Tools to Stay on Top of the ‘To-do’ List (Part 1)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“A laundry/linen manager’s ‘to-do’ list is seemingly never-ending. How can busy laundry/linen managers keep track of the tasks they have to accomplish in a day, and what tools can help them?”

Healthcare Laundry: Charles Loelius, Cleantex, Irvington, N.J.

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Charles Loelius

Charles Loelius

If you want something done, give it to a busy person. This adage has proven to be true time after time. How can a busy person continue to handle more and more responsibility while continuing to thrive? Here are some suggestions:

Learn to Juggle—How does a juggler manage to keep 3-4-5 balls in the air without dropping them? Coordination and focus. Coordinate and prioritize your activities. Focus on the most important, solve it, and move on to the next most important.

Write it Down—I pride myself on my memory, but I still carry my pocket notepad to write things down so that later, I can scratch them off. Instant gratification and a sense of accomplishment serve as a motivational tool.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate—I am most fortunate to have a staff that allows me the opportunity to delegate tasks to the personnel best equipped to complete them.

Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up—While your staff may be adept at handling what is delegated, they may not share your enthusiasm in getting the task completed when you need it.

Eliminate Trivialities—Focus on the important stuff.

Have Faith—Trust the talented staff you hired to do the jobs you hired them to do.

Have Patience—How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. No matter how daunting any task may appear, it can be handled by taking it one step at a time.

Move Quickly—High-energy people have high energy, and high-energy people get things done.

Get Some Sleep—Your brain is a muscle and, like any other muscle, responds best with rest.

Chemicals Supply: David Barbe, U.N.X. Inc., Greenville, N.C.

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David Barbe

David Barbe

An oft-repeated phrase of a former boss: Routine things should be handled routinely.

First, surround yourself with capable people. Hire and promote those who can understand your organization’s priorities and make rational decisions responsibly. Don’t be afraid to try people in positions and move them around based on their performance.

Second, train them to deal with everyday problems themselves. Be sure they understand how your operation works. Be constructive in your criticism and try to make it more “guidance” than criticism. Praise good work and give credit where it is due. Make clear what’s expected of everyone.

Third, empower key employees to make decisions when you are satisfied with their knowledge and their understanding of your goals. Now, don’t micromanage the details. Let your team leaders do their jobs without you breathing down their necks. Only step in when it’s critical.

These steps should help unload distractions and small problems so you can focus on the big things. 

Now, organize yourself. Whether it’s a whiteboard in your office, a “things-to-do” list on your PC or phone, a yellow pad on your desk, whatever you prefer, get organized.

One colleague says that he likes to make a written list at the end of the day of the things that need to be done the following day. This way, when you walk in the door, your prioritization is already done.

Each day can bring a new problem that causes you to change priorities, but when you walk into work in the morning, distractions will make you forget things. A list helps keep you centered. This list can be in a notebook to document goals and accomplishments. My friend recommends physically writing this list instead of typing it. Computers and typing have become awfully routine.  Electronics are not always the answer; they can create problems. 

I leave notes of critical things to accomplish first thing propped up on my PC keyboard. That way, I don’t get bogged down answering e-mails and get off on a tangent, rather than finish more important things. I try to take care of these things before I even turn on my computer.

Consider having a five- to 10-minute meeting each day after the day or shift has ended to talk with your leadership team. Go over what worked well today, and what didn’t. Discuss what goals and tasks were accomplished and what needs to be done tomorrow. Keep a log of your meeting as a short list of “things to do.” Copy it and hand it to those who need to do specific things.

There’s no magic organization method, or everyone would be doing the same thing. Different things work for different situations and people. Don’t be afraid to trash one technique and try something else.

Textiles: Steve Kallenbach, ADI American Dawn, Los Angeles, Calif.

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Steve Kallenbach

Steve Kallenbach

First, let’s look at the basic jobs of a laundry manager, and then create a daily checklist to ensure that the job gets done. 

Laundry managers are responsible for people and their safety, culture and morale, labor efficiency, textile acquisition, textile control, plant asset maintenance, production flow, load fulfillment, product quality, customer retention, growth and profitability. While laundry managers cannot be everywhere at once, one thing is certain: They cannot be successful sitting in an office a majority of the time. They also cannot be efficient chasing all the little issues that come up daily.

Successful managers are successful because they are constantly walking around their operation—inspecting what they expect, and staying in front of their people—as their accessible leader.

Let’s walk through a day in the life, and the elements of a good daily checklist. First, every morning, walk through the entire operation and talk to people. Know them personally. Cheerlead. Be accessible. Yes, it’s vulnerable, but it creates a culture that says you “care,” and that brings dedication to efficiency.

During this walk-through, check the housekeeping of the operation, both at the workstations and even in the plant restrooms.

Make it your goal to simply say “Hi” to every single employee. It builds morale. As you are talking with people, watch them work. Check the safety of their operations and the equipment they are using or are near.

Each department should have daily efficiency/output by operator. This gives you another subject to talk about, if appropriate or needed. 

When employees are making the mark on production efficiency, your daily rounds can be an opportunity to coach or cheerlead. 

This walk-around also provides an opportunity to see, firsthand, the quality of finished product being fulfilled. The manager can decide, again firsthand, if the product quality meets the standard and the expectations of the customer. 

As the walk-through proceeds, the manager “checks” the load fulfillment status for that day, and two days forward. Are the garments being finished on time according to goal? Will the flat goods be in place to fill loads today, tomorrow and the next day? At that point, the manager should know which “shortages” might occur in the supply line. 

As he or she addresses textile replenishment orders, this is the time to look at the books and see if loss charges pay for the missing goods. If they do, all is well. If not, there is a textile control issue. It’s time to look at ragouts, soil counting, product security, loss/damage charges, etc. The idea of this check is to ascertain if the operation has a “black hole” of textile loss—then hunt it down and correct it. 

As the manager continues through the operation on his or her daily walk-through, equipment maintenance is now the target. Talk directly to the plant maintenance engineer and go over the entire plant equipment checklist as to the scheduled maintenance, repairs and any other issues, especially related to safety. Yes, daily. 

Earlier, I mentioned key checklist points. It may take laundry managers several daily walk-throughs to accomplish checking everything on this checklist. Consistently done, managers will ensure growth through efficiency and quality, and profitability will follow. 

The hands-on checklist daily walk-through must become habit. Too many times, laundry managers find themselves“chasing” issues all day long. By dedicating time to daily checks, managers can have time to deal with other issues, knowing that their operation is running smoothly.

Check back tomorrow for thoughts from hotel/motel/resort laundry and uniforms/workwear manufacturing experts.

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