A little past 6AM, tunes from the local radio station wake me from a very deep slumber. (I set the alarm to 6:14, so I hear music rather than the daily bad news report. I am very serious about my “full media blackout“.) I certainly don’t spend enough time sleeping. I’m up late every night working on this website, recording a podcast episode (Episode 001, coming January 12th) or catching up on paperwork from the studio.
After making the family breakfast and keeping the kids focused on meeting the morning deadlines, we race to the bus stop.
I work very hard to keep balance in my life. I’m a scout dad and a swim dad. I eat dinner with my family every evening (unless I have a conflicting client meeting). As an Entrepreneur Architect, that’s not an easy schedule, but it’s worth every sacrifice that it requires.
After five years of suffering, the firm has full boards again and clients with high expectations. My staff has been reduced to one associate. I am wearing many hats these days and currently hold the positions of CEO, COO, CFO, President, Director of Architectural Services, Architect, Project Manager, Office Manager, Book Keeper, Receptionist and Custodian… and that’s just at work.
If you are an Entrepreneur Architect, I’m sure this sounds familiar.
How to Get it All Done.
This is the first of twelve posts where we are going to dive deep into business basics for architects. Today, we’re getting productive.
I find it a bit ironic that I am writing this post about Personal Productivity. In addition to meeting the deadline for this post, I have a desk full of “important papers” waiting for me at the studio. Way more than I will ever be able to handle on my own. Every Monday I roll into studio, look at that pile of lists and ask myself, “How will I ever get this all done?”
I have read every book I can find on personal productivity and getting things done. I’ve tried all the systems and listened to all the podcasts… and still, I can not get everything done.
Here’s the secret that none of the experts ever talk about… YOU CAN’T GET IT ALL DONE! It’s impossible. You can’t do everything. You will never get it all done.
In order to stay sane and keep yourself, your family, friends and clients happy, you will need to make some rather important decisions.
Step 1: Process Everything.
It’s time to make another list. No, not another “to do” list to throw on the pile. Compile a list of everything in your head. Literally everything. Write it down and get it out of your head.
Now, don’t you feel better? With a clear mind, you will have better focus and much less stress.
Read through the list and prioritize each item as 1) Urgent and Important, 2) Not Urgent and Important, 3) Urgent and Not Important and 4) Not Urgent and Not Important.
The late Stephen R. Covey, in his iconic self help book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (if you haven’t read it yet, read it!), presented his Urgent/Important Productivity Matrix as a tool to help us determine what is truly important and what are merely distraction and time wasters. I am not going to get too deep in how to use this tool now, but you may read more about Mr. Covey’s matrix in this workshop guide about Habits 1 through 3.
The idea of using the matrix is to live your life in numbers 1 and 2. Things in numbers 3 and 4 are needless interruptions, time wasters and busy work.
Step 2: Decide What to do… and what NOT to do.
Now that you know what is important and what is not, the next step is to list the things you are going to get done. We’re not talking about things we WANT to get done, or things we HOPE to get done. We are listing things that WE ARE GOING TO GET DONE.
Now identify the things on the list that are NOT going to get done. Break down this list further as things you do want to get done in the future and things that are never going to get done. The things you want to get done should go on your list for next week and the other things should be flushed from your brain.
Step 3: Schedule the things that you ARE going to do.
Before you start to schedule the things you are going to do, we need to discuss your calendar. You should use one master schedule for all your things to do, personal and business. You have one life. You need one place to schedule that life. We are living in a time where technology allows us to access the same calendar using many different devices. Pick one calendar system and stick with it.
Now take all the things that are going to get done and schedule a time to get them done. Be realistic with your time allotments. You must have the proper amount of time to complete each task.
This is how you are going to be home for dinner each night and how you are not going to work weekends… if you decide that’s what you want.
If you don’t want to work weekends, don’t schedule work activities during the weekend. Yes, I know most residential clients want to meet with you on weekends. You need to decide what is most important in your life. The life you want will require some sacrifices and those projects with client who will only meet on weekends may be one of those sacrifices. YOU determine when you meet with clients. You set the rules for your business. (Tweet That)
I am available for client meetings anytime during business hours and after hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and occasionally on Friday. The studio is closed on the weekends and most prospects respect the fact that I spend my weekends with my wife and kids.
Step 4: Repeat.
Now that you understand the basics of how to get things done, you need to perform this process every week. Pick a specific time for scheduling and include that on your calendar too.
Step 1 will be much less involved the second time around, because you’ve already done the hard work.
Throughout your day, capture every thought on paper or in a capture tool. I use Evernote. I can access it from my Mac’s desktop, on my phone or anywhere I have an internet connection. I love that I can use the voice note tool in Evernote when I am driving, which is when so many of my ideas come to mind. It’s a great tool and I highly recommend it. In fact, I organize my whole life with Evernote. I have a notebook for every important role in which I play a part.
Using your capture tool, organize your daily thoughts into “to do” and “not going to do” lists. Then, at the end of each day, empty your capture tool “to do” list and schedule a time to complete those tasks. Keep the “not going to do” list in the capture tool so you will never need to use precious brain power to think about those items. Whenever you want to review one of those ideas, it will be there waiting for you.
