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.
As designers we aren't always comfortable on the site, observing what’s going on.
But there are good reasons to do it anyway.
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:
It has been a while since I reviewed the apps that I use the most. My tools have changed a little, too, but just the model number. My phone, however, keeps growing in its percentage of my usage while my Mac is only used once or twice a week. My tools are an iPhone 7 (124GB), an iPad Pro (9.75 x 124GB x Apple Pen), and a 2014 MacBook Pro.
The apps I use have changed and are mostly responsible for my greater dependence on the iPhone.
I don't remember how I heard about Stu Rose, but everything I know about sales is due to his coaching and the technique he calls the Mandeville process. Stu has a consulting firm called Professional Development Resources, Inc. Its website is www.pdrinfo.com. I attended a couple of workshops and brought him to the firm for a day of training. It was worth every penny.
I suspect that your experience is similar to mine. Clients never do their homework. In fact they rarely realize they they have homework.
After they hire you they just wait for you to tell them what they need. As far as budget they remember a friend telling them to count on $60/SF. Timeline? "Six months is how long it took to build my house."
So if your experience is similar to mine, no planning has been done before you were hired to design their project.
I have been using this free graphics tool for three years. Canva is a graphic design program that anyone can use. It is drop-dead easy. Check it out here.
Canva has proven itself to be so helpful that I recently started using the Canva For Work version that has a few bells and whistles I like. $12.95 a month saves me at least an hour a month, but you won't need that. Canva is free and really powerful.
Forget what you think a blog is. This one (that you are looking at) is not what I'm talking about. Your Blog is much different.
Let me explain...
I got the opportunity to design some school buildings right out of college. They were fairly large projects taking six months to a year for the design phases. There was lots of time to recover from missteps. After a couple of these I got an admin building for a small school district. By comparison this was a three-bedroom house in scale. Before I had a handle on what the project would entail, I started focusing on the entrance and how I wanted that to work. After a day or two, the question came. "What the hell are you doing?" I explained about the importance (to me) of the entrance. "Do you even know if this is going to be 1-story or two? Does it fit the site?"
I think paying by salary, rather than by wages, is nothing more than a convenience.
What’s more, I think it is unfair - to somebody.
The first time I designed a building with two levels, the boss told me to make the floor-to-floor height as tight as possible because that would keep the exteior wall cost as low as possible. I did it.
My main recollection of the construction of that building was the constant phone calls and trips to the site to explain how to run the ducts, conduits, and place the lights so everything would fit. I came to the conclusion that the boss may have been focused on the wrong issue.
Eventually I came to this Rule Of Thumb that I am going to share with you. But I always gave the floor-to-floor height more thought than on that first project.
I once wasted a day trying to lay out a building and parking on a site. It couldn't be done. The building footprint, plus parking, plus zoning setbacks equalled 92% of the area of the site. Tight, but do-able you are thinking; just get creative.
... Did I mention that the shape of the site had an offset that prevented an efficient parking layout? Some layouts came so close to working that I was sure there was a solution. Nope, the math wouldn't give.
If only I had worked the math first, I would have spent most of that day looking at alternatives like partial two-story, or a full two-story building, or simply explaining that we were wasting our time on this site.
I have disappointed myself for years by setting goals. Start with Lent. New Years Resolutions. The bigger the better we are told - BHAGs Big Hairy Ass Goals (A is supposedly for 'Audacious', but we know better.)
Dilbert helped me see the light.
I've jumped the gun.
MyCorbu goes live as of now.
Click 'Explore MyCorbu' on the menu bar.
A fellow architect, Mark R. LePage, has been following my journey with MyCorbu, the free timekeeping app. Mark has a podcast on his website, EntreArchitect. Episode #164 features my interview with Mark that took place on March 22, 2017. Use this link to visit that episode or click the image above.
Usually I am not keen on collecting historical data, especially financial data. But this is a little different because of how the data can give you a glimpse of the future.
That is pretty handy.
Profit planning wasn’t a concept I was familiar with. I distinctly remember our first profit and not knowing what to do with it. I didn't have a plan. I didn't even know I needed one. That’s probably one of the best problems to have. I don’t remember what I decided to do, but I know that was the start of many efforts to come to grips with profit planning in case the miracle happened again. I can’t claim to be an expert on the topic of ’Profit Planning’, but here are my thoughts.
Unique Methods is a concept that I learned from The Strategic Coach, Dan Sullivan. Everyone has processes that are unique to them. No two people go about design exactly the same, for instance. There are three main benefits to identifying your unique methods.
Taken together these three benefits add value to your firm by making your successes repeatable on every project.
How often do you complete your timesheet?
I personally have used twice-monthly, weekly, and daily timesheets. You are probably different than me; but when I filled out my timesheet it usually went something like this ...
Which would you rather have? Spectacularly detailed accounting records or a stream of desirable projects?
Which do you spend more hours per month developing?
Which adds more value?
Whenever the economy tanks, I get really interested in cash flow. It's a habit that I try to hang onto when things are going well, too, because you can run out of money any time. But there is something about impending doom that gets your attention. Most of the guidance you can find on cash flow is geared to 'small businesses', less than 5,000 employees! This isn't very helpful.
In a nutshell cash flow is predicting your cash-basis profit or loss. It is the nature of predictions to be wrong almost all the time. So a cash flow projection isn't reality, but you want to get close enough that there aren't any devastating surprises.
This simple spreadsheet below is my attempt to get a view of the income side of the cash flow projection. The idea is to quickly allocate your fee for a project over time so you can compare it to the other ingredient - an expense projection.
This is what I have learned about working with Building Committees. First, make no mistake, Building Committees are very different.
I was assimilated by the Apple empire quite some time ago. I know I am not alone. This post is for you fellow ‘assimilatees’.
MyCorbu entering Beta Testing this week is pretty big news, but it's not the Big News...