Architectural Design Process: Managing Time  (Tools + Tips)

Architectural Design Process: Managing Time (Tools + Tips)

Hey, Eric here with 30 by 40 Design Workshop,
this week we’re talking about time management in the design process. So, before I waste any more of yours let’s
get into the strategies I have for you. This is precisely what it sounds like, subdivide
your project into smaller tasks and assign each one a box. Each box gets a fixed deadline and a set of
deliverables. Now, in business terms time boxing involves
3 sometimes 4 variables: time, scope, cost, and usually quality. It’s impossible to change one variable without
affecting the others. Now, for our purposes, let’s strip it down
to just the basics, time and scope. As you approach a fixed deadline and it’s
clear you’re in danger of not meeting it, you have two choices: either reduce the scope
or increase the time. Now, with time boxing you always reduce the
scope. For an architect, this can be any number of
things, fewer drawings or fewer design schemes let’s say. Basically, less of what you were planning
to do. When you add back in the real-world variables
of cost and quality the puzzle becomes even more complex, because you could, for example,
add more team members to help keep to the schedule. But, doing so would certainly increase the
labor cost. Or, you could reduce the quality of the deliverables
say by using hand sketches on trace rather than hardline CAD drawings. I think you get the idea. To keep to a fixed schedule, you must reduce
the scope. Prioritize and do the high value tasks first. These are usually also the most difficult
ones and by putting it first you’re investing your best resources in solving the most important
problems. And these tasks are the ones that will actually
save you time later. For example – building a model – it’s one
of the more difficult things you’ll do as an architect or a student. But when you do, you start to learn about
all the three-dimensional relationships of the parts and pieces. It forces you to confront many of the decisions
you’ll be making along the way in the entire design process, ones you’re probably not ready
to answer yet. Models introduce more problems initially than
they solve, but this is why they’re significant. The model actually helps you design the site
plan and the floor plan, the elevations and the sections too; it can help you figure out
the materials, and the details. Those are the things that ultimately need
solving and having them in your head will help you better manage the time it will take
to solve them. If working on the model means a few of the
lower impact things don’t get done they sink the project because all your design thinking
will be baked into the model. If it means you can’t draft the site plan,
you can use the model to show someone the street relationship or a side yard setback. If you divided your time equally amongst the
site plan and floor plans and tweaked those endlessly to get them perfect and didn’t have
time to build a model, then the massing isn’t quite right, and the elevations aren’t resolved,
and maybe you missed the fact that the neighboring structure actually overlooks a rooftop terrace
you’ve designed. Ever notice how when you’re in the late stages
of a deadline how much you actually get done? Somehow you manage to crank out an incredible
amount of work in a really short period of time, right? Well, you can actually trick yourself into
working at this faster pace by imposing deadlines on yourself. You may remember, what I call the goldfish
principle, which is actually Parkinson’s law. Now, I’ve talked about this before and it’s
the idea that goldfish grow to the size of the tank they’re in. The time it takes to do a given task will
expand to fill the time you allot it. Now, everyone does this. You have a tendency to overestimate what you
can do in the short term and underestimate what you can do in the long term, and it doesn’t
magically change when you’re a professional either. I need to constantly manage it and ask myself,
“am I being realistic about the time I think this will take?” Now, if you’re really serious about making
this a habit, you can even incentivize meeting deadlines by setting up disincentives where
if you don’t meet the deadline there’s an automatic -say $100 – donation to a charity
you really dislike. Negative reinforcement can be quite an effective
tool. Similar to sprints, this technique, suggests
you work as furiously as you can for 25 minutes and then reward yourself with a five-minute
break. Rinse and repeat. Now, this will help establish good habits
for blocking out distractions and pushing ahead on really difficult tasks. The optimal interval here may be different
for you, so experiment with what achieves the best result. If your phone isn’t cutting it for timing
try Set up sprints for different aspects of your
work: plans, sections, elevations, details, models, massing. If you’re spending a lot of time on any one
thing you might not be effectively managing your time. If for example you spend an entire day developing
the plan without touching the sections or elevations, you’re investing too heavily in
