Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to document his journey to design 30 projects by the age of 30 (May 2020). His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

So Many Deadlines So Little Time

So Many Deadlines So Little Time

During most days in the architecture office, I find myself with more than an average amount of work on my schedule. Over time, the tasks and number of projects becomes a normal part of my life and the principals and project managers continue adding project after project. With every new project, I have an opportunity to push myself and continue to grow at an exponential rate.

However, over the past few weeks, I’ve found more and more projects being added to my schedule and an onslaught of close deadlines. In fact, this week I have 2 project deadlines and a new small project starting up. While working as quickly and efficiently as I can, I found myself in a constant scramble and in the middle of a tug of war between some of the partners at the firm.

You might be wondering, why do I keep taking on so many projects and putting myself under pressure? How do I manage to complete everything on time?

To learn and grow, I step out of my comfort zone

When I first started working at the architecture firm, I was always nervous and anxious about the projects that I’d be working on. As I started working on different projects and learning the company standards, I found my comfort zone at the firm and I was able to accomplish the various tasks and assist on projects. Soon, my days became repetitive with the same morning routine, repetitive tasks, and meeting all of the deadlines.

There are many Architects who find themselves at a comfortable place in their career where they can anticipate their day to day schedules, tasks, and repetitive work. At this point in any Architect’s career, there are two paths to choose from and neither of them is correct nor incorrect; it’s all dependent on the person.

The first path is to accept the fact that you’ve reached a place of comfort in your career and you’re enjoying the steady days of work and paychecks. You know that you’ll get into the office every morning at the same time and leave in the evening in time to run a few errands, hangout with some friends, or head back home and work on your hobbies.

The second path is to stay within your level of comfort, but ask for more opportunities in the office. Whether it’s working on a proposal to get a new project or managing a small one on your own, you’ll get more exposure to the different areas of architecture and grow as an Architect. This may lead to earlier mornings in the office or later evenings working on projects to meet their deadlines.

Personally, I found myself in a comfortable place in my career after about six months of working at the architecture firm. I was slowly getting used to this newfound lifestyle of a routine and regular schedule with repetitive work. However, I started to feel like my brain was shutting down and it wasn’t as stimulated as it used to be in school. So I decided to push myself and ask for more work at the office.

Soon, this led to managing a small design-build project, then a high-end addition for a multi-million dollar project, and eventually working on all aspects of an architecture project. These days, I find myself supporting teams with Revit drafting on projects with tight deadlines, developing designs for new projects, managing small to mid-size projects, and recently bringing in a project of my own.

Now that I’ve chosen to ask for more opportunities, I found a healthy addiction to always being under pressure and having a stimulated mind.

Getting better at Time Management

Having great time management is the key to simultaneously working on multiple projects and meeting deadlines. Inevitably, there will be times when we’re just overwhelmed with so much work or a higher priority project instantaneously emerges during a heavy work week. So it’s important to know what projects are important to focus on, whether or not you’ll need to ask for help to meet your deadline, and saying no to other opportunities.

As I reflect on what I’m currently working on, I start to feel overwhelmed by the amount of projects that I have to finish and the tasks that have to be completed to keep the ball rolling. Currently, I’m simultaneously working on three projects at the firm, my friend’s project that I brought into the firm, and a theoretical project with two fantastic students. All of these projects have a deadline before the end of the year, which leaves about 7 weeks left, two of which hold major holidays.

Instead of focusing on the amount of work that needs to be done and talking about it, I have a list of tasks that I constantly check off so that I could reach the end sooner rather than later. Some days, I’m able to accomplish so much that I can finish the project sooner than expected. Other days, the project slows down due to uncontrollable circumstances like planning board meetings, approvals, client finances, etc.

The most important thing that I learned about time management is that it’s not about moving tasks around a schedule. At some point, you have to stop looking at the list and start working on getting them done!

So Many Deadlines, So Little Time

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re simultaneously working on multiple projects, take a second to reflect on all of the tasks that need to be done in order to meet each project’s deadline. Once this list is developed, set aside a specific amount of time (i.e. 2 hours) to dedicate solely on that project. This mental connection between a set of tasks and a timeframe to accomplish them will motivate you to make it through the list as efficiently as possible.

You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!

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