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July 4, 2012

Architect's schedule

I always wondered how to manage time efficiently. The problem becomes manifold when the case of concern is a creative personnel.




You have the classical time-management principles urging you to pack-in the maximum deliverable into a fixed time frame. They try to teach you to do 'multitasking'. You can thus learn the circus of having a coffee while riding a bus and read the newspaper as well. According to your proficiency, you can add more activities to it. I found it utterly foolish to practice it in a creative field. The only thing I can do along with having coffee and doodling with pencil designing is to listen to songs. But curiously, I cannot continue it for long unless the songs are of a particular genre! My point is, its not how many things you do that matter, but what you did.



"THERE HAS TO BE A 'DESIGNER'S SCHEDULE' AND A 'MANAGER'S SCHEDULE'. IN AN IDEAL SCENARIO, BOTH SHOULD NOT COINCIDE."


Then we confront the advanced time-management principles that tell you that its not how many activities you do that counts, but how many you chose not to do! Thats a good thought to begin with. The key, thus, is to prioritize viciously. You can ride a long way following the principle religiously. 


But, still, there was something missing.



I have seen architects of different calibers, pursuing different goals, working on vastly varying projects, having myriad tastes and habits, on work. Though I do not like to admit, I used to 'manage' a large group of professionals working on different projects with varying deadlines and complications. (By the way I hate the term 'knowledge-worker' as a synonym for a creative personnel. Sorry, Drucker!))The real problem, I found, lies in our inability to define our work profile. 

We believe that we are doing a lot of 'designing' and a few- or comparatively lesser time of- coordination works. Depending on the position and experience, one might be handling clients as well. Then there are a lot many other undefined 'works' which we actually do. We might do budgeting, research work , (unnecessary) presentations, write ups and project briefs, take a lot of useless phone calls, deal a variety of cold calls, firefight mistakes (made because we casually transferred the responsibility to interns!), organize team meetings, do performance appraisals, take interviews, mentor juniors, arrange vendors, approve bills etc. etc. Many a day, a lion's share of our billable time goes into letter/mail writing. Instead, we prefer to think that we were designing the whole day! Its true that we had the layout on the table for the entire day, but we might not have made a single significant progress on the work. Since the work is hardly measurable in terms of volume, we find solace that designing takes time and it definitely require true inspiration. (Interestingly, the same design gets efficiently completed in the last few days of the deadline!)



Then I stumbled upon a very interesting piece of article (I guess, it was by Paul Graham). Though it defined time in general, I found it extremely workable with the haphazard work styles of many architects- I presume that the architect in this case has a minimum threshold of experience and practice so that his time has many takers simultaneously.

There has to be a 'Designer's schedule' and a 'Manager's schedule'. In an ideal scenario, both should not coincide. One can carefully plan his time and understand his bio-rhythms to reach upon a right mix of both, but definitely in water-tight compartments. 


A designer's schedule asks for long, undisturbed hours(or days!) to achieve anything significant. The schedule shall consider every activity that require large, consolidated time. As per one's flexibility (and luxury), the consolidated periods should not be disturbed in between by phone calls or meetings or facebook updates. Believe me, there are not many emergencies which cannot wait a few hours. ( If its that critical, it will any way find its route to you!). A one minute phone call can disturb your entire day and spoil your schedule upside down (always happen). Read it somewhere that A R Rahman does his music after midnight. He has very efficiently found his preferred designer's schedule (applies to most creative fields; call it a musician's schedule) and it works!


One cant ignore the manager's schedule if one runs a firm or leads a team. You got to attend and organize meetings, take phone calls, answer mails and many other comparatively 'non-creative' works. These works could be as important as the one in the other schedule. Only that most of the time, these require less time. You can do multi tasking. You can allow disturbances. You can tweet in between. You can be mobile. By allowing these functions to take in a dedicated time or day(s), you start controlling your priorities.The key is to identify the activities. The activities in both schedules vary for each professional. But the concept remains same.


The most important truth is that 'time is finite'. Everybody, irrespective of his seniority or position, gets the same time in a day, in a month or in a year. Remember nobody ask a scientist how long did he take to solve a problem but how important and relevant is the solved one.


Further reading:
http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com/10-tips-to-conquer-procrastination/
http://www.entrearchitect.com/2012/12/30/finding-the-balance-between-the-firm-and-my-family/
http://www.managearchitecture.com/2011/05/time-management-for-architects_29.html

2 comments:

  1. Absolutely true.... A designer’s notion on how much time he really involve in design somehow cannot be rationalized with parameters like nature or scale of project , conceptual or abstract or detail design ETC. But yes, ‘An uninterrupted span of time’ is all we have to source for essentially touching base with the process of design or at least getting started with one. Hence I have turned myself in due course into a nocturnal being. WORKS PERFECT FOR ME!!!!!! Even though you have to let go enjoying the nuances of a fine morning with a good cup of chai......

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  2. Divya, not many can follow you even if being nocturnal is a habit that we carry forward from our architecture college days, since there is an equally important work-life balance to keep. Good that it works for you!(Btw, I prefer to design a lot @ night!)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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