Some rules and a suggestion.
There are three very important rules to this process. First, Don’t use your “to do” list to get things done. A continuous “to do” list is actually the single biggest cause of your stress. (Tweet That) Its a constant reminder of all the things you haven’t yet done. Second, you must commit to getting done whatever you put on the schedule. Third, don’t over schedule. Give yourself enough time to get it all done.
If you find that you still don’t have enough time to get it all done. You need to make some more decisions. You will need to either add more to the “not going to do” list or delegate some of the less important items on your list to others. The topic of delegation is an entirely separate post, so I will not expand on that here.
I shared my biggest secret to being more productive a few weeks back. Turn off the television. You will be amazed at what you will accomplish with a few more hours of dedication to the things that matter most in your life. (Tweet That)
Pick any two consecutive days of your typical work week and record what you actually do each day. Create a form, listing 24 hours. Start at 12 midnight on Day 1.
As an example:
12:00AM to 1:00AM: Blog Writing (just kidding… but not really)
1:00AM to 2:00AM: Sleep…
6:00AM to 7:00AM: Wake and prepare breakfast…
9:00AM to 10:00AM: Check email…
Each hour of your day, list what you are doing. You may be surprised where your time is spent. The next time you say that you wish you had more time, you can pull out your list and you will find “more time”.
Now I ask YOU. How do YOU get it all done? My process works for me and I hope it works for you. Please let me know what you think. Please share your tips, tools and processes in the Comments below.
Next week, we’ll be discussing Your Life Plan, which includes your personal master plan and your business plan.
Please spread the word about what we’re doing here by clicking one of the social icons below. The more people who get involved, the better it’s going to be for all of us.
Thanks for reading. See you on Twitter and Linkedin.
photo credit: Courtney Dirks via photopin cc
Good post. Your make a list and process describes the “getting things done” process. Worth a look, love the Covey’s quadrant addition.
You are absolutely correct Larry. My method is nothing new. GTD is an excellent process and an excellent book. I highly recommend it. My method is simply a little bit from everything I’ve learned throughout the years.
Bob Swinburne says
Looks like you have some time between 2 A.M and 6 A.M.
As a full time home-maker and part time architect, I have a similar need for rigorous productivity. I have 5 hours available in the middle of the day to work (+ groceries, errands, etc.) We let TV go a decade ago as we never had time to watch anything and were paying $40/month to watch a few hours a week. Every year, time gets a bit tighter as my kids get older and I have to look for more efficiencies. Luckily (depending on viewpoint) high speed internet is not available at my home so when I return home after picking my daughter up from school, I’m really at home and not trying to work. Oops – just blew my internet surfing time budget for today!
Greg La Vardera says
Bob, that will all change as they get older, till you find you suddenly have time on your hands…
Yes. I need to find something to do for those 4 hours ; ) Thanks for sharing Bob.
Megan Musgrove says
Thank you so much for these posts! I’m not a licensed architect . . .technically a drafter, but I run my own business from my home doing design and prints, so my business runs very much like a small firm (except I don’t do anything commercial or any high end modern homes! lol) I’m mostly self taught and while I’ve figured out many things that work well for me, I’m always looking for things I can learn from others. I have three daughters and my husband is military, so I also have the constant juggling of family and work. I’m very blessed to be able to be my own boss and work from home, but it certainly does have its challenges. I’m so very glad I now know about your blog. A great addition for the new year. : )
Welcome to Entrepreneur Architect Megan. If you ever have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to reach out via the Contact form above… Please send my very best and heartfelt thanks to your husband. My family is grateful for all military servicemen AND the further sacrifices made by their families. God bless.
Joshua Lloyd says
My daughters elementary school is using the 7 habits as a tool that they are teaching to all of the kids. So my first grader might be able to help me with that one. Anyways, this article speaks directly to one of my goals for the year to be more organized which I just happen to publish in my blog last night. So I am going to have to add a link to this article now in my post.
Josh; I would love to know how the school is using the Seven Habits. Is it a specific curriculum from Covey or are they adapting from the original book? Here’s to an “organized” 2013!
John Dunham says
Just found your website / blog and am thoroughly enjoying it…
Thanks John. Spread the word : )
Manuel Mergal says
Started looking for marketing ideas and kept referring to the previous sections until I got to your first one on time management. Sound advice here, thank you. On Sunday morning I do a week look ahead and organize the “to-do” list on Outlook for that week. During the morning commute I look at my Outlook entries and arrange or re-arrange as needed. I also use that commute time on the train to organize my thoughts and read some things like your post above.
Ray Brown says
I teach my architect clients to think of their life like a Chrismas tree. If you are disorganised then there’s just one big pile of pine needles. If you apply structure to your life then there are ‘branches’ or what I call the key areas of your life (usually a maximum of 8), ‘twigs’ which are the sub-sections of your key areas (sometimes called task groupings) and finally the pine needles. Each task area may have 1,2 or 3 required tasks. Much better than one long 50 item to do list. I like your idea too of not keeping tasks which will never be done on your task list.