How to Get All of Your Puzzle Pieces to Fit into One Puzzle

The Subject of Being too Busy is a Broken Record

The term “broken record” describes something that is frequently repeated — it refers to a damaged record that would get stuck and repeat part of a recording over and over again until you moved the record player needle.

This describes the current topic of “busy”.

Every conversation that I currently have with subcontractors, suppliers and customers, starts, ends or is all about this subject. Throughout my career in construction this has been a popular topic, but no more than now. It’s like a broken record.

Construction is where the majority of my conversations happen, but “busy” is everywhere. I’ve had the “busy” conversation with a lot of people in a lot of places, i.e., masterminds, workshops, church, etc.

The “busy” conversation is nothing new.

As a matter of fact, I’ve written about this topic since I’ve been posting blogs. In October of 2015 I wrote about easing the stress of being too busy.

Here is an excerpt of that post –

This morning as I was posting in my journal, I started thinking about all of the things that I didn’t get done yesterday. Then I began to think about how many times I have posted this same thing over and over. It sure seems that I spend way too much time feeling overwhelmed and behind. I really want to get more done!

Then I thought about all of the times that I’ve had this conversation with other people. “How is your day going? Man, I am so far behind I don’t think I will ever get caught up. I sure wish there were more hours in the day.” I have heard these or similar comments more times than I can count.

Our lives can feel like a 20,000-piece jigsaw puzzle was dumped out in front of us with no picture of what it is supposed to look like when it’s done.

So how can we get all of these pieces to fit…or can we? This is the big question. It would be nice to know what the finished puzzle is supposed to look like. This puzzle can be tough and frustrating. I think it is especially difficult for those of us who are ‘recovering perfectionists’. We want all the pieces to fit just right. To know ahead of time exactly where each piece is supposed to go. This particular puzzle, called life, doesn’t work like that.

Here are some reasons we struggle with our puzzle and some ideas to help us get our pieces to fit.

  • We pick up too many pieces by over scheduling. There are so many pieces…Start with the corner pieces. Put in the most important pieces first.
  • The puzzle isn’t going together as fast as we want. Sometimes (most times) things just take longer…do as much planning and preparation as we can before we start, but don’t over plan. Spread the pieces out, find the edge pieces and get started.
  • With so many pieces in front of us we lose our focus. After we have put the edge pieces in place…remember that we can only put one piece in at a time. Concentrate on that one. If it doesn’t fit, then pick up a different piece and focus on it.

Life is a puzzle. What really makes this puzzle fun and exciting is that while we are putting our puzzle together other people are doing the same thing and their puzzle connects to ours.

Taking control of the “busy” requires that we are clear about our mission and only pick up puzzle pieces that belong in our puzzle.

Just like a “broken record” if we don’t want to keep listening to the stuck and repeating recording…we have to move the needle.

Previous “broken record” posts dealing with busy –

How to Get Your Puzzle Pieces to Fit

Riding on a Runaway Train

Flexibly Rigid

Who Should I Blame for Being Too Busy?

Spend Time Wisely, There’s a Limited Amount

Deciding What Should be First on the List

What Makes One Rock More Important Than Another?

What Makes One Thing More Important Than Another?

What Actions Do You Need to Take to Accomplish Your Mission?

How to Watch the Clock

Finding a Balance of Looking to the Future and Being in the Present

Time is the most valuable commodity we have at our discretion. You’ve heard the saying “time is money”. I would argue that time is MORE than money. Money is a form of exchange for a service or product. We have some control over how fast our money goes…not so with time.

There is no limit to money. I know this sounds a little over the top, but as long as money can be printed there’s no limit. Even if we ran out of the resources needed to make money, we could find something to trade or barter with.

There is a limited amount of time.

Time is continually moving. There is no stopping or slowing it to get more done. If we spend a dollar, we can go make two more. Once time is spent…there’s no getting any more.

I never wanted to be a clock watcher.

When I was younger and saw people looking at their watch, I felt they were being selfish. They appeared more concerned about their time than the person(s) they were engaging with. This bothered me.

I then took this perspective too far. I often ran behind because I didn’t want to cut off a person that I was visiting with. (It didn’t help that by nature I’m a talker.) I wanted my customers to feel that they were more than just time blocked out on the calendar or a dollar in the bank.

Watching the clock made me feel selfish.

It made me feel that my schedule was more important than finding out what the customer hoped to accomplish with their project. It put my needs above theirs.

