It’s a phrase Annmarie and I use almost everyday.
“Go clean your room!”
Every parent of young children can relate. With those four words, we attempt to instill a sense of order and responsibility within our children.
On most days it seems fruitless and a waste of breath, but we know the lesson is being taught… and someday, in the same way lessons were learned from our own parents, the importance of “having a place for everything and everything having its place” will sink in and become a part of who they are as adults.
Especially as architects, we know the critical element of order. Order creates a system of understanding and clarity. It becomes the basis on which other elements can be layered and built upon to become amazing works of architecture.
Today’s article is not about putting away your LEGOs though, or the repetitive modules of modern architecture. It’s not about creating the forms and space in which others work, live or play.
Today’s article is about YOU and the space in which you work. It’s about your studio and your systems of keeping it clean and organized.
Our Paperless Office
In November, we moved from a 2,000 square foot open plan design studio to a new 200 square foot home-based studio built at our private cottage in the woods of Chappaqua, New York. Our staff now works remotely from their own studios and our file server now lives online in the cloud. With that major shift in business model, comes many new ways of doing business.
One such change is our shift to a paperless office.
All our drawings are converted to PDF files and stored on Dropbox. Our project notes, business records and receipts live as digital reproductions on Evernote. Everything from our corporate documents to our personal health records, and everything in between, is digitally sorted and filed in a simple system of searchable folders. All the paper has been shredded and recycled.
With no paper in sight, the new studio is a place of order and efficient professionalism. I can find any document with the click of a mouse and have it available for review within seconds. Hours of time formerly wasted searching through piles of paper waiting to be filed, can now be dedicated to creating better architecture.
The Reality of Our Paperless Office
The truth is that my paperless office has not been so successful. My tiny workspace still has several bound construction document sets stacked on the work table and short piles of paper, every stack representing another critical category of business or pleasure, dot the desk tops and line the edge of the floor.
The experiment of going paperless has not been a failure, but I have much work to do before it becomes a true success.
We have seen some progress.
Our project files have been migrated to Dropbox, and just this week I started entering project field notes directly into Evernote via my new iPad Air. Though the CDs on the table and short stacks of miscellaneous “important papers,” remain waiting to be scanned and sorted among my new system of digital folders.
The Plan to Go Paperless
Around the same time that our business model changed, our workload increased. We are busier than ever and my hat rack continues to grow. I have not had much time to shift to new systems and keep the new studio as clean and organized as it should be.
A plan must be activated. The goal of becoming paperless must become a priority. The hours wasted searching and the risk of losing critical documents are just too great. I am tired of living among the piles.
I have set three goals with deadlines in order to make this important business system happen. Here is what I am going to do:
Goal 1: Scan, file, shred and recycle all paper documents that enter the studio from this date forward.
This will stop the piles from growing and the new system will slowly become routine.
When we moved to the new studio, I purchased a Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Scanner, which very quickly scans and converts any paper document to a PDF file ready for sorting in Evernote. I cannot recommend this device enough. If you are considering a paperless studio, a ScanSnap is a must.
Goal 2: Create record drawing sets in PDF file format for all active projects and file in a dedicated folder for RECORD COPY by August 1, 2014.
I currently have most of our active projects already converted and often access the files from the field via Dropbox. Its a pleasure to now walk the job site with an iPad in my hand rather than a heavy roll of drawings under my arm.
Goal 3: Hire part time administrative staff to scan, file, shred and recycle all existing paper documents (i.e. The Piles) by September 1, 2014.
The existing piles will be eliminated from my work area and documents will be easier searched and sorted.
My hope was to accomplish this task myself, but I think delegation is the appropriate business move to make here. My time is much more valuable completing other tasks and if I leave it on my own to do list, it simply won’t get done.
With these three simple steps, my studio will begin to shift. The piles of papers will disappear and my productivity will increase. A clean room is not only important from the practical point of view of getting things done, but also from a psychological point of view. Working in an organized and orderly space allows you to be more productive, grow a stronger business, create better architecture and live a happier life.
So… go clean your room!
I suspect your studio may look like mine. Us creatives tend to find ourselves among the clutter. Let me know what you think of my plan and share your own goals for becoming more efficient in the comments section below.
Photo Credit: luminastock / 123RF Stock Photo