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4 ways to streamline your architectural practice


4 ways to streamline your architectural practice

Architect breaks down four simple habits to mastering efficiency: Task prioritization, motivation, urgency, and communication.

By Lindsay Straatmann, NCARB, LEED GA, CSI CDT | Vessel Architecture & Design | March 15, 2024
Architect with model of a house sitting at the desk indoors in office
Photo courtesy Adobe Stock

As an architect, I've always been fascinated by the seamless blend of creativity and precision in our field. However, one aspect that often goes unnoticed is the ability to efficiently manage the daily routine of seemingly mundane tasks. Over the years, I've honed my skills in this area, transforming these tasks into opportunities for growth and efficiency in both my professional and personal life.

Embracing Efficiency: Streamlining My Architectural Practice

I've discovered that the key to mastering efficiency lies in these simple habits:

  • Identifying and prioritizing tasks
  • Staying motivated especially with mundane tasks
  • Discerning the importance and urgency of tasks
  • Communicating effectively

1. Identifying and prioritizing tasks

Every morning, I start my day by reviewing my email inbox. This practice enables me to evaluate the day's tasks and priorities before immersing myself in larger projects. In the field of architecture, where effective communication is pivotal throughout various phases of the project, email serves as the primary means of interaction with owners and contractors.

This is particularly crucial during the construction phase when we anticipate receiving product submittals, RFIs (requests for information), consultant inquiries, and more, all requiring timely attention and prioritization. The more energy we expend on decision-making, the less energy remains for subsequent tasks. Establishing habits around seemingly minor aspects of our daily lives enables us to channel our energy more efficiently toward tackling larger tasks.

The routine of reviewing my inbox serves as a foundational step in outlining the goals to be accomplished throughout the day. Despite its apparent regularity, this practice plays a pivotal role in setting a positive tone for the day. It empowers me to promptly address others, pose questions, or relay vital information to our consultants, preventing potential delays that might occur if such communication were postponed to later in the day.

Architect working on computer
Photo courtesy Vessel Architecture & Design

In the architectural field, identifying and prioritizing tasks is crucial for advancing a project. When I first started at Vessel and was tasked with managing the construction administration on two large projects at once, I was initially overwhelmed. However, I was able to develop a system to prioritize and follow up on tasks efficiently. This includes creating an itemized list of tasks identified through emails and identifying the responsible party for each—whether it's myself as the architect, the owner, or consultants. I can then determine which tasks require immediate action or response and allocate time for tasks that cannot be addressed instantly for later in the day or week.

For tasks that fall outside my responsibility, I draft emails to request further information from the relevant party. This not only streamlined my workflow but also ensured effective communication with clients and consultants.

2. Staying motivated especially with mundane tasks

Staying motivated amidst routine tasks is a challenge I recognize. The trick is to understand the long-term benefits of these tasks, however insignificant they may seem at the moment. Each small task can have a significant impact on future success and the efficiency of a project. By allocating specific time for smaller tasks, I prevent them from accumulating and becoming overwhelming. With no real instant results, mundane tasks are easy to push off and they can feel insignificant. The trick is to not let this discourage you, as they are the building blocks toward the final product.

3. Discerning the importance and urgency of tasks

My ability to distinguish between what's immediately important and what can wait has been a crucial skill, especially in decision-making and project management. I focus on critical aspects of a project and avoid getting bogged down in details that are not immediately relevant. This was particularly effective in a recent project. During the final stages of reviewing elevations for the schematic design package, we were satisfied with the building's massing and proportions. However, there was additional commentary as the deadline loomed.

While those were valuable and insightful, they were not critical for the current phase of the project. Prioritization is key, especially when working under time constraints. Understanding what demands immediate attention and what can be addressed later is a vital skill in architectural practice, ensuring we meet deadlines without compromising the quality of our work.

4. Communicating effectively

The importance of effective communication should not be underestimated. When teams communicate effectively, a feeling of trust and camaraderie is established. This mindset extends to my approach to teamwork and collaboration. I encourage open discussion rather than solitary research, particularly when dealing with complex technical aspects like building codes. Fostering a collaborative learning environment through conversation is more beneficial than struggling alone with technicalities.

Architects talking in front of computer
Photo courtesy Vessel Architecture & Design

For emerging professionals, I believe it's vital to know when to seek help. I advocate for a proactive approach, where spending a reasonable amount of time trying to resolve an issue independently should be followed by seeking guidance. This approach not only saves time but ensures the right questions are being asked, leading to more effective solutions and conversation.

Outside of work, I believe in goal setting and incorporating efficiency into everyday life. Setting daily goals, whether it's completing specific work tasks or spending quality time with my family, helps me stay focused and avoid unproductive habits. Simple acts like making my bed every morning or ensuring my kitchen counters are clean before bedtime contribute to a small sense of accomplishment which, in turn, reduces stress. These small victories might seem insignificant, but they are crucial steppingstones toward achieving larger goals.

My reputation for efficiency has positively influenced my professional relationships. It has set a higher standard in my workplace, encouraging colleagues to strive for greater productivity. My journey in mastering efficiency and managing mundane tasks has taught me valuable lessons applicable in both architecture and life. Emphasizing the principles of habit formation, goal setting, prioritization, and effective communication has been integral to achieving professional success and personal fulfillment. By embracing these practices, architects and individuals in various fields can navigate their daily routines with greater ease and purpose, contributing to their broader life goals and career aspirations.

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