High quality, attention to detail and not being satisfied with mediocrity all take time. By nature, these are a part of who I am. Watching the clock is counter to that. My best work is never accomplished when I cut corners.

The flip side of this is…when I’m late to my next appointment or don’t get that thing done that I promised it is no different. I’m saying to someone else, you’re not as important as what I was doing.

There is a balance to be achieved.

How do we accomplish the things we need/want to? Too often we let others make these decisions for us. It starts with a clear understanding of what our priorities are. What is our purpose? What has God put us here to accomplish? From this we can align our actions with these priorities.

Next comes figuring out how to get control of these actions. This is where action lists, scheduling and calendaring come in. It’s up to you to be intentional with how you spend that limited amount of time that you have. (For more information and tools for scheduling and planning see the list at the end of this post)

As this year comes to an end I’m beginning to think about planning for the new year. What should I do? Where should I spend my time?

It has been said, “You can do anything you want; you just can’t do everything you want.” This perspective is critical to our spending of time. What are we going to spend our time doing? Plan wisely and don’t be afraid to watch the clock.

Align your desires with God’s and be your most productive self.

There’s Enough Time to Do Everything You Should

You Can Do Anything You Want, You Just Can’t Do Everything

There are so many things to do and never enough time to do them all. This a common battle. The problem isn’t time it’s the long list of things we’re attempting to do.

We’ve been given enough time to do everything we are supposed to. God built the world and everything in it in six days. We’ve been given those same six days. Granted, building the world is a lot…we just need to remember that we’re not God.

The key is getting clarity about what we are and aren’t supposed to do.

Deciding what things we’re supposed do is the real fight. Especially for people with a servant’s heart. There are so many important and valuable things that need to be done and we want to do them all.

It’s not our responsibility to do everything.

I struggle with knowing what I should do and what to say no to, but I continually improve. My system for planning and scheduling is huge for helping me with this. Over the past six weeks I’ve written about how I schedule and plan what I will do.

  • How to Get Control of Your Life – There’s no simple, one size fits all, magic app for tracking things and budgeting time. You need to find or design a system that works for you.
  • Writing it Down Makes it More Real – It is easy to find ourselves drifting. We need a clear path to a target. When it is written down, I’m more accountable to myself.
  • How I Use Outlook to be Better Organized – Allotting time to things that are on the list gives a time parameter each task will need. It increases the focus for completing them and gives a visual of the progress.
  • Putting the Right Pieces in the Right Places – Even though multi-tasking has been a popular idea; I would argue that we can’t do focused work on more than one thing at a time. Pick one piece and focus on putting it in place.

The real struggle with scheduling and planning is in prioritizing.

This is the tricky part. What is the most important thing I should do and when? The way I’ve been able to determine this is to ask my CEO (God) and board of directors (the people close to me that I trust). If you will ask, you will get clarity. Satan loves keeping us confused.

The more unclear we are about our direction the less we accomplish.

Clarity is a process, not the magic snap of fingers. Opening our mind to the right directions and taking action moves us toward achieving the things that we were put here for. This is not an easy process, but one that’s worth all the effort required.

You have plenty of time to do everything you’re supposed to do. Not everything you want to do. Having a system for planning and scheduling will make the process easier and relieve some of the pressure.

You’ll Never Get the Things You Want Done…Without Being Reminded

How “Outlook Tasks” Can Help You Accomplish This

Organization can be difficult to achieve. One monkey wrench that regularly gets thrown into the organizational machine is forgetting things. This can be costly when it’s a meeting with a customer or a deadline for a proposal that’s missed.

Too many things bouncing around in our head at one time, makes us more likely to forget things.

Over the past several weeks we’ve discussed the system I use for scheduling my time and organizing my tasks. There were two main focuses.

The reasons for having a system –

The tools I use –

Now we’ll look at the third tool – Outlook Tasks. This is a separate function from the calendar in Outlook. On the surface, using Tasks in Outlook seems redundant to having lists in OneNote.

I shared how I use OneNote for collecting and sharing information. It is great for this. It’s easier to move things around when reviewing and prioritizing lists. Not to mention you can draw, record video, record audio, and a whole lot of other things that you can’t do in Outlook Tasks.

Next was how I used Outlook Calendar to block out and schedule my time. The benefits of a calendar, whether digital or written is allotting time for tasks. One thing written calendars and Tasks in OneNote don’t do is remind you of upcoming appointments and things on the to do list that need done.

Reminders are the game changer.

