If you had to choose one word to describe a typical architect, what would it be?
For many people, this word would be - creative. In order to design buildings, arrange space, think in 3D, combine the purpose with esthetics, and stay current in the way you do all of this, it takes a highly creative mind indeed.
Creativity, however, is rarely associated with order, it’s always messy desks and hectic schedules. While that is admittedly a bit of an overgeneralization, this isn’t: the job of an architect involves a lot of juggling between clients, contractors, and, well, the actual work. It takes so little to turn a working week into a 70-hour marathon of projects, sketches, meetings and take-away meals.
Having this in mind, it becomes obvious that finding a perfect time management strategy isn’t easy. And it’s even more difficult to stick to it. If you’re struggling with time management, you’re definitely not alone. But overcoming this problem is the only way to rein in your creatively hectic mind and get yourself to actually do your job efficiently and meet the deadlines you have.
Doing this takes both strategic planning and persistence in execution. The second rests entirely on you, but the good news is - we’re offering some help with the first. This article will give you 7 actionable tips on how to get better at this intangible yet ever-so-important thing we call time management, from how to plan your time and break project up into chunks all the way to how to find and use the best time management apps such as project or time tracking software.
So, without further ado:
1. Analyze How You Spend Your Time
Let’s say you want to lose some weight. You can go on a diet, exercise and take all the necessary steps, but unless you’ve weighed yourself before all that, there’s no way to know whether any of it is working and how well. The same goes for time management. You need to measure it so that you can improve it. Or at least to know whether you’ve improved it.
So, this is your first step - track the time you spend on different activities in order to find out how you spend your time, where it gets most wasted and where you can improve. You might choose to do this manually, but there are many apps these days that can make this process easier. Time tracking software is one of the best time management apps that will tell you exactly how much time you spend on different tasks and what your biggest distractions are. You’ll have to manually enter your offline activities, but it’s still a very good start that won’t take much time but will give you so much useful information.
The important thing to do is track everything - billable and non-billable hours, productive and unproductive activities, sketching, 3D rendering, meeting with clients, scheduling contractors, scrolling through your Instagram feed, everything. We know, it sounds like a drag, but it’s the only way to get the most complete picture of your current performance. It’s also not a one-time thing, but needs to be ongoing or at least recurring. We never said it was going to be easy.
2. Use Technology
There’s an app for nearly everything these days. Time tracking, project management and planning are all extremely competitive markets, so you’re bound to find something that suits your needs. Don’t feel like it’s beneath you to use it.
That said, let’s see what the most helpful time management software for architects might be:
The first one is project management software. It allows you to track your tasks, group them, assign them to your colleagues, follow which ones are completed, track deadlines and much more. When you have all of this in one place, it’s easier to have an overview of what needs to be done and when, which makes organizing your time a bit more manageable.
The second group of software are time trackers - probably the best time management apps that can help architects take control of their time on projects. Some of these have the ability to automatically track time on tasks that are done using some BIM tools, so you’ll have accurate performance data with zero effort. The bonus points for work time tracking software is the fact that they’re perfect if you want to provide proof of work to your clients and track your billable hours so that you can make sure you’re paid fairly.
If you are using pen and paper on the construction site to afterwards create your field reports in Word or Excel, you might want to check out this third group of software that can help you save hours of work each week. Using a tool for the creation of field reports, to do lists and punch lists enables you to create professional reports in a split second. A huge timesaver!
3. Carefully Plan Your Time
This is a bit of an obvious tip, but how you do it is what really counts. We won’t be able to give you any detailed ideas on what your daily planner should look like because it depends on your workload, productivity flow, etc. But we can give you some general tips.
First of all, don’t rely on doing the creative part of your job when the inspiration comes. Instead, force yourself to get into this state of mind by making it a part of your routine. Allocate a time slot for creativity and thinking, and stick to it every day.
Apart from this, you should also plan all the other tasks, from responding to emails, to making floor plans, to having a coffee break. If you’ve tried some of the best time management apps, you might have run into productivity timelines feature, which shows when you’re most productive. For the majority of people, this is at the beginning of the working day, so a good idea would be to assign all the most important tasks for that time, and leave menial, low-effort or unimportant tasks for later in the day when you start getting tired.
4. Set Micro-Targets
Designing a residential building might be the ultimate outcome that your client wants, but it’s hardly something that should be a single point on your to-do list. Huge tasks like this one tend to take many days to complete, which is discouraging and may prompt you to procrastinate. In order to avoid this, you should aim to break every project down into smaller, more manageable tasks that you’ll want to get right on to, and assign a realistic deadline for each of them. Then you can use some of the best time management apps to track your progress and make sure you’re on schedule.
5. Limit Distractions
Increasing the number of billable hours so that you can stay profitable is one of the most common problems for architects. A huge part of solving it is getting rid of distractions. First, use your time tracker to pinpoint which activities waste the most time. This is as easy as looking at a report - just one more reason why we keep referring to it as one of the best time management apps. Once you know what you need to cut down on, do everything to keep yourself away from it. Turn off your phone, log out of Facebook, forget about your favorite blog or news source. You can catch up on all of this during your assigned break times, but when it’s time to work, try to focus all your attention on that.
6. Create Work-Life Balance
Architects are widely known as one of those professionals that tend to put in long hours. However, this is extremely counterproductive in the long term as it will inevitably lead to burnout. Organizing your regular 8 working hours well enough is going to leave much more room for the ‘life’ part of work-life balance. Exercise, travel, spend time with family and friends, enjoy your hobbies, and you’ll see that you’ll have more energy for work.
If you run a company or lead a team, it’s even more important to do this as it will set an example to your employees that they can have free time too and that they don’t have to dedicate every waking hour to their job.
7. Accept the Fact That You Won’t Manage to Do Everything
One last tip on our list of time management advice is to realize that you’re going to fail to do a thing or two every now and then. You won’t answer every email, you won’t oversee every construction. The sooner you accept this fact, the less stressed out you’re going to be when it first happens. This is one more reason to assign the most crucial tasks for the the time of the day when you’re most productive - that way you’re sure that you’ll manage to do them.
For architects, there are always too few hours in a day. But following these seven tips will get you to be better at time management and close this gap between the amount of work and the amount of time you have. With just a little persistence and discipline, there’s nothing you won’t manage to do.