only one dimension. The Pareto principle states that 80% of your
results come from just 20% of your efforts. When people think about time management often
their first inclination is to write out a to-do list, but the reality – given the Pareto
principle – is that most of the tasks on there are low value. Ideally, you want a list that has only the
20% tasks those that lead to 80% of your results. Now, to find these you want to take your to-do
list and assign weightings based on impact and effort. And I know, this sounds like too much effort
already, but if you have difficulty managing your time doing this illustrates where the
problems with a standard to-do list are. Let’s say on your to-do list are the following
hypothetical tasks: draw a site plan, develop a code checklist, build a context model, and
generate three design concepts. Start by ranking your to-do list from lowest
to highest according to the amount of effort it will take to do a certain task. Now, rank these same tasks for impact. What does the task stand to realize for you;
how important is it? Then, I want you to make the following diagram. Now, each task will fall under one of the
following four quadrants: high impact and low effort, high impact high effort, low impact
and low effort, and low impact and high effort. And so, once these tasks are in each one of
these boxes you’re going to begin with the tasks that are in the high impact low effort
box first, followed by the high effort high impact ones, and then on to the low impact
low effort ones, and finish off if you have any time with any low impact high effort jobs. Make sense? If you find yourself wasting time on repetitive
tasks you want to create a template to deal with those. And, you can do this with email, texts, details,
specs, drawings; almost anything. Template your marketing funnel, or code checklists,
or your responses for new client inquiries. Rather than waste mental effort on crafting
an original response each time, I like to think about what the outcome I want to achieve
is, and then put systems in place to accomplish those goals for me without my involvement. Automating tasks with programs is a good place
to start, but this strategy also includes – by the way – hiring someone to take over
tasks that don’t make the best use of your time. Now, you know the drill here: files, tools,
assets, folders, materials, documents. Managing your time efficiently means you can’t
waste time searching for the basic things you need to do your work. And, of course keep your workspace organized. Alright, enough said. Recognize that your phone calls, texts and
emails are all someone else’s to-do list and priorities being imposed on you. Managing your time means keeping a schedule
of what’s important to you. If you want to manage your time better, you
have to get selfish with it and guard it. If you’re always responding to someone else’s
demands, you’re helping them manage their time, and their schedule. They’re effectively outsourcing their important
tasks to you. Owning your schedule is your only chance to
accomplish the goals you’ve highlighted as important. Find your most productive working times and
do your work then. For me, I divide my day between making and
managing. In fact, I’ve recorded a few videos on this
topic already and I’ll post the links in the cards. Mornings are strictly set aside for making,
afternoons for managing. Finding your most productive time of day to
work ensures your effort inputs achieve similar results and outputs. Trying to fit too many design tasks into your
schedule only divides your time and increases the chances you won’t complete all of them. As time boxing requires you to reduce scope
to meet a deadline, saying no provides you the latitude to spend more time doing the
things you deem most important. Eliminating tasks prioritizes those things
that are significant. This doesn’t only apply to your bad social
media habits – the places you click first when you’re bored or stuck on something – but
your email, texts, phone calls, visits by vendors, or consultants, and even friends
and family. And, these things, these are designed to make
us pay attention to them and they’re exceedingly good at that. Recognize that anything that says urgent needs
to be intentionally managed by you if you’re serious about getting things done. Urgent things often pretend to be important,
but they can actually keep us from getting the things that actually matter done. Set aside time for these activities and try
not to use them outside of those times, they’ll steal as much of your time as you let them. Don’t waste time here. Getting stuck can disrupt all the good time
management practices you’ve put in place and it can do so very quickly. If you get to a point where you know you’re
grinding and not making forward progress, stop, take a break; put some room between
you and the design problem. Seek out counsel from someone else, someone
not familiar with the project that can look at it objectively. Ask yourself what assumptions you’ve made
that might be false or that might be holding you back. Everyone gets stuck, but pros recognize it
