10 Ways to Tame Time Management for Designers
NORR
Toronto, Canada
3d ago

A career in architecture and engineering often can seem like the adoption of a lifestyle that favors a ... less than equal balance between work, design, and, you know .

  • a life. Together, two major forces tip the work / life balance scale :
  • A demanding workload

    The reality of working as an architect / engineer is that you will face some long days - which turn into long weeks and extend to working weekends.

    We sacrifice because we love designing, right? Technically, yes however things like meetings, client changes, and emails stack up, chewing up precious hours we’d like to dedicate to actual design or production.

    The daily battle for attention

    Our culture is constantly faced with what some critics have coined as an attention epidemic. Here are just a handful of factors that serve to interrupt, distract and cause lapses in productivity :

  • Inefficient meetings
  • Social media
  • External unscheduled distractions (noise, environment, phone calls)
  • Internal unscheduled distractions (emails or refresh addiction )
  • Client / project expectations & reactions to tightened deadlines
  • Personal life constraints (trying to achieve some life balance amid workload)
  • Inequity of current technology within firm
  • So what can we do to win back time to dedicate back to life and some actual design? Ultimately, it’s up to the individual -

    not every time management tips apply to every situation. But employing some of the advice below could get you started down of path of productivity :

    1. Start your day with a roadmap list of goals, from the easily attainable to difficult.

    Whether it’s a basic notebook, an app on your phone like Evernote, or your hand (don’t actually do this - hey, unless it works for you) -

    write it down! Rank your goals for the day and check them off to reap a rewarding feeling of accomplishment.

    2. Develop a proactive crisis management system that works for you.

    As the saying goes, Expect the unexpected. Outline the people who may be able to assist you if you need help, and keep your team updated on your status to keep surprise late nights at a minimum.

    We can’t always avoid last minute deadlines, but if you have a go-to plan when these emergencies hit, you can save time by understanding your game plan.

    3. Keep a running log of tasks completed and how long it takes to analyze your biggest time sucks.

    Stop to analyze your workday and record what part takes the longest. Once you’ve done this, come up with ways to get around it.

    For example, if it’s catching up on emails in the morning (half of which aren’t directly addressed to you) only turn on notifications for messages in which you need to follow up on.

    Keep logging your time and see if your shortcuts are working or not, and be prepared to come up with new ways if you aren’t getting desired results.

    4. Find a comfortable / collaborative environment to work in.

    Certain types of work call for certain types of working styles. Identify what work needs to be done solo and find the right environment to minimize interruptions.

    If you’re brainstorming and need input from your team, reserve a room to collaborate without distracting others.

    5. Realize you are not nearly as good as you think you are at multi-tasking - instead look to mono-task.

    You’ll probably be able to tell from your goal list what you are getting done to completion, and what is lingering there for days, weeks and months.

    Instead of chipping away at five or more tasks, pick the most time-sensitive one and break it down into manageable sub-tasks.

    Before you know it, it will be crossed off and you’ll have a new playbook for next time it makes an appearance on your list.

    6. Integrate time management tool (trello, To-Do-Ist)

    Lists are great, and automated lists can be even better. New apps auto-sync with your mobile apps and desktop, share statuses with teammates, help you define deadlines and priorities, and in general make crossing your list off more rewarding.

    There’s a glut of programs out there, but never be afraid to go analog with some good old pen and paper just chart your plans somewhere so nothing falls through the cracks.

    7. Keep lines of communication flowing

    The worst thing that can happen is doing double-duty on any given task, or maybe even worse, completed the wrong task due to a miscommunication : You’ve followed all your lists and goal tracking -

    but you never let your team know what you’re up to, and now you’ve wasted your time. Always have the conversation, either a morning scrum to discuss your daily activities or a shift-

    note close-out email for the day to say what you’ve accomplished.

    8. Turn off distracting notifications from your desktop and mobile device.

    Many productive folks turn off their chats, text pings, and limit their email refresh to early in the morning and later in the afternoon.

    Studies have shown that for every off-topic interruption, there is about a 24 minute period of time needed to refocus. Elimination of some of these external notifications is one easy way to take back your time.

    9. Schedule time to be creative early in the day before stress and outside responsibility take over.

    As good as you can get at avoiding distractions, the day will have its way with you. Save your early mornings for creative thoughts before you have to deal with outside concerns.

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