3 Tips For Managing Land Surveying Workloads as an Independent Solo Surveyor

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Last June I wrote 5 Tips For Working as an Independent Solo Surveyor where I shared a few tips I've learned about what works best working as an Independent Solo Surveyor.

When considering working as an Independent Solo Surveyor and getting up and running with your robotic land surveying equipment, as an example,  it's very easy to focus too much on the technical challenges, which can hurt your professional land surveying business and professional career.

In this Premium Membership post I share 3 Tips For Managing Land Surveying Workloads as an Independent Solo Surveyor.

A Great Professional Land Surveyor is About More Than Being Technically Great

All too often I come across surveyors at all levels of competencies and experience who equate technical prowess as being the most important facet of their professional/industry existence. However, in my experience, being a great professional land surveyor is more than being technically great. Don't you think so, too?

Sure, technical skill is important and is a part of your professional foundation. However, you really must have a broad skill set - all handled in a professional way - as a true professional land surveyor. This article focuses on the small business owner professional land surveyor working as an Independent Solo Surveyor, but you will also find these management tips useful if you're a survey manager or party chief.

Get Everything Done - Day In and Day Out!

As an Independent Solo Surveyor you are now probably responsible for EVERYTHING! Being responsible for all aspects of your land surveying business is overwhelming if you are not fully prepared. The truth is that you need to get everything done, day in and day out.

Few consider how they will do all the land surveying field work, all the CAD drafting and land surveying computations back at the office, and then also have time to run your business, including: financial planning, billing, and collections.

Seriously, there just aren't enough hours in the day.

I'm sure I'll be expanding on this subject in the future, but here are three of the tips I've learned to manage my workloads while working as an Independent Solo Surveyor.

3 Tips For Managing Land Surveying Workloads as an Independent Solo Surveyor

  1. Track and Plan:  If you try to keep track of your projects and responsibilities in your head you will fail, all the while adding unnecessary stress to your life. The simple act of collecting and writing down everything that you are responsible for is very freeing, as you won't waste energy keeping everything up there in your noggin, and is the first step in implementing a successful management system. Now that you've created a Master List of your tasks and responsibilities, it's important to use that list to plan how you will get things done. Note: A Plan is not carved in stone and is nothing more than a road map to getting from Point A to Point B - Life will interject with its own ideas, so expect a few detours along the way. Finally, you must keep your Master List up to date and routinely re-evaluate and update your plan.
  2. Work Faster: How about that for an oversimplification - or is it? No really, you need to work faster. Yes really, much faster. This is why you invested all that money buying the latest and greatest land surveying equipment and CAD software, isn't it? So, it's important to figure out how to use your tools to get the job done - FASTER. Also, you need to evaluate your existing systems and make improvements to them. It concerns me how many land surveyors are using their advanced robotic total stations and AutoCAD software incorrectly, resulting in lost time and money. It makes no sense to  invest in advanced land surveying equipment and software only to do things as you have always done. Take advantage of the time-savings to put more money in your pocket and to create a little more available time in every day.
  3. Split Your Day: By working faster (see step 2 above) you can find a little extra time daily to devote to other items on you Master Task List. What I've found is that most of my land surveying field work goes faster using a robotic total station even with just one person. Knowing this, and needing to simultaneously complete work in the office (or meet with clients), I use this to my advantage. So, I get a lot of surveying work done quickly and efficiently in the field for part of the day, which leaves me the rest of the day to complete other tasks back at the office. As business starts to pick up because of an improving economy, you simply can't sustain yourself or your business by putting in eight hours of surveying field work followed by four to eight hours of office work each and every day. I know this as a fact, because I've done it before (pre-robotic) and this type of schedule will ultimately ruin your relationships with your spouse and children, ruin your business, and will eventually kill you!

Put another way, you need to find more time to get things done every day. You cannot do that if you are unorganized and are wasting mental energy on trying to keep everything you need to do in your head. Besides, you're likely to drop the ball somewhere along the line resulting in failure. Then, you need to speed up all of your processes so that you can work faster to finish EVERYTHING! And, because you are responsible for a variety of professional tasks ranging from land surveying field work, research, calculations, CAD drafting, business development, billing, and collections, to name a few, you might want to use your process efficiencies to split your day between field and office work.