quickly and don’t waste time fretting about it. At times like these, I like to get away from
the studio and get some exercise. In fact I’ve made it a daily habit to leave
at a set time of day. I put a podcast on, listen to something completely
unrelated to the problems I’m trying to solve. Now, your unconscious mind will still be working
on the problem, don’t worry. This is actually a studied and documented
part of the design process. It’s called incubation and it immediately
precedes illumination and that’s the part where the idea is revealed or discovered. It’s not something you can necessarily rush
or force to arrive more quickly. If you continue to try and work through the
problem once you reach this point, you risk taking time away from other, maybe less resource
intensive, tasks that could benefit from slightly less of your design horsepower. Now, good time management requires recognizing
these waypoints and redirecting your energies elsewhere. Often we struggle to put something out there
that isn’t perfect. Yes, with an infinite amount of time and budget
you can get close to perfect, but that’s not the game. You can’t let perfect be the enemy of the
good. The perfect version of your architecture does
us no good if it’s never built, or we never get to see it. As you search for that perfect scheme, others
are actually completing things that are less than perfect. Your work has no value without execution and
execution means managing your design time in a way that delivers your ideas to the world
on a schedule. You’ve heard the expression, “what gets
monitored, gets managed.” For pros, tracking time is a must, even if
your agreement with a client is a fixed fee rather than just a straight hourly billing
rate. When you’re running a business, your profit
is directly linked to how accurately you’ve estimated the time it will take you to deliver
what you promised. As a hypothetical, let’s say you’ve been doing
this long enough to know roughly how long it takes to complete a given project, and
in turn, how long it takes to complete each phase of the design process. For my practice, this is linked to both the
project size and the budget. Now, let’s say I have a project with a budget
of 10 million dollars and my hypothetical fee for that project is 5% of my client’s
budget. So, the total fee to complete the work would
be $500,000. To figure out how long each phase will be,
I need to allocate that fee amongst the different phases. Now, an important thing to understand here
is that your fee – whether or not you’re billing your client hourly – is probably going to
be tied to an hourly wage or a series of hourly wages if you have employees. For this example, let’s say I’m the only employee. If my billing rate is $200 per hour, I divide
the total fee by my billing rate and that leaves me – the $200 guy – 2,500 hours to
complete the entire project for my client. Taking it a step further, let’s say that I
know I’m the kind of designer who spends a lot of time on concept development and I know,
from experience, that I usually spend, let’s say, 40% of my fee working through the early
design phases. But, once I get to the drafting phase I know
I’m really efficient and I can put together a set of drawings very quickly. That part, historically, has taken me, let’s
say 20%, of the fee. Again, hypothetical situation here, these
aren’t good percentages to use. To figure out how long I have to design the
schematics I would take the total fee and the percentages for each phase of the work
and divide the fee up according to these percentages. So, in our hypothetical example, I’m sending
40% of the fee toward schematics, and let’s say 20 percent to document production, and
the remaining 40% to construction observation. By taking 40% of the total allotted 2,500
hours I get 1,000 hours, and if I divide that by 40 hours a week I see I have 25 weeks to
get through schematics. In reality, I know my billable time and percentages
are actually much lower per week than that because I have other things to manage for
the business. But, you get the idea. Then I track the time I spend working on each
phase each day and at the end of the week I can see if the time I’m putting in tracks
with where I expected it to be. Checking in often like this gives you the
chance to make course corrections along the way, rather than checking in once a month
or once a quarter at the end of the billing cycle. As I’m getting ready to invoice my client
for my services, I generate a report to confirm that things are actually proceeding on track. Now, you don’t need to go to this extent if
you’re a student necessarily, but the point is to put in place systems that track the
time you’re actually spending and ones that also support your personal design process. All this is good practice for developing the
accountability skills you’ll use in your professional life. Now, if I’ve helped you at all with any of
these please smash that like button below, share this with someone who’s always up against
deadlines, and let me know, in the comments, what are you blowing off right now to watch
YouTube? As always, I appreciate you guys! Thanks for coming back each week. Cheers!

