Help me help other architects! This blog is an excerpt from the first draft of my book: Breaking the Box: Explode out of Architecture School to a Successful Career as an Architect. You can help by leaving a critique in the comment section below. And if you are just starting I suggest you check out the table of contents for an easy road map. Thx you rock! -Steve
Are double monitors a double-edged sword?
In my office, each desk is equipped with two computer monitors. Most of our architects keep Revit open on the left monitor and have email open on the right monitor. This 2-monitor setup is industry standard and I question whether it has done more harm than good.
A second monitor in your peripheral vision can be a big distraction, especially when email is involved. What happens when you are focused on a task and a new email pops up? What about when you are working on an important drawing and you see a list of 10 unread emails?
It makes you want to check those emails right?
We can’t help it. We want to see what is in those damn emails! In fact, our desire to check email, texts, and social media triggers a shot of dopamine to our brain. It can be an addiction. For more on the science of internet addiction: Why We're All Addicted to Texts, Twitter and Google by Susan Weinschenk Ph.D
Don’t Let Email Set Your Agenda
In addition to the distraction, email causes you to be reactive and allows others to plan your day. We have a tendency to want to answer emails in the order of arrival. Most of those emails contain a to-do-list: send me a drawing, answer these questions, search the building code. Those things distract you and can eat up your day.
You need to be proactive about how you spend your time!
Introducing: Email Batching
I learned the concept of email batching in the book The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. Email batching is the process of managing and scheduling your email time. Batching your email and other digital activities can have profound impacts on productivity and lower stress levels. Rather than constantly or randomly checking emails, you schedule the time into your day.
Tips for Batching Emails:
#1 - Turn off the email program on your computer.
Do it! It feels good.
#2 - Use your mobile phone to scan emails.
Your iPhone might not be good for making calls or checking voicemail, but it is awesome for scanning emails. Within 30 seconds, you can scan your phone for any important emails. The best part is that you can do this without opening the email program on your computer. If there is an urgent email, respond as soon as possible. All others can wait.
#3 - Schedule daily time to respond to emails.
For me that time is 10am and 4pm. I would love to get that down to one time a day. Respond to the emails in the order of importance, not the order of arrival.
#4 - Let people know your schedule.
If you have a client that expects immediate response, then let them know your email routine. Tell them they can call or text your mobile phone if something is urgent. Also, let your colleagues know that you are doing this. Being a good team player is your ultimate responsibility. Ask them to call if they need you or to stop by your desk. A call or an in person discussion is less of a distraction then email.
#5 - Adjust as necessary.
There are times when you will be expecting correspondence from a consultant or a client. When this occurs, keep your email open or consider scanning your phone more frequently. This plan does not need to be rigid.
Email Batching It is about doing more.
From first glance, it may seem that email batching is about doing less or avoiding people. In fact, it is the opposite. Email batching delivers greater focus resulting in higher productivity. In addition, scheduling time for correspondence will give people your undivided attention.
You may find some old farts in your office that will not understand the concept of email batching. They may think of always being available as the ultimate badge of honor. Explain to them that this strategy is about doing more with your time. This strategy will help you to work faster and produce higher quality work. This results in better design, higher profitability, and happier clients. How can they argue with that?
It works with Phone Calls Too
This same principle applies to phone calls as well. Stopping to answer the phone in mid-task is a distraction. The office survives on days when you are on vacation so what makes you think that you need to answer every phone call when you are in the office. It can wait!
Tips for Phone Batching
#1 - Always answer phone calls from your colleagues.
Remember, being a team player is everything.
#2 - Always answer phone calls from your clients.
These folks pay the bills so you must keep them happy.
#3 - For all other calls, let them go to voicemail.
Everyone else can wait. You have priorities.
#4 - Set a time for checking voicemail and responding to calls.
Just like email, I use 10am and 4pm for phone time.
#5 - Adjust as necessary.
This is meant to increase your productivity not cripple it. If you are expecting a call, then pick up the phone. If your caller ID does not read the number, then let it go to voicemail and then answer the voicemail. If it is someone, important than call them back immediately.
It is all about focus.
Batching your time is a simple process that you already do with most of your daily activities. Grocery shopping, cooking, yard work, etc. Aside from thanksgiving, it would be terribly inefficient to spread out your cooking over an entire day. How could you get anything else done?