In Outlook, both calendar events and tasks can have reminders scheduled…there’s some reminders now. As I writing this a reminder alarm sounded and a window popped up on the screen. Now it’s up to me to determine what to do with these reminders.

One is a recurring meeting with myself coming up in 15 minutes (snoozed it until 5 minutes before). Two are action list reminders (snoozed for 15 minutes). Any of these reminders can be snoozed for a specific period of time or dismissed to be rescheduled later.

When I’m in the middle of doing focused work like preparing proposals for construction projects or writing a blog post, etc. It’s easy for me to lose track of time and forget things. Reminders help prevent that.

Outlook Tasks will connect with the other tools in my scheduling system.

All the tools in this system have specific functions that only they serve. At the same time, they all support the other and work together. (There’s the reminder again. Am I going to snooze them again or take a break from writing? I’m going to pause my writing and come back to it. I have another meeting coming up in 30 minutes.)

Here I am, back to writing. I only have a short amount of time to write before I need to go home to watch the Camping World Truck race that’s on this evening. Another thing that’s scheduled on the calendar.

I can set reminders in Outlook Tasks to be one and done or recurring at specific times and days. I can embed links in the tasks directly to action lists in OneNote. This way when a task reminder comes up, I can open it, click on the link and go directly to OneNote to that specific list.

I know all that scheduling and planning can seem overwhelming and it can be. You can decide if or how much scheduling and planning you will do. Not doing anything will leave you drifting through life with no clear destination. Having a system in place with reminders both for prioritizing and allotting time, will help you get things done.

Are you going to be in control of your life or is it going to be in control of you?

Writing It Down Makes It More Real


You’ll Hit What You Aim at Every Time

You need a clear vision of where you want to go, or you will just drift through life going nowhere in particular.

In Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy’s book, Living Forward, they propose a plan for being intentional and stopping the drift. They say drifting usually happens for one or more of the following reasons:

  • We’re unaware – We simply don’t know what’s happening
  • We’re distracted – We aren’t focused on the goals
  • We’re overwhelmed – We take on more than we should
  • We’re deceived – We are often unconscious about our beliefs compared to reality

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Zig Ziglar

The question of how to organize and plan has come up several times over the past several weeks. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I wasn’t aware of how intentional I had become about avoiding the drift in my life.

A couple of weeks ago, I started the discussion about getting control of your life. Then I wrote about one of the tools I use for this. I had planned to go into another tool this week (maybe next week) but have decided instead to discuss more about the importance of intentional organization.

I’d forgotten how frustrating it was when I didn’t have a clear plan for where I wanted to go or how I was going to get there.

Most people don’t go to the level of detail with their scheduling as I do and that’s okay. What I’ve been trying to figure out is why many of these same people are frustrated and feel that their lives are out of control. Through several discussions I concluded all scheduling is basically the same.

The difference is in the level if intentionality. 

In Ray Edward’s podcast about starting an online business this week, he talks about the three things you must do in order to succeed while avoiding stress and overwhelm. These same things must be done to succeed in life as well.

  • Intention – Know what you want, why you want it, and have a plan for getting it.
  • Focus – Identify the essential activities for getting there and schedule them.
  • Margin – Give yourself time for rest, recreation and reflection.

This sounds a lot like how I schedule my life and my days.

There are studies that show when writing goals down they are more likely to be accomplished. The same thing is true when writing things down on task lists and calendars. You must decide what you want and then take the necessary actions if you are to accomplish it.

Writing things down keeps me accountable to myself.

How To Get Control Of Your Life

Budget Your Time…You Have a Limited Amount

For years I have heard people express frustration with organizing and managing their schedules and “to do” lists. For years I was one of those people. These issues are multiplied when running a business.

Not that I have it all figured out but, I’m closer than I’ve ever been.

The question of what the best tool to use to manage scheduling and “to do” lists, has come up a lot lately. Most people are looking for a simple app or tool that will magically do it all.

There is nothing that will miraculously do this for you.

I’ve been refining my scheduling system for decades. Trying different things, starting with paper calendars, notebooks and notes on scrap paper. Now it’s all on my computer. I like my system way better now than before (I still use some paper for quick notes). However, it doesn’t do the work without my involvement.

Here’s the thing, most of us have way more things on our lists than there is time to get them done. Or we forget to do something because it wasn’t written down. Or the paper it was written on got lost in a stack of papers. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and forget or misplace reminders.

Keeping track of things is the most important part of being organized.

