My Top 11 Time Concepts
I have studied time management a lot over my career. I needed to. I can slack off with best of them. I’m a natural.
So every idea that came along was put to the test. Most didn’t change my results, but these few are the ones I got some value from. I still rely on them when things seem to be ‘drifting’.
In no particular order, here are the time management concepts that work for me. BTW you can’t do all of them all the time, at least I can’t.
Every architect needs to be productive, especially small firm architects. Over timeframes like a week, a month, a year, you need to produce work that you can bill for. It is a financial necessity. You need to know what percent of the time you need to be billable. If you disregard this concept, nothing else that you do will make up for it.
(`That is why I built an automatic Billing Ratio feature into my free Timekeeping App, MyCorbu. ` )
If you find that getting the productive work done leads to longer days, you are doing it wrong. Eliminating or delegating the non-productive stuff is the key.
You can read more about how to determine your billing ratio here.
Meeting Design Budgets is a critical skill because your ability to meet a Design Budget determines your value. If you produce a piece of work in less time than was budgeted, you are responsible for the extra profit that is earned.
If you can do this consistently, you deserve a raise. And you have the facts to make the case.
On top of everything else you need to know as an architect, you need to know how to get work done quickly. The easiest way to do this is to develop a system that guides you through the work process so that you eliminate changes. There is a logical sequence in which to do things. Stick to your sequence. Clients, bosses, and design team members will suggest a different path that is at odds with what you need to do. Resist. It is easier to resist if you have a clear sequence that makes sense.
Are you working on the right things?
It doesn’t matter how fast you can develop a room finish schedule if it is the wrong time for doing the room finish schedule.
Focus on priorities - what needs to come next.
The 3 Thing Focus
Every day pick the three things that you need to do. Then do them before you are sidetracked.
The key to making this list and sticking to it is to pick tasks that are important to be done now AND small enough that you can accomplish all three of them. If tasks keep sliding to the next day because they are too big, it dilutes your focus. It also means you aren’t really thinking through exactly what your time today should accomplish.
WRONG - “Write specs.” ❌
CORRECT - “Write masonry spec.” ✔️
No one can do it all themselves.
When you delegate, you expand your capabilities.
Unless you are the youngest intern, there is usually someone to delegate your low importance tasks to.
Delegating is a big topic. Take a look at this post to dig in a bit more.
WORK VS FREE TIME
Are you spending too much time on work vs time off?
I once attended quarterly workshops in the Strategic Coach program. The purpose of the program is to teach the strategy of developing a business that runs itself so you can concentrate on what only you can uniquely contribute. One of the side benefits is to create more ‘Free Days’ for you - doing the things that makes life a joy.
The first goal was to have 110 Free Days a year. BTW a Free Day is defined as 24 hours during which you do absolutely nothing business-related. 110 represents 52 weekends and six holidays. Next you add some vacation days.
I highly recommend getting your career confined to as few days a month as you can manage, always improving.
Spending endless hours working is indicative of losing out - not winning.
SYSTEMS vs GOALS
We are all supposed to have goals. Income. House. Car. Recognition. Assets. Ideal weight. Friends. Etc.
I think it works better to have systems and habits that support your constant improvement in all those areas.
It is a different mindset. Systems provide lots of small improvements and setbacks along the journey of getting ahead. Goals can be celebrated when achieved or cast a gloomy shadow when not.
Here is more about systems vs goals.
Are you in control of your time?
If you don’t constantly work at it, the world will be in control of your time. Phone calls. Email. Texts. Drop ins.
You can’t get anywhere if you can’t say ‘No’.
You decide when to return phone calls. You decide when (or if) to respond to email and texts. You decide what you are willing to do about other people’s “emergencies”.
TO-DOs vs SCHEDULING
I have been using TO-DO lists for 50 years. I have probably used over 20 TO-DO systems. Clearly there has always been room for improvement.
Recently I read an article about how really productive people don’t use TO-DO lists. They use something else.
That something else is a calendar. They plan their day to accomplish the most important stuff. (See EFFECTIVENESS)
The best app that I’ve found to do this is ‘Sorted’.
Give scheduling a try, it really is a better method.
SHARPENING THE SAW
Are you taking time to build a skill stack?
It will take you years to master being an architect. No one is born great at architecture. Along the way keep learning new stuff. Here’s the stuff you need to be conversant with (above).
Specialize if you want, but I think the better strategy in our changing world is to be well rounded.
BUNK OFF DAYS
Everyone has days when nothing worthwhile is going to happen. It just isn’t. Biorhythms or something is all screwed up.
I say don’t even try. Bunk off.
Go do something that you want to do. A walk in the woods. A little retail therapy. Read a book. Go to the movies.
Don’t just sit around being miserable, or worse, disrupt other people.
I find it rare that I can jump right into a task. First I need coffee; or my desk needs straightening; or maybe some research needs doing. I am sure you can relate.
It turns out that what feels like procrastination is a phenomenon called set-up time. You are 'getting started to get started'.
When you notice this is happening, go with the flow.
But the next time that task comes around, find a baby step or two that you can do to help you ease into the task.
I absolutely cannot write specifications until I have my process all planned out with special scorecards of what remains, what’s done, color-coded lists of what’s required, etc.
That’s my set-up time. I’m ‘getting my head in the game’. So I start pecking away at this stuff a couple of days before I really plan to start writing specs.
I have written a spec in two long days (65 sections) when I have been ‘set-up’ properly.