As someone who works in a creative industry, you know how easy it is to simply get carried away with your creative process - particularly if you’re a perfectionist when it comes to your designs.
You might lose track of how much time you’ve spent, forget to prioritise other tasks, or get distracted by a more inspiring project and jump from one thing to another. Letting your mind wander might be helpful for your creativity, but unfortunately, paying for that time is not necessarily something that your client is going to be OK with!
In your industry, your time is your biggest asset. Learning how to best manage workloads, prioritise assignments and then track and bill for your time is critical to the success of your practice. Luckily, there are some easy habits you can implement in your practice to increase productivity and help keep you on track with time:
1. Use job management tools to assign tasks and prioritise projects
A job management tool like WorkflowMax allows you to collaborate with you team, particularly if you’ve got team members who work remotely or who are frequently out of the office. It will also ensure you have a transparent view of what’s happening across projects, wherever you’re working.
Use job management tools to assign tasks, schedule deadlines, keep track of project status, track milestones and view what’s in the project pipeline.
2. Use a time tracking tool
Timesheets are a necessary evil, but they don’t have to be such a challenge to complete! Have a time tracking tool such as a timer open on your screen so you can track time while you’re working, rather than trying to recall this information at the end of the day.
Time tracking keeps employees accountable for their time - both to the business and to the client. As a practice or project manager, time tracking also allows you to identify any inefficiencies, and also keep an eye on whether your fees are remaining on point.
3. Also record unbillable time
Keep track of how much time you’re spending on unbillable time, such as administration tasks, emails, surfing the internet, phone calls, as well as your billable hours. When you realise how much time you or your employees spend on tasks that aren’t bringing you revenue, you may reevaluate how you manage your day or identify systems that may need to be implemented to speed-up or moderate particular tasks.
4. Simplify your systems
Consolidate your processes into one, streamlined system by integrating cloud-based apps. This allows data to flow from one piece of software to another without you having to upload or double-key information, dramatically reducing your admin time.
For example, WorkflowMax integrates with CRM systems, document management systems, accounting and payroll software so you can create an app eco-system that perfectly suits your business requirements.
5. Reduce distractions
Block out times in your calendar that are designated as an interruption-free zone. Share this calendar with your colleagues so they know when to schedule in necessary discussions or phone calls. Re-direct your phone, put your headphones on and your head down!
Likewise, an ill-timed email can completely throw out your creativity and focus. Turn off email notifications while you focus on your creative work. Clear any urgent emails in the morning, but otherwise leave jobs such as emails and other admin tasks until later in the day when you might have that mid-afternoon lull and you don’t quite have the energy or inspiration for creative work.
6. Set expectations with clients
Use your project management software to manage and track your project pipeline - this will help you evaluate the capacity of your team, determine whether or not you can take on a project, and set realistic deadlines that work for both you and your client.
7. Create milestones
Once you’ve set your overall deadlines, it can be helpful to create a set of milestones throughout the length of a project for you to aim towards, whether these are collective or personal. Keeping on target with these will help ensure that you’re on-track to meeting your final deadline.
8. Prioritise your own to-do list
Create a personal task list, separate to your collaborative board, that sets out your daily priorities. Break down all the things you need to achieve by the end of the day, and cross them off as you go. Personally, I find the action of crossing something off a handwritten list is very satisfying! But there are also a raft of online tools (both free and paid) that allow you to create your to-do list on your computer, such as Wunderlist, the Google Tasks tool or Todoist.
How else do you ensure effective time management at your architecture practice? Do you have any other tools you can recommend?