We naturally want order in our lives. We want to be in control. The problem is we live in a world of chaos. Organization is a weapon to fight against the chaos. The more organized we are the less chaos there is.

What does organization look like? According to Webster, organization is, “the act or process of organizing or being organized.” Organize is, “to form into a coherent unity or functioning whole, to arrange by systematic planning and united effort.” This sounds good to me.

Having OCD, Organizational Compulsive Disorder, I organize at a level more intense and detailed than most.

My system works for me. This doesn’t mean that everyone’s has to be at this level. Some people feel restricted by a schedule. Just like some people feel that a budget restricts them financially.

I find both to be freeing.

My detailed system allows me to know what to expect. Not to mention it keeps me motivated to get more done. I used to struggle to determine what thing should be done next.

It is a combination of lists and calendars. My “to do” lists are a place to write things down so that they aren’t forgotten. I then prioritize the things that need to be done to reach goals. Each task gets an amount of time and then put on the calendar. The calendar allows me to see the tasks as a block of time and not just an item on a list.

A calendar works like a “budget” for time.

It is easy to let things slide if you aren’t intentional about planning. The most important thing is to know yourself and figure out what works for you.

Next week I will open up my toolbox and show you the tools I use to keep control of my life and minimize the chaos.

How to Be More Intentional About Being on Time to Meetings with Myself




My Time Is Just as Important As Anyone Else’s


Scheduling and planning accurately are a difficult (practically impossible) thing to get right. This includes not keeping appointments with ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I’m much more intentional about being on time to a meeting with someone else…not so much when I’m meeting with me.

We’ve all been given a limited amount of time; we need to spend it wisely!

How we choose to spend our time is going to vary for each of us. What we spend it on is not the issue. The problem is not a lack of time, it’s a lack of control. Why is it that if we have a day full of meetings and appointments we can make it to all of them on time, but if we fill our day with tasks and projects that don’t involve anyone but ourselves we are running late after the first thing?

Here are three major things that can cause schedules to go wrong:

Things take longer than planned – We have all experienced things taking twice as long, or more, to do than we expected. This is called the Planning Fallacy. This is a phenomenon in which predictions about how long something will take to complete is underestimated. Parkinson’s Law is when we underestimate the time needed as a way of accomplishing more. If I think something should take four hours and then tell myself that I can do it in two, I will get it done faster than if I tell myself I have all day, even if it still takes five. We focus more and work harder when there’s a deadline.


Too many things on the list – This is another common problem. Most of us have said yes to too many things. There are so many good things that we need or want to do. The more things we think about the harder it is to focus on one thing. This, like the previous point, pushes us harder to get the things on the list done, even though we know we won’t be able to do them all. Having too many things on the list leads me to the next cause for schedules to go wrong.


Distractions and interruptions – Our busy lives are full of these, whether self-inflicted or from outside sources. In this fast-paced digital age, there has never been more opportunities to be distracted. The previous two things are more internal than this one. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have any control, it just means that it often comes from outside sources. These can play havoc on our schedules if we allow them.

You can choose to manage your time better or not…it’s up to you.


Managing how I spend my time is up to me. If I’m going to manage it better, first I have to decide that’s what I want to do. Second, I need to consider who I am and what works best for me. Third will require developing a system that works for me.

The flexibility of a digital calendar is nice, but I’ve noticed recently that it’s much easier for me to move things back when it’s a meeting with myself rather than someone else.


There’s no perfect system for scheduling and planning, but my time is as valuable as anyone’s. I need to be intentional about how I spend it and be on time to the meetings I’ve scheduled with myself.

It’s up to me!


Links to similar Solutions:

How to Live A Well-Balanced Life

How to Get Your Puzzle Pieces to Fit

How to Achieve Your Desired Life Results



5 Ways to Stop Over Promising and Under Delivering


Asking Questions and Finding Answers to Help You Schedule Better


Things taking longer than we expect them to. This is a topic of way too many conversations. Just in the last few days I’ve had this very discussion, in some form or another, with customers, subcontractors and family members. Not to mention it’s an ongoing dialog I have with myself.

Why is this such a common problem? Is there something wrong with my scheduling system or abilities? Is there a better way to manage my time? Am I trying to do too much? Is it just the way things are? I know this is a lot of questions, but asking questions is the only way to find answers.

I think one reason we don’t ask questions, is the amount of time it takes to find answers. If it isn’t a simple answer that jumps out in front of you, it’s easier to just let things keep going the way they are. I’m behind, I don’t have time to look for answers to questions.

