Time Management for Architects: Balancing Design, Planning, and Client Meetings


  Time Management for Architects: Balancing Design, Planning, and Client Meetings

Many architects agonize over how to balance their day-to-day work, client meetings, and design in order to meet deadlines. While there are no set solutions that will suit everyone, it is possible for every architect to find a system that works for them. This blog post lists several strategies architects can employ in order to make use of time more effectively and efficiently. As with any project, each architect can adapt these strategies and find the one that best fits his or her needs.

As an architect you may spend up to 40 hours per week on routine tasks such as completing designs requirements sets (RS), conducting marketing research, and attending meetings with clients or outside professionals. If you are a sole practitioner, the 40 hours per week may be split into 60-hour blocks. The time spent on these tasks is predictable, and you are able to plan for and adjust to changes in your workload and other demands on your time. If you are a multi-person practice or work in an office environment, you may devote 100% of your working hours to client meetings. In this case, it is difficult to predict how many hours the client meeting will take up each week. In this article we will cover one approach used by architects that have built successful practices with a heavy client meeting load by reducing their reliance on design or planning as a method of managing their business so that they can spend more time with clients.

The basic premise of this strategy is to ensure that every client meeting takes less than three hours, so that you will have uninterrupted time for client meetings the other three hours.  In order to meet this goal, the architect must find ways to minimise the amount of time spent on daily tasks such as RS and marketing, so that he or she can devote more time to client meetings. There are a number of different strategies you can follow based on your own situation and how much design or planning work you must do in order to manage your business. The approaches recommended in this article are:
1) Offer clients a deadline.
When preparing a project there is usually a specific timeline followed for the design process. This is not the case for other architectural services such as marketing and client meetings. This list recommends you create a timeline for everything, including marketing and client meetings. To ensure that each client meeting will take one hour or less, you must set deadlines for completing each meeting. Each new client meeting should be reviewed to find out how much time it will require. If the amount of time required exceeds one hour, consider breaking the project up into phases or setting up another meeting to discuss multiple projects at once. In any case, review the project design documents in order to set an appropriate deadline for completion for when you will meet with your clients again in order to discuss their project further. This is the most effective way to set a deadline for your client meetings.
2) Structure the interview process. Anytime you are speaking with a client, you are interviewing to uncover any issues or problems they have with their project. Although you are not just talking about marketing, the discussion falls under this umbrella because every meeting with a client should focus on improving your business as an architect and making it easier to work with clients in the future. If you find yourself in a situation where each meeting with a client leaves you feeling frustrated, it is time to evaluate how you conduct each meeting and develop strategies to improve this process. You should always make notes after each meeting with a client to reflect on how the meeting went and how this information can be used to better manage your business. This article offers a few methods you can use:
3) Review design documents and develop marketing strategies for clients.  Typically, an architect will spend about half his time with clients reviewing design documents submitted by sales staff. The other half is spent with the architect himself completing the final designs. Rather than making the approach outlined in #2 above, you may decide to focus more time on reviewing design documents and developing marketing strategies so that you can devote more time to client meetings. In this article, we will not recommend you spend 50% of your working time on the marketing side of the business. Rather, we suggest that you delegate at least 10% of your working time to a marketing strategy partner. This can be an established employee or a contractor hired by you to assist with marketing duties for a weekly or monthly fee. If you are in this situation, remember that any time spent on management is not wasted and has value.
4) Optimize your design process and reduce reliance on design work. One of the key issues many architects face is finding ways to reduce the amount of time spent on design. In order to meet your client meeting goals, you must reduce your reliance on design work and find other methods of management. To do this, you need to review the design process in order to determine which steps are unnecessary. The following list identifies where you may be spending too much time:
Reviewing design documents with clients Pre-design activities (e.g., marketing and RS) Client meetings Client meetings Post-design activities (e.g. billing and invoicing)
Examine your existing design process in order to determine which steps are unnecessary. You may find that you can reduce your design time by as much as 75% simply by eliminating these steps. The most useful methods of management for the remaining 25% will depend on your circumstances and which of the two approaches outlined in this list (approaches #2 and #3) you adopt. In this case you could spend 2-3 hours per week reviewing design documents with clients to complete a project, instead of 8-10 hours spent on RS and marketing. This task should be done weekly so that changes can be managed quickly.
5) Consider outsourcing client meetings. Rather than spending all of your time with clients, you may not want to devote so much time to each project. If your workload is too excessive, consider outsourcing a portion of it (e.g., consulting for two hours per week). You should also consider getting a job as an architectural salesperson in order to gain more experience and better manage your business with fewerhours . One of the most effective ways to achieve this goal is by working for other architects who can act as sales staff and provide on-the-job training. In this way you can learn how to sell design services to clients without having full responsibility of managing a client meeting schedule, marketing strategy or budget.
6) Learn to manage your time effectively. Although you may have built up a large client base, remember that most architects struggle with time management. An effective way to manage your time is by scheduling tasks on your calendar. For example, you might schedule three hours per week for "client meetings". On the day that you schedule a specific amount of time for each meeting, do everything possible to stick to this schedule so that you can get the most out of every hour spent with clients.

The only foolproof plan to manage your time effectively is to develop and stick to a clear plan for managing your time. However, it will have the advantage of being completely based on your own preferences and it leaves you flexible so that you can change the way you manage time as your experience in the industry grows. At first, this may not be enough but over time, you should be able to refine this process so that it becomes second nature. There are no shortcuts in life and there is no plan that will put an end to procrastination and poor time management habits.

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