software then generates another problem, followed by another, and yet another, until he’s nailed 10 in a row in just a few minutes. All told, he’s done an insane 642 inverse trig problems. “It took a while for me to get it,” he admits sheepishly.

Carpenter, who attends Santa Rita Elementary, a public school in Los Altos, California, shouldn’t be doing work anywhere near this advanced. In fact, when I visited his class this spring—in a sun-drenched room festooned with a papercraft X-wing fighter and student paintings of trees—the kids were supposed to be learning basic fractions, decimals, and percentages. As his teacher, Kami Thordarson, explains, students don’t normally tackle inverse trig until high school, and sometimes not even then.

The software package this 5th grader was using wasn’t some expensive, highly researched package. It was a free website, KhanAcademy.org, that one man developed in his free time. Sal Khan has a knack for presenting challenging concepts in a clear manner. Take a few moments to watch the video on Simple Equations below to get a sense of how Sal teaches.

Then go to the KhanAcademy.org website and look at the 2,400 lessons Khan has already created. Bill Gates was so impressed with his teaching that he funded him to continue. With almost 72,000,000 lessons delivered around the world, he must be doing something right.

I challenge you (and me) to get in the habit of watching lessons. Brush up on some things you did know and learn some new things. Exercise that brain.

And spread the word to young folks entering this great construction business that don’t have a good educational background. Here’s a way for them to level that field.

CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG

June 11, 2011

Be the Trend: Android Apps for Construction
Filed under: Productivity — Tags: — nedpelger

I was pleased to receive an email from Derek Singleton last night stating that several of our ConstructionKnowledge phone apps had been selected for his list of Best Andorid Apps for Construction Management. The apps have been selling well and getting good reviews, so it’s nice to see more affirmation. Check out his list and see which apps may help you become more productive.

As I read more posts from their Software Advice site, I started thinking about the likely trend of tablet computers becoming the tool of choice for construction PMs and supervisors.  Here’s a great little video that gives a sense of the coming productivity improvements.

We’re currently building a bunch of apartment buildings for a brilliant 70 year old Mennonite customer who sends me quick decisions and updates from his iPad. I need to sit down with him and have him show  me how he uses this tool. Then I need to start researching how tablet computers could help us build better. I’ll be sure to share what I learn with you. If you have any input, please leave a comment below.

This trend for tablet computers on the jobsite will be huge. Remember: great advantages come from being at the right point on the trend line. Think about where you want to be.

CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG

May 18, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Switch from Outlook to Gmail
Filed under: Productivity — Tags: — nedpelger

I’ve loved Google for years (wasn’t smart enough to invest early, though) and now we’ve moved to the next level of our relationship. I’ve dropped Outlook and switched completely to Gmail for my email, contacts and calendar. I ran them in parallel for months and Gmail performs so much better. Top Ten reaasons?

10. Time Savings. Gmail searches past emails and contacts with amazing speed. Outlook got slower every year, as my number of contacts grew over 3,000 and emails into the tens of thousands. What Outlook did in minutes, Gmail does in seconds. Due to the searching speed, I no longer bother to put old emails into folders (which I did to make them easier to find). Now I archive everything and just search for what I need. By using filters for incoming emails, I further improve my time savings.

9. Cloud based. By all the data stored in Google’s many servers, I have access from any computer, anywhere. I also have much better security (I’m not worried about Google employee’s reading about my life…sometimes I don’t even want to) and loss prevention. Google is virtually never down, due to their redundancy.

8. Reliability and Repairs. I’ve had a few frustrating episodes with Outlook, when I couldn’t get it to work and spent many hours or days trying to repair it. Microsoft support was horrible (that’s when I went from being a fan to a critic) and I recall the level of aggravation well. Gmail provides less options (which I didn’t want anyway) and more reliability.

7. Google Calendar Shares Well. Sharing scheduling info on projects can be tricky. Since everyone can access a Google Calendar, project schedules can be seen and updated easily.

6. Superior Spam Filtering. No one filters spam better than Gmail. As I’ve appreciated this benefit, I’ve also begun to hit the unsubscribe language more often, getting rid of those regular emails that I at one time thought I’d read but never do. More time management savings.

5. Google Plays Well with Others, Microsoft, Not so Much. When I was parallel running Outlook and Gmail, I struggled to sync the programs. Microsoft has a strong vested interest in not cooperating with Google…and doesn’t. So it’s easy to move all the info one time, but not possible to create a real syncing option. As I see it, Google is open and Microsoft closed and open wins in today’s world.

4. Threads Keep Related Conversations Linked. By automatically linking all emails for a topic, Google saves the time of searching and trying to remember what came before. It’s a benefit this old brain appreciates.