Here are 5 answers that you won’t have to look for:


  • Find the balance of accuracy and urgency

This is a big struggle that I have when scheduling. I know that I’m deadline oriented. If I allow two hours to do something it will most likely take twice that long. If I allow four hours, it reduces the level of urgency and I will procrastinate. Something else will take its place. I’ve figured out that If I schedule myself short on time, I focus better, and the increased urgency will get it done faster. Figuring out your balance of accuracy and urgency can be tricky but is critical.


  • Give as much importance to my schedule with myself as to others

When I put things on the calendar that are for myself, I tend to be more lenient. This is different than when I have a meeting scheduled with someone else. If I am going to honor God and others, I need to also honor myself. This is hard for me but is one of those areas where I need to be more accountable. If I hope to spend my time efficiently, I need to be realistic when scheduling with myself and honor it.



  • Stop trying to do too many things

But there are so many important things that need to be done. If I don’t do them, they won’t get done or they won’t be done right. This tendency of trying to do too many things has always been a characteristic that I have been proud of. This is what movers and shakers do, right. Being a micro-manager doesn’t help either. There are just too many pieces to put together by myself. I need some clarity of focus on what my time is best spent on and stop trying to do everything if I want to be the best steward of my time.


  • Take in to account the number of things out of my control

The bigger the project being scheduled, the more things there are to schedule. One small delay can have a snowball effect by pushing more and more things farther and farther back. There needs to be some margin scheduled in to cover these delays. The difficult part is to not let the margins become areas of wasted time. It is critical to communicate clearly to those involved the importance of being on schedule. I use two different schedules with projects. One with the customer and one with the producers.


  • Plan for unforeseen things that interrupt the plan – 

There are always things that can’t be planned for. It doesn’t matter how well you plan if something breaks down or there’s an accident. The priority and focus can change quickly. This is a thing that is also out of my control. The difference in the two is the frequency and the level of disruption. We can only plan for these things to a certain point. It is more about the awareness that it can happen and being ready to deal with it the best we can when it does.

The key to unlocking the door to better scheduling and planning is self-awareness. It’s about knowing who you are and asking questions. I know that I’m a recovering perfectionist and my level of expectation is high. I know that this makes things take longer. I also know that if I want to build the best business and the best me, I must be willing to ask questions, find answers and put those answers to use. It all comes down to me and my willingness to make the necessary decisions.

What are some answers to scheduling questions that you’ve found?

Don’t Get Snowballed by Poor Planning

It Only Works If You Use It


Here it is the beginning of another year already. It is crazy how fast they go by. I was talking with someone earlier today about how poorly I had done at writing blogs this past year. I told them it had been six months since I last posted. I am going to do better this year. When I looked back I realized it has been almost a year since my last post. So, right then, I started writing this blog. Like I said earlier it’s crazy how fast time goes by.


It seems like human nature is to over schedule. We think we can do one more thing or that that whatever it is we are doing won’t take as long as it does. Then, there we are again, behind schedule. And when you get behind an hour or a day or a week, it is going to take three times longer to get caught back up to where you planned to be. The farther behind you get the bigger the mountain is to dig out off. It’s the snowball effect. The bigger it gets the faster it goes and the bigger it gets. And, before you know it, it’s been a year since the last blog post and you’re buried under a pile of snow.

As we at Timber Creek Construction / Solution Building look forward this year we are setting some big goals. So that we don’t get run over by a giant run away snowball we are implementing some accountability and breaking the big mountain into shovel size pieces. For our planning, we are using Andy Andrews 90-Day Results Plan. We will separate the big goals for the year into smaller 90-day pieces. By doing this and regularly reviewing the progress we will be able to keep the snowball from getting too big and rolling over us.


It is good to plan, even plan big, but one needs to be realistic also. You don’t want to get pulled into the New Year’s resolution tendency of setting a goal and then abandoning it a few weeks or days into the new year. Not planning and having no clear direction will just leave you wondering out in the snow. Snow is a beautiful thing unless you get buried under a huge pile of it because you weren’t prepared. Last year I started the year without having all my plans for the year ready. The goals that weren’t planned for, didn’t get done well and the goals that were planned for were accomplished.


The new year is full of possibilities and opportunities. I hope you are as excited about them as I am. I will do better at blogging this year and look forward to sharing this adventure with you. So, as you go into this new year be ready to keep the snowball as small as you can and have a shovel with you in case you need to do some digging.