The Effective Architect Part 1: Plan Your Work

by Michael Kilkelly , Principal, at ArchSmarter on January 30, 2019

Project schedules are getting shorter as building designs get more complex. As architects, we already work hard—so what’s the solution? There are only so many hours in a day.

Answer: Work smarter. But how? How can we maximize our effectiveness and efficiency? How can we manage the increasing flow of information? How can we design better buildings faster?


In this 5-part series, we’re going to look at 25 ways you can work smarter, not harder in 2019. Part 1 focuses on how to effectively structure your work to ensure success.
Let’s get started!

Plan Your Work





Focusing on the “how” of your work is just as important as focusing on the “what”. Ideally, we want to be both effective and efficient. However, while efficiency is really about doing things right, effectiveness is about doing the right things. You can be really efficient but not very effective, especially if you’re not working on the right things.

The 80/20 Principle


Eighty percent of your results come from just twenty percent of your effort. Focus on results, not work. More hours does not necessarily equal more results. This is the essence of the 80/20 principle.

High-Value Activities


Identify your high-value activities. These are the activities you perform better than anyone on your team or in your office. Focusing on your high-value activities gives you greater leverage to get your most important work done.

Outline Your Process


Yes, every project is unique, but the tasks and milestones in each project are pretty similar. Outlining the process helps you see where to eliminate steps or make it more efficient. Mind maps are a great tool for this exercise.

Use Checklists


After you’ve outlined your process, create checklists for each stage of the project. What are your standard deliverables? What problems do you typically run into? What often gets missed? Take a look at Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto, for practical advice on creating and managing checklists. Also, most project management software allows you to create checklists and to-do lists.

Create a Daily Plan


What are you going to work on today? What about this week? Creating a daily plan is a key step in making sure you get done what’s important. I like to use an analog planner, like the Productivity Planner, but digital tools like Todoist, are equally effective.

What’s Next

In Part 2 of this series, we take a look at time management and I’ll show you 5 ways you can better focus your time.

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The Effective Architect Part 2: Focus Your Time

In this 5-part series, we’re looking at 25 ways you can work smarter, not harder in 2019. Part 2 explores how you can proactively manage your most precious resource, your time.