100 thoughts on “Architectural Design Process: Managing Time (Tools + Tips)

  1. A favorite time management book of mine (just ignore the cover which is…well…not great):

  2. Great videos. So inspiring and useful. Just wondering would you please make a video about your experience regarding Registration Examinations? what are the resources and what was your approach / way of preparing for this exams? Thank you so much. Good Luck.

  3. Really enjoy your videos and just want to say thank you! Is it possible to identify the time management app you were using? Keep up the great work…

  4. Once again, one of the most helpful videos out there. Thanks so much for sharing! Your work is a huge inspiration to keep me going, and im sure for a lot of other archi students 🙂

  5. Hello Teacher… I would like to thanks You a lot for this tip…
    I have facing big problems about how to divide the time for my projects

  6. Dear Mr. Architect may i know what's the different between an architect and architectural draftsmen. i want to know is there any fundamental rules for arranging the drawing layout and it's openings for ventilation and natural light process. when start to arrange a layout what and what things should consider about.

  7. I have an assignment due in 2 weeks it's very hard for me to manage my time I'm 3 weeks beyond, it's like habit for me that I leave everything in the last min. thanks for the video helps a lot but to be honest I want to change myself but I don't think I can. hahaha

  8. Where do you live ? that scenery is amazing… also what software do you use for 3d visualisations? Or you just rely on physical 3d model

  9. oh… i was blowing off a studio project… because i don't like the design i came up with. but it's too late to turn back now ><

  10. Thnx man, you're really helping students out here. I wish you all the best. I had a question. what kind of stand do you use for your markers in the video? I couldn't find it on amazon link

  11. Sir I just want to ask you, what's the difference between design concept and form concept?,,im a frustrated arch. student sir, and its really hard for me to work on my thesis bcoz im confused between the two.,thanks sir in advance and hope for your response sir.,

  12. Great video.
    I'm now a forth year architecture student and I always get trouble with keeping up the deadlines. In the last 2 years, I have been always asking myself if I did choose the right path or not, cause beside architecture I really don't find anything interesting. When I watch your video, I admit that I usually get stuck on the floor plans a lot, how to make it good, does this affect the others or not, or how I should improve this disadvantages of the site, weather to the buildings … and then come to the elevations, and the result is being late for the whole time. The late of the design leads to the late of turning it into the software working and of course, the late of the submitting.
    All of your videos are very useful and inspirational, sometimes they helped pulling the architecture passion back to me when I was desperate in designing buildings. I definitely try your tips for managing time and everything.
    Thank you for making this channel. Hope everything good will come to you.

  13. this is by far, the best architecture related youtube channel. the content, ideas and means to deliver them are on point. thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  14. I am studying second year……I really dont know when am I goin to get this much of understanding like u………..these videos are really useful for me……….the really get reflcted in my design…..and really tnx for sharing ur ideas its really useful……

  15. Good and bad are terms of the master morality according to Nietzsche- you do a fantastic job adhering architecture and design principals to an existing market. I think it's obvious from your video that the design principals ALWAYS supersede requirements of the market. This is to think of something on a spectrum or naturally rather than with a dominion to a market biased pov. To see if something is going to be architect genius , remove the market and the constraint of time in boxes.
    Architecture is a conversation across time – Vitto

  16. Hi, what is the APP on your phone that you are using to manage the time that you spend in every task that you have day by day. Great Video by the way!!! Thanks.

  17. I’m really inspired by your videos and your passion to share you knowledge. Keep up the good work Eric!

    I hope we can meet someday to share experiences.


