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.

Time management techniques for a productive day

Time management techniques for a productive day

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working very hard on multiple projects at the office and several personal projects at home. In particular, one personal project that I’ve been working on with two of my friends is an architecture competition and the deadline was coming up. My team and I found ourselves working late into the evenings, meeting more often, and feeling pressure to complete the competition on time. Our weekends were filled with work for this competition and we were excited to see our hard efforts coming together on a comprehensive board.

Finally, we submitted our project for the competition and celebrated by presenting our work to my peers at the office and had fun conversations over dinner.

Finding more opportunities

Needless to say, my life has been pretty hectic and filled with work, which is fantastic! After becoming a licensed Architect, the architecture firm where I’m working has been giving me more projects to manage and I’ve been traveling more often.

Outside of the office, I’ve been putting together a conceptual and schematic design scheme for project 5x30 – Restaurant and Apartment renovation plans for my good friend. I’ve also been developing project 6x30 – Competition with two of my friends, which asked participants to design a 53,000 square foot mix use building (I’ll share more on this project once the results are announced in September). Lastly, I’m also helping a local AIA Emerging Professionals chapter plan an event that focuses on starting an architecture practice.

How am I managing all of these projects?

This is a question that many of my friends and peers have recently been asking me and the initial assumption is that I’m sacrificing my sleep in order to gain more time every day. In actuality, I’ve been sleeping the same 7-8 hours every night and sticking to my daily diet and exercise. From my past experiences, I’ve learned that I’m less productive and focused throughout the day if I give up either sleep or my diet, which consists of lots of fruits, vegetables, and home cooked meals that’s high in both protein and carbohydrates. Without exercise, I always find myself losing focus throughout the day and feeling as if my brain is full and heavy.

With that in mind, I highly recommend that we do our best to always get 6-8 hours of sleep every night and develop a healthy eating habit with foods that help us stay focused.

To answer the question of how I’m managing all of these projects along with working full-time as an Architect, here’s a short list of techniques and tips that have helped me:

1. Keep a daily agenda of tasks and write down how you’ll accomplish them

One of my daily rituals is to take 10 to 15 minutes every morning or evening to plan out my day starting with the simplest tasks and leading to the most difficult. While I’m brainstorming every task, I also think about how I’ll accomplish them (i.e. what are the next steps that I have to take to see progress with the task) and I’ll write down that particular step instead of the task. For example, if one of my tasks was to create a render from Revit on a project that I’m working on, I’ll write down the particular rooms that will be rendered along with any modifications that’ll have to be made prior to rendering.

By planning ahead and writing down how you’ll accomplish a task in your daily agenda, you’ll feel less anxious about all of the things that you need to do today and you’ll also be able to clear that task out of your mind. Think about your brain as a computer system where all of the tasks that you’re committing to memory is similar to all of the different programs open on a computer. When you have lots of programs simultaneously running in the background, your computer slows down.

So the best way to prevent your computer from running slower is to finish whatever task you were working on, or saving the file, and closing out of the particular program. This allows the computer to focus its energy on the tasks at hand. Writing down your tasks allows your brain to stop focusing a portion of its capacity on remembering that particular item and use that energy to focus on the task that you’re currently trying to accomplish.

2. Meditating throughout the day

Whenever I find myself losing focus because my attention is being pulled to miscellaneous things, I close my eyes and take a few minutes to think through whatever my mind is being pulled towards, and determine if it’s something I should write down or simply let go. Once I’ve either written down the idea or moved on, I’ll refocus my attention on where I currently am in the task that I was working on and figure out the remaining steps to finish the task.

Although this might sound simple or intuitive, this skill was very hard to develop because I had difficulty identifying whether or not I was losing focus on the task at hand. This technique works most of the time, but I’ve found that it’s difficult to meditate and stay focused for long periods of time if I’m lacking sleep or if it’s late in the evening.

3. Self-Motivation by saying things like “I’m unstoppable”

This is a new technique that I learned from a Netflix documentary called “Tony Robbins, I am not your guru”, where he gives a 7-day workshop that helps people find themselves and their true calling in life. In it, the documentary was showing some of Robbin’s rituals and there was an interview clip with Robbins where he talked about his training techniques when he was an athlete. One of the things Robbins used to do was recite to himself, “I’m F-ing unstoppable!” over and over again, which was his positive motivation to keep trying.

After watching this documentary I gave this a try while I was running and when I was creating a new Revit model of an entire building complex. Although it’s not in my personal characteristics to say things like this, I felt as if my adrenaline kicked in each time and I was able to focus and work efficiently. I’ll continue trying this one to see how effective it is in a few months.

Develop your own techniques to increase your productivity

We’ve all experienced a day in our lives where we felt as if we were on top of our work and we were able to get everything done with time to spare. Think back to a time like this and determine some of the things that you were doing that contributed to your productivity. Were you listening to soft jazz music in a natural light filled room in your house? Or were you sitting in a public plaza with street performances and people all around you?

What are some of your techniques for increasing your focus and productivity throughout the day and how do they help you? Let me know in the comments section below!

As always, thank you so much for reading and for joining me on my journey as an architect!

-Tim


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