Here are a few more details:

Track and Plan:

  • You will need to invest a certain amount of time cataloging all your tasks and responsibilities. Don't worry though, this is time well spent and will really improve your well-being and performance.
  • Initially, don't worry about format and place of your Master Task List. Write all your tasks on paper in a notebook or use computer software. Do what works best for you and is workable for future updates. I use Tasks in Google (Google APPS) to keep track of my To Do List, and I've found it very workable and is easily updated.
  • Prioritize and schedule. Put the rubber to the road and schedule when you will do each task. If the task will take less than 2 minutes to carry out, do it right away.
  • Delegate what you can. Even if you are the only employee, there probably are some tasks you can delegate. For instance, you might have requests from clients for something that only wastes your time that those clients can very well do for themselves.
  • Delete what you can. I've never seen a task list that didn't have some items that where either outdated or totally unimportant. If so, then delete and forget about them.
  • Review and update regularly. It feels good to cross things off your To do List, doesn't it? So make that a positive thing to look forward to. Regardless, you need to regularly update your Master Task List adding to it as well as crossing off completed items and revise your game plan. Start of with a daily check to add and review items. Weekly, make adjustments to your plan and gauge your success. Monthly, completely revise and update your list and your plan.

Work Faster:

  • Know and understand all the functions of your land surveying equipment. This may mean that you actually need to read the manuals. There are several functions in my data collector software that I hadn't used before and now are saving me time and making surveying field work easier.
  • You are the weakest link! Technology and equipment is all very fine for increasing productivity (office or field), but if your work is inefficient and subject to mistakes you will still experience failure. Doing things as quick as possible without any mistakes can make a big difference in your work load.
  • Finding ways to eliminate errors and automate tasks using will get the work done faster and better. In the field, find solutions that reduce work and increase precision and accuracy. Using AutoCAD, learn how to automate tasks. In the field, don't jump around between different types of points, which requires changing the description. This takes time, so instead, shoot all the "EP" shots in a row, which reduces user input and lends itself to automated linework. The key here is to THINK! Think and write down YOUR PROCESS for every task. Then, analyze YOUR PROCESS to make it better and faster. Then do.
  • Don't multitask. Sure, it's a juggling act and on some level, as a business person and managing your projects, you need to keep more than one ball up in the air at a time. But, if you don't put your focus on the task you are working on, your work suffers and you actually get less work done. You can check your emails and Facebook later, as well as voicemail. Do one thing at a time and do it well, that's how to increase productivity.

Split Your Day:

  • Scheduling is critical. If you're jumping from task to task without a plan, you won't likely get much accomplished where and when you need to. You will be much more relaxed and in control if you plan out your day. So, the day before, plan and be ready for getting out in the field to knock out 4-6 hours of surveying field work. Then plan on returning to the office, after those "morning" hours of field work, to work on business and office matters. At the end of the day, note your successes, update your Master Task List and plan your tomorrow. Then go home and BE with your family.
  • If you do need to work late, only do so after having a good meal with your family and spending some time with them too. Keep the late night hours to a minimum and only work on what you can carry out with extraordinary productivity. Otherwise, it might be best to just move your schedule ahead a little to get that done on another day.
  • If the weather won't cooperate,  then make the weather work for you. Rainy days are great for getting research and office work done. Sure, it's not easy to predict what the weather is going to do so that you know when you can do research or to stay in the office, but when the rain comes, jump into "rainy day mode" and jolt the research and office productivity levels.
  • Lump appointments together on the same day, back to back. This helps you in two ways: 1. You can get them over with all at once, instead of breaking up multiple days, and 2. This gives you the freedom to not get "stuck" too long in any one meeting. All you need to say, is "I'm sorry, but I have another appointment at 1", and this will keep the first meeting from getting out of hand, time wise. Just factor in travel and parking time so that you have enough time between appointments. If at the office, having the next client show up for the next appointment will also help the first client to understand that the meeting is over.

I hope that this article is useful to you, whether you are thinking about going "Solo" or have struggled with successfully implementing the Independent Solo Surveyor model. If you need more help, you can always work with me to improve your professional practice. You may be interested in working with me in the following ways:

I would be very interested to hear what is working (or not) from other independent solo surveyors. Leave a comment or drop me a note if you have anything to share about working as an Independent Solo Surveyor, or are thinking about becoming an Independent Solo Surveyor.

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Eric D. Colburn, PLS, "The Geo-Business Innovator", helps geo-professionals improve through innovative solutions, mastery of marketing and business growth strategies, and coaching/training. Eric is a successful, serial entrepreneur, podcaster, industry writer, product development consultant, and RI licensed professional land surveyor.

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One comment on “3 Tips For Managing Land Surveying Workloads as an Independent Solo Surveyor
  1. Kyler Brown says:

    I really appreciated this post, especially since I’m considering becoming a land surveyor. I liked your advice about tracking and planning. I’ve been in the habit before of trying to keep a mental schedule, but I’ve seen that writing things down is always more effective for scheduling and planning. Thanks for sharing this.

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