I am a bit of a self-help junkie. Lord knows I need it. My first architect-boss informed me that I might make a better monk than an architect. I never listen.
During my self-help bingeing years, I probably consumed two dozen books that tried to tell me how to manage time. Very little of that wisdom stuck. The real help came from the authors who talked more about goals and priorities than time-management. Folks like Steven Covey, and Dan Sullivan of The Strategic Coach. But once you set goals for yourself, how do you actually get there?
The best system I have found is 'The Three Things'. I don't know where it originates, but at least once a year I read an article that promotes the idea.
Priorities Are Good
Here is a general rule of thumb for setting priorities when you are working on a project. I find that it is the best way to move a project ahead effectively during the design phases. It is ideal to tackle design issues in this order:
I’ve been playing around with the idea of developing my Trello Project Management process. The concept is to set up a master checklist of tasks that every project uses. For each of your projects, copy the master, modify for unique circumstances, and use it to assign work and track progress. So far this is what it looks like. I have subdivided each phase into major tasks that parallel types of work or sheet contents, and it also follows assembly divisions (here's why).
One of the cool things that I recently discovered about the idea is that the project tasks that you are assigned can be tracked using Harvest’s integration with Trello, which adds your time to your Harvest time sheet.
Here’s what that would look like.
You have probably heard it before, and it is true. You need to fill out, and submit, time sheets daily. Why? I suspect that you know, but I'll recap for you.
Some Random Thoughts On Time Management:
THE WORK DAY
The 8-5 work day is quickly becoming an anachronism. It is still meaningful for a lot of workers, but not for knowledge workers, designers for instance. Being at the office is only good for making it look like something is getting done. When you factor in all the gossip, 'doing office stuff', interruptions, 'having a meeting' events and times when you really don't feel like working, the typical work day is maybe 5 hours of actual work. Maybe.
I think it would be more adult-like for everyone to work 35 productive hours a week when and where they want to work them.
Compensatory Time is a tool for recognizing and documenting actual hours worked. If the goal is 35 hours of productive work a week, and you actually worked 30 or 40 hours, then the 5 hour difference is tracked as a running balance. Periodically you evaluate whether any action should be taken. A big balance might merit a bonus. A deficit might require a conversation, or it might show that the work is getting done just fine without all the hours. It is basically a salary tool to make sure neither party is being taken advantage of.
OFFICE HOURS / BEING AT THE OFFICE
The reality is that knowledge workers don't have many reasons to be at the office. Office hours let the letter carrier and sales reps know when they can expect to find someone in the office. Everyone else communicates by phone or email. So set the goal of manning the office from 10 AM to 3 PM. Post a sign. Coordinate schedules to meet the 10 - 3 goal; and let everyone work at the office when they want to.
SCHOOL HABITS / OUTGROW OR HONOR?
I know I taught myself some lousy time-management habits when I was in school. I wouldn't be surprised if you did, too. If those habits don't work for you, by all means change them. But if those habits represent who you are and how you deal with time, then I think it is alright to decide to honor the habits and not change. I promised myself that when I turned 40 - "no more all-nighters". My last all-nighter was when I was 52.
MEETINGS / STANDING MEETINGS
Meetings are the biggest time-wasting invention of all time. I have caused at least a few man-years of wasted time with my meetings. Standing meetings should be outlawed. Standing meetings always degenerate into a waste of time. An email is usually more than adequate. When it is easier to call a meeting than to write the email, you are really out of control. Always have a unique agenda to make sure you know what you want to accomplish. Don't copy the agenda from the last meeting. Start from scratch. If the purpose of the meeting is to make comments, send an email. If you want input, send an email. If you want a decision, send out a poll. Just make sure you need to meet to get the result that you need.
EFFICIENCY VS EFFECTIVENESS
Efficiency and effectiveness are not the same thing. You want effectiveness every time. Some people can get tons of stuff done every day. They burn through the mail, the email, setting up meetings, making decisions, completing assignments. It is possible that they were 100% efficient in the use of their time. If none of this work led to accomplishing their top priorities, then they were 0% effective. Racing to the finish line only counts if you are in the right race.