3. All Info Shared and Current. Syncing Gmail with an Android or iPhone works seamlessly. Even better, contact groups get updated when contact info changes (Outlook didn’t have this feature to my continued annoyance). The way contacts and groups are handled in Gmail just makes much more sense. I imagine someone at Google used Outlook and thought, “Wouldn’t it be much better to do it this way?”

2. Gmail Groups Work for the Way I Work. I tried for years to mesh my Microsoft Access Database where I kept all my vendor and bidder data and my Outlook. I never could make that work. So I devised ways to use both, but never liked that the data needed to be changed in two places. Now I keep all my vendor data in Gmail groups, as well as meeting minute groups, and other job related groups. I can export those groups easily (which was not possible in Outlook).

1. IT’S FREE! Anyone that knows me knows that I’m cheap. I enjoy saving money for my customers…and for myself. Gmail gives a huge amount of storage for free, and it’s only a nominal cost for much more. I haven’t totally transitioned to Google Docs yet (which will replace Microsoft Office Suite) but I’m heading in that direction. I like options and I like free.

So consider making the switch. I’m glad I did and wonder what took me so long.

CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG

March 9, 2011

Don’t Blame the Construction Workers
Filed under: Productivity — Tags: — nedpelger

An ENR blog Rethinking Wrenchtime: Tell Us What’s Slowing Jobsite Production, and Why questions trade productivity. The writer noted that 40 years ago they blamed unions for featherbedding and producing low productivity. With the continual decrease in union presence, they wonder who to blame.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (by definition, engineers not deficient in common courtesy), produced a study in 2009 with the following conclusion:

Factors involving tools and consumables, materials, engineering drawing management and construction equipment were identified as having the greatest impact on productivity from the craft workers’ perspective.

I learned that truth early in my days on the jobsite and have continued to believe. A great construction supervisor can help deliver impressive trade productivity.

One of the comments on the ENR blog stated the case well.

In my view as a former journeyman, project manager and project executive, the keys to productivity are:

1. maintaining the flow of materials to the craftsmen performing the work.

2. maintaining the right ratio of Journeymen to Apprentices in order to ensure that the most difficult tasks are being performed by the most experienced craftsmen.

3. Avoid the need to stack the trades and other unnecessary inefficiencies by developing, maintaining and adjusting as needed, the best work plan possible (which includes a materials handling and delivery strategy).

4. Always involve the superintendent and general foremen in the development of the work plan and schedule.

5. Always remember two things, a safe environment is an efficient environment and you can’t buy back a bad estimate or schedule out of the labor budget. T.C.

CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG

January 3, 2011

3 Ways to Build Your Technology Competence: Part III
Filed under: Productivity — Tags: — nedpelger

My previous two posts about technology competence were:

#1: BET ON GOOGLE

#2: USE A SMART PHONE

For today’s post, I’ll leave the big ideas and focus on one mundane topic.

#3: WIN THE BATTERY WAR

The batteries for smart phones, laptops and other electronic devices suck. We lose all our new found productivity gains when our batteries crap out in the middle of an important task. In fact, we’re sometimes worse off than BT (before technology).

So how do we win the battery war? Buy lots of chargers for lots of locations. Be able to easily charge in your home, your car and your office. Compared to the lost productivity, chargers are cheap so buy them and use them.

In your vehicle, consider an inverter that changes the 12 volt DC to 120 volt AC. These handy little devices allow you to charge all sorts of things by using a normal wall outlet charger, so you won’t need the special car chargers. Also, an outlet strip will allow you to charge several devices at the same time. The tangle of wires isn’t pretty, but it’s better than having to lamely say, “Sorry, gotta go, my cell phone’s dying.”

If you’re looking for more ideas, the New York Times did a 10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Technology that was a worthwhile challenge. I sent it to my son Lex and he proudly responded that he already did all the items. Don’t you hate this Net Generation?

CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG

January 1, 2011

3 Ways to Build Your Technology Competence: Part II
Filed under: Productivity — Tags: — nedpelger

In keeping with my belief that Learning Leads to Advancement, you should strive to keep pushing yourself to know more and to get better. Last night at a New Year’s Eve party, a friend mentioned that he’d given up trying to keep up with technology. He’d stopped being fully engaged with his life and is coasting.

I want to ask him, “Why?” Life passes so quickly, we get limited opportunities to know and to do. I hate the idea of tiptoeing through life to get to death safely. I want to live fully engaged with many great relationships and want lots of people sad and missing me when I die.

So if you decide to live all in, put some of that intensity into technology expertise. Yesterday I wrote about #1: Bet on Google, encouraging you to immerse yourself in all the advantages this amazing company offers. Today, we focus on one tool.

