What Is Productivity?

Is your architecture productivity lacking? Do you find yourself sitting down for hours on end and working your butt off but for some reason, things take way longer than you think they should? Is your productivity not as good as you want to be or as other architecture students seem to be? When you start to understand and implement good architecture productivity habits, things are going to change.

Let’s start with some simple definitions.

Production is the process of combining various inputs to make some kind of product or thing. Inputs can be tangible materials, resources or physical things, and they can also be more intangible thought processes or mental or emotional input. We all know what it is like to put your heart and soul and all your energy into something that just does not turn out as planned!!!

Productivity is the measure of efficiency and effectiveness of producing. In other words, what is the value of the outcome or result compared to the amount of time, energy and resources invested?

Efficiency is the ability to avoid wasting materials, resources, energy, effort, money and time to produce the desired result.

Effectiveness is the capability of producing the desired result.

Here are 9 tips about how to be a more efficient, effective and productive architecture student!!

01 | Get Inspired!!

The truth is, that real productivity comes from inspiration. Inspiration is the result of moving towards or engaging in things that bring you happiness or joy. As you do more things that interest or excite you, you get more inspired and desire to do even more!!

It is hard to force yourself to do something that you dislike or are just not interested in.

If you’re finding that you’re just not excited by architecture in general, well then, it may be time to consider a different career path that inspires you.

If you’re finding that a particular subject or project is feeling a little boring or hard work, then it’s time to get inspired and find what you enjoy or are interested in about it. You can do this in a couple of ways:

Find something about this particular subject or project that interests you, and put your focus on that. For example, in a design project, you might be interested in aspects of the light and shadow on a particular site, and focus on developing the main ideas of your design about that. In a history or theory subject, you might be interested in the influence of history on modern designers. If there’s something that interests you, consider working with your lecturer or tutor of you can adjust the project or assignment to accommodate that area of focus. Chances are, they’re much more likely to find a way to have an excited student in their class!!!

Find something about this particular subject or project that CONNECTS to something that interests you and is important to you. For example, if you’re finding the nuts and bolts of construction a little boring, consider how these building systems could be applied to current or past design projects. Everything is somehow connected to everything else in architecture. Everything.

02 | Set Big Goals

Get clear about what you want to receive from or achieve or achieve by the end of a particular project, subject, semester, year? Where are you starting and where do you want to end?

Make your goals big and outrageous and something that inspires and excites you to work towards. Find something that you can measure and see your results as you go. Even if you never get there, it is going to give you something clear to work towards. And you can always continue on the next project.

If you set a goal of finishing the project, you will finish it to the bare requirements. But if you set a goal of learning new software, or of creating a concept that you love it’s going to help. If you want to aim for a certain grade, then you can work with your tutor throughout the semester to determine what specifically will be required to get you that grade.

03 | Start Now And Be Consistent

The way to get started on something is to start. Now!

As soon as you receive a task, project or assessment the time to get started on it is right away, or at least in the next few days. At the very least, take some time to create a plan and build it into your calendar in a bit more detail so that you know where to start. That way, you can do a little bit of work on it every day in a calm and relaxed manner, rather than rush it at the end and then falling behind in other classes.

Trying to get a design or construction project completed a few hours at a time over 2-3 weeks rather than trying to cram it all into 48 hours is always going to get a much better outcome. Your brain needs time to process and absorb information and ideas with creative processes. And, after a large amount of time doing the same thing, you become much less effective.

04 | Plan To Plan: Time and Task Management

One of the greatest skills you learn and master as an architect is planning, in particular, planning and managing your task and your time.

Tasks management is identifying specifically what you need to do and defining the result that will tell you when a task is complete.

Time management is identifying when you are going to do a task, and sticking to it!!

Planning can often be overlooked or discarded because you are not producing anything tangible towards your result or outcome. Planning does not develop the design or get the essay written. However, planning is critical in ensuring that you produce what is required in the most efficient and effective way possible. So, make sure you plan to plan and include this time in each day, week, month, semester and year!!

A couple of things you can do to get you started on managing your time is to, first of all, clarify the task or assignment and get clear on what you are being asked to produce. That way, you can plan the most effective path to get there, rather than wasting time on things that do not matter and do not affect the outcome.

Then, you can start to break your large task or project down into much smaller, more manageable tasks. In many subjects you will be given very clear, manageable activities, tasks or exercises each week, such as completing a reading, or watching a video, or a specific design task such as a collage, a site analysis or concept development.

