Work Smarter, Not Harder

Ah, the age old saying. To me that phase recalls memories of childhood; doing some sort of chore, my father watching me as I struggle to complete it. He would let me struggle for a good bit until showing me some trick or technique that would help get the job done quicker and/or with less effort. “Work smarter, not harder” he’d say, as I wondered why he didn’t show me before, or just do it himself.

It is a phrase that has stuck with me in all aspects of life, and I am sure many of yours as well. After all, everyone wants to be more efficient while putting in minimal effort. This can’t ring more true in the architectural world. Knowing what “working smarter” actually means is a skill set that takes many years to perfect.
I recently came across an architectural article on this subject that I couldn’t disagree with more. The writer’s model for the modern architect to “work smarter” was an extensive list of gadgets, apps, software, hardwars, etc. that not only cost thousands and thousands of dollars, but, in my opinion, would bog down the average person’s day. Having a number of devices, each loaded with an abundance of programs, does not equal productivity.
So, in a field that demands quicker production in a shorter amount of time, how does the modern architect maximize productivity and minimize unnecessary work? There are things we should all be doing, or at least trying to do, to help make us more efficient, and thus more marketable, in the architectural world.

Focus Your Time
Time is obviously the main factor in working smarter. It is a resource that cannot be created, so it needs to be used wisely. Take a week and extensively document your time of what you do over the course of the day, and you will get a good idea of where your time goes. Try and focus your attention on tasks that require either the most amount of time, or the most amount of attention first. When you finish daunting tasks first, the rest of the day/week/project/whatever seem easier.

Plan Accordingly
I try to use checklists and outlines whenever possible. Checklists not only help you stay focused, but give you a sense of accomplishment as you cross tasks off. Outlines help you understand your process, and eliminate any steps to help make the process more efficient. If you are not using cartoon sets at the very start of a project (or don’t know what a cartoon set is), I suggest you start. Immediately.

Know Your Tools
What tools do you use on a daily basis? What tools could you use that you don’t have, or could cull from your inventory? It is better to have fewer tools that you really know how to use, than a huge toolbox gathering dust. This goes with both physical and digital. If you’re using digital tools, know how to use them. Far too often we get caught up in using a digital tool how “we” want to use it, and not how it is intended to be used. When using a digital program on a daily basis, for the most part you should know how it was designed to be used.

Manage Yourself and Your “Stuff”
This is one of the tougher tasks to ask of someone, especially in an age of cell phones, emails, notifications, etc. Try going a day without picking up your cell phone during work hours (tough one). If you have a hard deadline to meet, turn off email notifications on your computer. Little pop ups like that only get you distracted from the task at hand.
Managing yourself can also come in a variety of ways. Do you do a lot of repetitive tasks? Create templates…for everything. Do you manage a lot of people or conduct project meetings? Do you go to a lot of meetings? More meetings means less work is getting done. Prior to meetings, know your objective; what are you asking of others, or what is being asked of you. Don’t just listen – process. Know the desired outcome of the meeting, and a higher level of productivity will be realized.

Don’t Wear Yourself Out
Ultimately, you want to keep your love for design and building. Maintaining a good balance of play and professionalism is essential to reaching your full potential. Not all work in the architectural world is “fun,” but if you can work smarter and not harder, you will most likely produce better results and a higher amount of satisfaction.