#2: USE A SMART PHONE

I speak with lots of folks in the construction industry that say, “Yea, I know I should get a smart phone, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.” For some, it’s just procrastination. For others, the thought of having 24/7 email and internet access sounds like more pain than benefit. I felt that way too. But when I got the smart phone, I loved it. Most people express similar sentiments. Do you know anyone that got an iPhone or Android, used it for a while, then went back to their old phone? I don’t.

So if you don’t have a smart phone, get one. Don’t stop there, though. Too many people just use the email and texting, check the internet occasionally and do nothing else. You’ve got to get phone apps and use them. Search for the 25 most popular apps for your phone and download a few of them. Use them both for fun and to improve your productivity. Remember, Learn and Advance.

If you don’t have a smart phone, see my previous post Shopping for a Smart Phone for Construction? If you’ve got a smart phone, buy some apps today and start to put that tool to better use!

CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG

December 31, 2010

3 Ways to Build Your Technology Competence: Part I
Filed under: Productivity — Tags: — nedpelger

As we say “Adios” to 2010, it’s a good time to invest a couple of hours to improve your productivity (and value) for 2011. Consider 3 ideas that could improve your life.

#1: BET ON GOOGLE

For most of the last 30 years of computer revolution, Microsoft dominated. Apple created some great products and consistently changed the world with their user interfaces, but Microsoft kept trudging along, picking up the best ideas and making them work for businesses. So for most of this revolution, I stayed with Microsoft products: operating systems, office suites and the Internet Explorer browser.

Over the past decade, Microsoft’s trajectory has declined while Google just keeps innovating in the most important areas. The Google search, of course, pays the bills by getting amazingly accurate selections for almost any search query. The Android smart phone system has been Google’s open source code response to Apple’s cool iPhone. I predict that 5 years from now the Android will dominate the market.

A Google innovation that can help you even more, the Google Docs allow you to handle all your computing on the cloud. No more purchasing operating systems and office suites…they are all free from Google. No more losing data by fire, theft or idiocy, it’s all stored in Google’s free storage. I’m planning to write much more in 2011 about how you can use Google Docs to completely run a small construction company.

In order to access this Google world, you need a Gmail account. It’s free, but take some time to think about your user name. It will be shown lots of places.

Finally, I’m also a fan of Google Alerts and Google Reader. The alerts will give you email updates on any topic, letting you know whenever your chosen word or phase gets used on the internet. With a name like “Pelger” I’ve been able to find about my kids getting arrested before they worked up the gumption to tell me. I also get alerts for “Construction Knowledge” and find some good info occasionally. Google Reader, on the other hand, will keep track of your favorite blogs or sites and keep all the posts in one place for you to quickly peruse.

Remember the adage, “A man is known by the company he keeps”. I recommend you spend some time in the company of Google. Their innovations might just help drag you along towards more success.

CONSTRUCTION KNOWLEDGE BLOG

October 26, 2010

Shopping for a Smart Phone for Construction?
Filed under: Productivity — Tags: — nedpelger

Since I’ve written the six construction phone apps for iPhones, Blackberries and Androids, I had to get one of each of the phones to test the programs. I already had a Blackberry Storm II, so I got an iPhone for TBW and Android for the boy. If you’re thinking about getting a smart phone and work in construction, you’ll probably appreciate my unbiased opinions.

Androids are amazing. Every aspect of the phone works well, especially the feature that lets you create a WiFi hotspot for your laptop (giving you internet access on your laptop anywhere you have a phone signal). Of course if you don’t use a laptop, this feature won’t seem so cool. The buttons on the Androids make the most sense and the system allows you to do several things at one time.

The iPhones are a marvel of simplicity. If you’re not particularly good with tech devices, it may be the best choice for you. I don’t particularly like the single button, which really limits what you can do with the phone. I tend to look at menus and consider options, which are lacking on the iPhone. So the iPhone works as a good, simple product, but doesn’t give the same flexibility as the Android. Also, the AT&T phone network offers spotty coverage and lackluster service. TBW has to stand in one spot in our house to have service.

Blackberries suck. They work OK most of the time, but simply haven’t kept up with the features and options available on the Android and iPhones. I know that most of us in construction have Blackberries, but the trend indicates that our next phone is likely to be an Android.

An article recently noted that Android is the #1 operating system sold in the last six months. That phenomenal growth comes from the great word-of-mouth that Android users are spreading about their phones.

The current market share has Blackberry with 31%, iPhone 28% and Android 19%, but the chart above shows that those market shares are likely to flipflop. If you use a smart phone, what has your experience been?

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