The best technique that I have found for staying effective is the 3 Daily Goals. End each day by evaluating what you accomplished toward your 3 Daily Goals. Then write down the 3 Daily Goals you want to accomplish the next day to take you closer to meeting your top priorities. During the day, check the list every hour or so. Get back on track if needed.
I can't tell you what your priorities should be, but I can tell you how to prioritize your design work.
If you are keeping your billable time in a spreadsheet, or, god forbid, a paper form; I found a really nice alternative, OfficeTime
Although there is a one-time cost of $47 for a Mac or Windows desktop version, you will certainly make that up by capturing all your time more easily. This is especially true if you also use the $8 iOS app so you can log your billable time anywhere.
The iOS apps synch with the desktop app by bluetooth. Once you turn it on, it just happens when the apps and desktop versions are open and nearby. I use an iPhone, iPad and the desktop and there has never been a hiccup.
The app is clean and simple with enough tools to do what you need by using the Timesheet, Project, Categories and Reports screens.
The main data entry is by adding or editing a session or expense. A Session is a work session in which you select the project and record the date, start time, time duration of the work session, and the category you want to assign the time to. If needed the session can be resumed later in the day rather than have two similar entries. The app’s settings let you use the last session’s info to avoid repetitive data entry. You can also add a note to each entry to describe the work you did.
OfficeTime works perfectly for me. I have been using a time-keeping system that is part of the accounting system that I subscribe to. I was in the market for a cheaper solution. I found a free accounting system, Wave; but there is no time-keeping and the invoicing is clumsy. That's where OfficeTime comes in. For a one-time charge that is a 75% reduction in my annual cost, I will have my needs covered. And no monthly fee. I think that for small design teams OfficeTime is a home run. Try it out, there is a 21 day trial of the complete desktop version and free, but limited, iOS apps. Constant logging of time is the only way to go. OfficeTime makes it easy.
If you do a good job of Construction Administration [CA], you, the architect, will lose money - guaranteed.
The main reason is that contractors are mendacious and/or incompetent.
This hasn't always been the case. Prior to 1980, the superintendents and project managers in modest sized construction outfits were often more experienced than the architectural staff and could be counted on to do it right.
The only place I find that type of person these days and for the past two decades is in a construction management firm that negotiates, not bids, its work. Many developers have similar capabilities. If your contractor came to you by way of a public or open bidding process, you should expect the worst. You won't be disappointed.
If you are a capable architect, this is an aggravation but mostly it is a financial problem. The reason is that you will burn through your fee at two to three times the rate that the standard AIA contract anticipates. If you choose not to put out the extra effort, you risk an unhappy client and additional liability. Even if your documents are air-tight, you can find yourself being sued. You probably won't have a judgement against you, but you will use up your professional liability insurance deductible and plenty more before you are able to make your case.
It is way better to do an outstanding job of CA. And get paid for it if at all possible by setting a limit on the number of hours that CA includes. After all you do not have controll over this part of the project. The downloadable file was prepared to make our case to a client years ago. We still refer to and paraphrase it in our proposals and contracts.
Here is a listing of some of the issues that you can expect from the low bidder.
Bear in mind that you will still be certifying pay requests, reviewing test reports, issuing the Certificate of Substantial Completion, documenting Closeout and perhaps reporting to your owner's board.
We discovered what was happening only after years of losing money on CA. You don't want to do that.
SINCE THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED a lot has changed. So it's time for an update.
Finding information on Architekwiki can be done in two ways.
The first way is by using the Google site search widget to filter the articles based on your key word(s).
The second way is by using the categories of the blog in question to filter the articles. We will address them one at a time. [Footnote: from time to time duplicates show up in the lists of categories for unknown reasons. I attempt to eliminate them.]
For the WIKI page there are 20 categories, listed below. Every article is tagged with one of the first four categories and also with one or more of the other 16 categories. (You will note the actual category list are in alphabetical order.)
WIKI categories and a brief description of their intended content.
For the DETAILS page there are 14 categories, each represents a category in the UNIFORMAT II system. This article will give you more information about UNIFORMAT. The one exception is Proj Dwgs, which is used to tag articles about an entire project.
For the BLOG page there are 6 categories as follows. Others may be added from time to time.
Updated: September 28, 2013