  18. Your videos are amazing I watch them all as I move towards designing my own cottage. I have one major dilemma.

    Exactly how do you use tracing paper, why tracing paper? Just exactly how is it used in and through out a process. Kindest regards

  19. Hi Eric. Your effort and thoughtfulness to share advices and ideas are really and much appreciated. Thank you for making this to show the value of time in architecture and even outside of it. Glad to discover your channel and be one of your subscriber! More to go! 😁😁 👍👍

  20. This is cool….helpful especially for students who have a lot going on….from studio.other life.Tec…thx

  21. Right now I’m blowing off song writing. Do you use archioffice? I assume you don’t bother with quickbooks since it seems like you have no staff. Thx

  22. Oh I’m so guilty of Parkinson’s Law. This is a brilliant summary of how we can think about the time we spend on what we do. And get better impact with it. Nice cameo Gimli. Thanks for sharing Eric 🙂

  23. I'm a highschool student taking art and architecture classes (just the basics though) and this video is so helpfull! Your channel is great !

  24. Lol, "what are you blowing off to watch Youtube"… actually at work trying to figure out how to be more efficient with my time so feels like maybe it was a good use of time?

  25. I'm having a hard time getting a handle on managing business/marketing responsibilities to the design work itself. I'm not an architect (yet), but I have a drafting and design service that is for the purpose of getting me to my license. I know basically HOW to manage my time, but I'm struggling on the execution of it to be able to get everything I need done. I just started my business, so there's a lot of time involved in getting my name known in my area. Any advice?

  26. This is packed full of great advice; thank you! Check out Dave Crenshaw's "Time Management Fundamentals" course on–superb!

  27. People watching this in 2019, Scrum & Agile way of project management will also help. Just check online. Thanks you Eric.

  28. I've discovered and used (for the first time) several of your videos to teach 1st year architectural students at Versailles (France) & I wanted to thank you for your very clear videos which have given them some great tips on finding ideas and managing time. It's much more alive to have a practicing architect speak to them of his experience, than to just give them vocab lists. Thanks, Eric!!

  29. i have been looking for inspiration videos to get back to architecture field. thank you for making these videos. it helps me realize why in the first place I took architecture. please make more videos.

  30. Totally changed how I assess and control time management both in my carpentry practice and architecture studies during the school year! Oh and I'm blowing off designing an organizational strategy for my material receipts haha

  31. Hey Eric, i haven`t seen this video before. It is really good and a great time management resource. Thank you again!

  32. very practical & hands-on! ……… making SD 40% of your time rather than CDs is a worthy (and difficult/challenging) goal — because the quality of the project will most likely increase and quality is what the client remembers …. that is how a reputation is built – and the opportunity of being in the driver's seat re: winning high end/high fee projects/clients are won. ……..
    KEY issues are HOW to actually accomplish this …. plus handling OBSTACLES such as unexpected expenses – car repairs – computer maintenance and purchase of more computer stuff $$$$$ – family problems – etc. while staying ON SCHEDULE …… (Fees will be another Comment). ty again for your excellent posts!

  33. Although I've been self employed, and managed my time accordingly, but it's a concept I still struggle with on a weekly basis. There's never enough of me to go around. However, every visit to your channel is educating for me and tonight @ 11:42 pm I learned a few tricks about time management and building models. You're a gentleman, a scholar and a natural teacher. Thank you Sir Eric.

  34. this video doesnt have as many likes as some of your other videos but honest to god (for me) this is both extremely influential and important. Thank you.

  35. Hi man I am an architect student from Mexico and you and your channel is like another class for me, I can't tell how much I have improved thanks to you, it would be awesome to have the chance to work with you someday 👍

  36. Mr. Sir…found your channel this year…I started my own studio at the beginning of 2019 and your video's have been instrumental in helping me get myself sorted. Question: You spoke about the boxes for all your tasks and task groupings. How do you track all of that? Is it as you showed in the video?…you hand write them on trace or do you have a software that you have found it good for task management? Do you also use a calendar with that structure to get it all together?

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