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Time Management Tips
For Architects & Construction Design Offices

Complex architect projects demand both strong creativity and management skills. And such combo is hard to achieve. People expect you to come up with a really elegant design solution but they also expect you to do it in time, deal with all their small requests and adjustments, and stay on the same page with your team. All-night work sessions and sprints to fulfil purpose on time are no stranger to any architect or engineer. At the same time there are few simple time management techniques that will help you better structure your day, reduce the level of stress, and focus on the creative part of your work and relationships with clients instead of burning deadlines. Why not try some of them this week and see the difference in your work?

1. Eliminate all distractions for creative work

Creative process is often connected with the special flow state that is easily lost when interrupted. You probably know very well that when you work on a complex architect problem, you spend at least first 15 minutes diving into the context of work. Then your brain starts processing different options, and truly creative solutions don’t come up until at least the first hour. Sometimes, it may even take few days or weeks of “background” thinking to invent something that makes a difference.

That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to keep all distractions away from your workplace when you’re in the creative phase of work. Mark several hours in your daily schedule when you can’t be disturbed. Usually early morning works great as your colleagues and clients normally have less requests this part of the day. If they do, give them a notice in advance that you’ll get back to them after some hour. Don’t pick up your phone unless this is a real emergency. Not to mention checking your email, social networks, and news sites. Stay focused on your main priority, and you’ll see an immense progress within few weeks of using this method.

2. Book different parts of the day for different activities

Very often you may start working on finishing a project, and then you get an email from client that you start to answer right away. Then they demand to make an adjustment in drawings. This is a small adjustment so you delegate it to an intern but it turns out that she isn’t yet familiar with all features of your software so you spend an extra half an hour showing it to her. Half of your work day is gone, and you still haven’t started what you were supposed to.

Instead, just as you did with creative work, you can dedicate regular time to all repetitive activities: answering clients’ emails, checking industry news and competitors’ activity, mentoring new colleagues, running team meetings. For instance, you start with working a couple of morning hours uninterrupted on your project. Then, you spend an hour answering all emails that you have and giving people estimates when you’ll get back to them. Then, you have a special after-lunch hour when that you spend with your intern answering all her questions about all tasks and teaching her new skills. Maybe some tasks will take slightly longer than if you rushed to do them right away. But deciding each time what you’ll do next is exhausting so you save a lot of brain energy. And by the end of the day you know exactly what you’ve completed.

3. Break down complex projects

When you have far-reaching deadlines, overall progress gets lost out of sight. Complex architect projects include many interdependent activities assigned to different people, and one delay or force majeure will affect the whole work like the first piece in a line of falling dominoes.

An effective way to fight with this problem is to break complex projects down to a number of smaller tasks, each with its own deadline. On regular weekly meetings you can distribute the workload and discuss if there any problems with current tasks. If anything goes behind the schedule, you’ll spot it in time and will be able to fix it with extra help from your colleagues.

Another tip to get better control over project progress is keeping all team’s tasks in a project management system and use a handy timesheets app for tracking time spent on them. Analyzing your time logs you will be able to spot the bottlenecks and build much more accurate estimates for the next project.

4. Maintain healthy work environment

Architect and construction design offices often foster extremely workaholic environment. It’s usual to spend late nights in the office, answer emails at 2am, and skip vacation. Newcomers often feel obliged to follow this corporate culture or they will be regarded as unenthusiastic. While such approach may give higher results in short term, ultimately it leads to burnout, health problems, and toxic competition. As a result, you’ll have a higher turnover and spend time on searching for new employees.

To maintain your team’s spirit high for a long time, keep a good work-life balance of your colleagues. Rearrange workload so that none is overwhelmed with several urgent projects at the same time. Watch that people go home before 12 am. Don’t answer work emails in the evenings and at night and you’ll set example for others. Foster collaborative spirit when people know that they can take a day off to spend it with a sick kid because other colleagues will help them out. Such work environment will reduce the level of stress and unnecessary competitiveness and will result in a more efficient team work.

Smart time management will help you focus on the most interesting part of your work – creating beautiful things — while all other interactions will run like a clock.

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