Architects: 7 No-Fail Strategies to Maximize Your Productivity
It’s a common occurrence to hear architects (and anyone else!) protest, “If only I had more time”. If only we had a few extra hours in each day, we could get more work done, increase our incomes and retire early (and rich).
We all have the same amount of hours in each day and after taking out sleep, family time, personal time and other necessary pursuits, we have a finite amount of time in which we can get work done. Depending on your personal circumstances, this may be two hours or twelve hours. However, the exact amount of time that you have available to work isn’t as important as what you actually do with that time.
It’s perfectly possible that a stay at home mom who has only two hours available to work per day can get more done than someone with less commitments and more time to work. It all comes down to productivity.
Want to make the most of your working hours and become super-productive? Start by trying some of these proven strategies for getting work done, no matter how short your time is.
It can be tempting to focus on more than one task at a time when we have multiple priorities, but trying to multitask is a sure-fire killer of productivity. If you flit around from job to job doing bits here and bits there, the likelihood is not only that each task will take you longer to complete, but also that you will do a poorer job overall.
The human brain is simply not cut out for multitasking – we do our best work when we focus on one job at a time and complete it before moving onto the next one. You may think that by working on multiple jobs at once you are being more efficient, but in fact the opposite is true. In fact, studies have shown that multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%.
To stay focused on a single task, choose one thing from your to-do list, eliminate distractions and work on it for a set block of time.
2. Work on Your Most Important Tasks First
To-do lists are a common productivity tool but their main major flaw is that they do not prioritize tasks. If you work from a to-do list and just do the tasks that you feel like doing first, you could easily spend your whole day doing trivial and unimportant tasks and get to the end of the day to find you’ve accomplished nothing.
One of the most effective ways of prioritizing your to-do list is to identify your Most Important Tasks. These are the jobs that you must get done that day before you can consider working on anything else on your list.
It’s a good rule of thumb to choose three Most Important Tasks per day, although some people may prefer to do more or less. Assigning these tasks helps cut your to-do list down to a manageable length and ensures you don’t spend the day reorganizing your desk and filing paperwork when you should be completing a technical drawing or drawing up a quote for a client.
3. Batch Process Your Tasks
We’ve already mentioned how damaging multitasking can be for your productivity. One of the easiest ways of ensuring you stick to one task at a time instead of jumping around is to organize your day’s work into batches.
For example, rather than checking your email every 10 minutes, which will interrupt the flow of your work and slow down your progress on productive tasks, assign set periods of time when you can sit down and deal with all your email in one go.
For this system to be effective, it’s important to both set definitive times each day when you will do these batched tasks and set a time limit for each. For example, depending on how many emails you get, you might decide to process your email three times a day at 9am, 1pm and 5pm and spend no more than 30 minutes in each session.
4. Work to Your Natural Energy Rhythms
We all have natural energy rhythms and working with your body rather than trying to force it into an unnatural routine can do wonders for your productivity. It can help to simply observe how you feel at different times of the day for a couple of weeks and keep a diary to help get an idea of when you are at your most efficient.
Some people are natural early risers and get their best work done at the beginning of the day, whereas others are night owls and are more productive when everyone else has gone to bed.
Most architects need to deal with clients and visit construction sites, so it’s not always possible to work exactly when you choose, but by understanding your own natural body rhythms, you can organize and schedule your office work to better suit your rhythms.
Many people have an energy slump in the early afternoon and if this is the case for you, it is not a good idea to plan to do mentally taxing or creative work at this time. Instead, you should schedule tasks requiring a lot of mental effort for when your energy levels are at their highest and keep administration and other tasks that do not require a lot of concentration for times when your brain is not working at its best.
5. Schedule Breaks
As well as the large peaks and troughs in energy that we all experience throughout the course of the day, our mental energy rises and falls in smaller time increments. To put it another way, you probably can’t concentrate for longer than about 90 minutes at a time.
When you’re working to a client deadline it can be tempting to push through and try to get as much work done as possible in the time available, but taking regular breaks will actually ensure that you are more productive during your work times, resulting in faster, higher quality work.
We can get a lot more work done when we feel refreshed and energized, so it makes sense that scheduling regular breaks can help to bring our energy levels back up and improve our productivity.
Planned breaks can also help avoid the problem of procrastination as we are less likely to put off work when we know can look forward to a break in say 25 minutes time.
It pays to experiment a little with work and break times and see what length of time works best for you. The Pomodoro Technique, where you work for 25 minutes and take a 5 minute break is very popular but some people find the breaks too short and feel interrupted with their work after only 25 minutes. A 90-minute work session followed by a 20-minute break may work better for you, or some other time combination in-between.
6. Outsource and Automate Tasks
As one person, there is only so much work we can do. Even the most productive people in the world cannot do the work of three people. However, there are a couple of ways to squeeze more out of your time in the form of outsourcing and automation.
Outsourcing is, by the most literal definition, the process of assigning some of your tasks to another person. This is very common in a traditional office setting where managers will have personal assistants, secretaries and receptionists to deal with tasks such as fielding emails, answering the telephone and other administrative tasks.
If you are a freelance architect or work in a small team, it’s still possible to outsource tasks without bringing on another full-time staff member. The internet has made it very easy to hire virtual personal assistants who can work remotely either full-time or just a couple of hours a day on your administrative tasks, freeing up time for you to work on other things.
You can also use software to automate certain tasks and streamline your workflow. For example, you might use an invoicing system like Freshbooks rather than creating your invoices manually and of course, Archisnapper can greatly reduce the time needed to create reports and punch lists.
7. Develop Daily Rituals
Many of us have rituals as part of our daily life that we carry out without really thinking about. The power of developing a ritual around our work is that it helps us to build habits and trigger our brain into performing certain tasks automatically.
When tasks become habits, we don’t have an internal debate inside our minds about whether we should do them, rather we simply go ahead and do them without any further thought.
If you are a serial procrastinator and tend to put off work, building the tasks that you tend to delay into a daily ritual could help you to complete them as part of your daily routine. For example, you could start planning your work for the day and deciding on your Most Important Tasks as part of your morning ritual, so you’ll always know what you should be working on that day.
You Don’t Have to Work More to Get More Done
Learning how to be a more productive architect is an easy way to give yourself more leisure time, get work done faster and give yourself a pay rise by fitting more work into less hours.
If you know you’re not as productive as you potentially could be, it’s really worth trying out a few of these techniques and seeing the difference they make in your working day.