Time management for architects

Architects! Simple Time Management To Empower You

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The architect’s work is never done.  Simply by saying that, architects will never get anything done. We sometimes get a bad reputation from all the sleepless nights and all nighters, stemmed from student days. Architects must juggle a number of tasks, drawings, meetings, coordination, projects, the list is endless.  I wish I had an architects simple time management guide when I was a student or when I first became an architect.

It does not have to be so complicated. There are certain techniques architects or even anyone in the creative field, can use in order to manage their time and still be able to produce quality work. After doing some research and using my own experience and advice from other professionals, I have come up with an architects simple time management techniques to empower you.


Time management for architects

10  Simple Time Management Techniques To Empower Your Life

This is a list of techniques, tips and mindsets that should help anyone. From an architecture student to even an experienced architect. I can honestly say, some of these techniques below I have implemented recently and have already change my life for the better.

1. Set the Deadlines

This is a famous quote from Leonardo da Vinci which could apply to most of the creative industry. You can work on a design or something creative forever and never finish it and always improve it. However, you must stop and abandon it and set your deadline. Then stick to it. You do not want to be carrying on with the work forever.

2. Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law is a statement,

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

This is an unexplained force and theory that many people take for granted and accept, but don’t actually realize it. The diagram below shows how much time and effort goes into a task within the time frame. This is theory emphasizing the importance of deadlines and sticking to them.

3. Automate Reoccurring Task list

This has been a game changer for me when utilizing this with calendar on my phone. There are always weekly tasks that you have to do. Even small things like check your email for one hour in the morning. You can time slot these tasks on your calendar and make this a reoccurring task every week. Over time you can adjust this and it will become an efficient schedule or tasks.

4. Task list with high value at Top

You should really try and start your day with a task list, with the most value at the top. High value will also mean a  minimum amount of effort required compared with the impact or importance of getting that task done. Actually write it down and cross it off. Even if its one task of the day.

5. Multitasking is a Lie. Batch task instead

Multitasking is a complete lie – . Think about it. Shifting your mind from one task to another takes time and you loose time doing that. Doing one thing at a time is much more efficient. Or even grouping similar tasks together. This is known as “flow” state. For instance, allocating 1 hour at 9am in the morning to reply to emails, is far more efficient than replying to emails throughout the day.

multitasking time management for architects

6. Time blocking with Calendar Time slots

It is a method used by many CEO’s and productivity experts around the world including Bill Gates and Cal Newport.  Time blocking is dividing your day into blocks of time with each block dedicated to a task or activity.

This is actually a quite obvious and a simple thing you can do. With Google or Apple calendar on your phone, time blocking is easy. Allocate time slots for tasks on your calendar. It can be anything from having a meeting to eating lunch. This will force you to do things within time frames. Now you can use this with the techniques described above, specifically 4 Parkinson’s Law, 5  Automate Reoccurring Task list and 6. Task list with high value at Top and also 7. Batch Tasking.  . Successful business people like Elon Musk have even been known to plan their entire days in 10 minute time blocks. That’s a bit extreme, but can see how powerful the principle is below

time management

7. 80/20 Rule

Also know as The Pareto Principle, it says for most outcomes, roughly:

“80% of the result comes from 20% of the effort.”

This is a very versatile principle that can be applied to almost anything. For example:

  • 80% of local COVID-19 transmission were spread by 20% of the cases
  • 80% of lottery tickets are bought by 20% of society
  • 80% of air pollution is caused by 20% of the population

Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist discovered this bizarre phenomena when he noticed that about 80% of Italy’s land belonged to 20% of the country’s population.

A good example to explain this more simply is,  if you had a list of 10 tasks to do. If you focused on the 2 most important and vital tasks and don’t finish the remaining 8, then that could amount to 80% of the impact.For an architects simple time management or a designer it could mean focusing on doing 3 sketches rather than focusing on 1 complete design.

When you do work, focus on the important 20%  part that will drive the most impact first (the 80%). I have found the diagram below the best way to describe it.


80:20 rule The Pareto Principle8. The 2 minute rule

The Two-Minute Rule is:

“When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

This is all about showing up or getting started. The trick is training your mind into thinking you only need to do something for 2 minutes.

For example,

  • “Learn software” translates to “Watch a 2 minute YouTube video”
  • “Read every night” translates to “Read one page before going to sleep”
  • “Exercise translates to “Show up for the gym every week”
  • “Study for exam” translates to “Open my revision notes”
  • “Run every day” translates to “Put my trainers on every morning”

The theory is that you need to initiate the habit that will lead to a regulate productive path. For example, Jessica hates exercising, but told herself:

“Okay, I will just go to the gym and drink a milkshake once a week”

After a while Jessica,  accepted it and it eventually became a regular thing. That habit changed the way she thought. She did not worry about doing the exercise, she was more focused on turning up and not missing workouts. That is the kind of person that the theory makes you.  The two minute rule can help change your mind set and help kick start regular routines, which is the key to success.

custom house in shanghai with clock tower9. The Program

I will never forget the question the RIBA examiners asked me, at my interview:

“How do you coordinate all the consultants within the RIBA plan of work?”

The answer: A Program.

Architects, engineers and almost all the other consultants on an architecture project, produce drawings. Generally, that is what they do.  List the drawings on the left, then have a timeline on the right for how long each drawing will take. That’s it.  Not only is this an architects simple time management tool it is a vital tool for coordination. This can be done with just your own project, or if you are lead coordinator on a project, then you can put all the other consultants drawings on the left too. Then you beat all the other consultants with a stick, until they finish them, within the deadline you have set them.

Of course this can be done in software like online database, to make life easier. Just remember to keep it simple.

10. Happiness Mindset

If you do not enjoy doing something you will not likely do it productively. Apply your mindset with positivity and enjoy the process.  This can be difficult. But there are ways to prepare. For example, clearing  your desk, make a cup of coffee, listen to music – do what you have to do to make it more enjoyable, if you can.

Time is Up

Ultimately, for architects simple time management, you need to find a balance that works for you and your design process. I can guarantee, if you start implementing even a couple of these techniques above, it could change and empower your life for then better. In fact, you wouldn’t be reading this article if I didn’t use some of the principles above.


📐Russell M. Henderson is a practicing RIBA Chartered Architect based in Tanzania, East Africa.

🎥Russell (Architect Russell) also makes videos on YouTube , TikTok & Instagram sharing thoughtful, honest and pragmatic knowledge while working and living abroad.


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