As soon as you have a specific task, get it into your productivity system, and then do it!!

05 | Prioritise

Once you know what you have to do and when you should be doing it, you need to prioritise. This is about considering what is the best and most effective use of your time. We need to know what is going to get the best outcome or result for the time, energy and effort we put into it.

For example, you might have scheduled an afternoon to do some creative work but you’re tired and just not inspired. Afternoons may generally not your creative time, but perhaps early mornings are or you might be a night owl. Forcing yourself is not going to get the great ideas you want. Instead, be flexible and maybe spend the afternoon working through some software tutorials that need to be done but do not require creative processes. In future, give yourself morning time for the creative process.

Or, if you are watching television or surfing the net, ask yourself, is this a priority for me? It may be that it’s not and you get back to work, or another 10 minutes will give you a well-needed mental break. Or maybe, getting off the screen and sitting in the sun for 10 minutes is a better way to refresh.

06 | Get Rid Of Distraction

Get rid of the things that distract you and waste your time. Cut out television, video games or browsing on the internet. You will be amazed by how much time you waste on this stuff! Track yourself for a single day in fifteen-minute increments and just note how much time is spent on unproductive stuff. Track yourself for a week and then multiple this by 52 to find out how much time you waste in a year. It may horrify you!!

Instead, give yourself an allocated time each day for these activities, AFTER you have completed the things that you want to do. That way, you can savour and appreciate your 1 hour on video games rather than wasting away hours at a time.

07 | Prepare for Tomorrow, Today

At the end of every day, or during your evening, have a look at what you need to complete the next day and make a list. That way, you have a plan for your day, and you can cross off each item once you do it. This is going to motivate and inspire you to keep going when you can see tangible results from your effort and input.

08 | Stop Multi-Tasking

Stop multi-tasking. While you might think you can jump from one thing to another with 57 different screens open, responding to emails as they arrive, trying to develop a design presentation in InDesign while listening to your online history lecture in the background, you can’t. This reduces productivity. You will take twice as long to do everything with half the result, compared to doing each task properly, one at a time.

Every time you jump from one task to another your brain has to stop, recalibrate and figure out where it is, which all takes time. Multi-tasking is a myth.

09 | Self-Care

Probably the most important aspect of productivity, but usually the most overlooked, especially in architecture, is self-care. Like planning, this is not often considered productive as it does not directly contribute to your outcome or result. However, self-care is essential for the long-term and sustainability of a career in architecture.

You are not a machine or a robot who can run on empty. You are a human being who needs sleep, nutrition, water, exercise, fresh air, connection with friends and family and other hobbies and interests. You are not just an architecture student. This is just one thing you do.

In the past, the number of “all-nighters” students did was worn like a badge of honour. They arrived at presentations straight from the drawing board or computer unshowered, with no sleep, no time to eat and living off coffee. This mentality still exists in some architecture schools and even in some practices.

However, while the odd all-nighter for a deadline maybe once or twice a semester may be achievable if you catch up on sleep, it is unsustainable for the long term. While you are young, you may feel okay and even invincible with the sacrifices you made for the best render ever or the most amazing model in the room. But eventually, this will catch up with you in the form of physical, mental or emotional unwellness.

As an architecture and design student it is essential to set up a lifestyle and a routine that includes a good 8 hours sleep a night, time to prepare nutritional meals, see your friends and family, earn a living AND study for a degree. You need to plan, prioritise and commit to creating a well-rounded life and looking after yourself.

If you fall in an exhausted heap, you will not be able to achieve anything!!

So What?

To manage architectural study as well as the other aspects of your life requires good skills in productivity including everything we’ve talked about here. Taking the time to learn and practice these skills will put you in a great position for when you are ready to enter the workforce.

Rather than trying to do everything at once, just pick one new habit and focus on that. Then, when that is in place, choose the next one. It may take a week, a month or a year to master. With each new skill or habit you put in place you are becoming more and more productive and laying a great foundation on which to build your career. As you become more productive you will be able to learn, create and produce more and more each year as you work towards becoming a master of your craft!

You have a lifetime to practice architecture. You have a lifetime to practice productivity. You don’t have to do it all today, but you can certainly start with one thing. Which are you going to choose?

Liz at ArchiMash


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