Productivity 101 for Architecture Students
It’s no secret that architecture students have a serious work ethic which involves a lot of long hours, late nights, and a constant cycle of submissions. This is where productivity comes in. What exactly is being productive? It’s basically doing more with less. Getting things done and making the most of each day let's you achieve goals faster and effectively. It can take multiple forms but the most important part of it is finding a solution that works for you. This is just an introduction to productivity and it's many benefits.
As an architecture student, it can get pretty stressful and difficult by the time end of year submissions come around and by this point you may have had to juggle more than one project. Productivity means that even something as simple as a timetable or a daily planner can help you map out your thoughts and make sure you’re spending time effectively to achieve your goals. We're all about lists and organisation at :scale.
However, the biggest problem most of us face is that we often don’t stick to whatever plan we set out. Don’t worry, we’re all guilty of this and sometimes it can be alright to not stick to a schedule perfectly for a day or two. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to the idea of productive habits and how you can apply these yourself as an architecture student. Some of you may have finished university for the year or might have extended deadlines in which case you may not have the time to implement habits in your routine. However, there’s no perfect time to start learning new techniques and methods. This could be really helpful if you’re going to start university later this year or even if you just want to make some new habits.
Finding the Source of Stress
For a fair few years, I was relying on hand-written lists and notes and I actually made use of my sketchbook only after I started studying architecture. This evolved into other diaries and physical note-taking systems however recently, I’ve started using Notion, a brilliant and life-changing productivity tool. The best thing about Notion is that there are a range of possibilities and uses but the templates and other tutorials help you get started so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
First you need to figure out where you’re being least effective. Are you finding it hard to find inspiration and come up with ideas quickly? Or do you tend to get distracted easily? It could be any number of things in which case you need to figure out a way to come up with a solution. Questioning what is stressing you out and writing these things down can help you better understand what you need to do or fix. This doesn’t need to be specifically for university, it can apply to your daily life and give you a chance to keep track of hobbies or goals you want to achieve yearly.
For example, if you struggle with time-management, try out different methods like a simple timetable or a Pomodoro Timer and see which works for you. There’s no right or wrong way and you might feel like giving up if it doesn’t work. But once you find something that works, you’ll want to make it a part of your life. A good way to find new ways of working is through learning from others in which case YouTube comes in very handy. There’s a whole community of productivity nerds who put together their knowledge and ideas to provide meaningful content. Check out this video by productivity guru’s Matt D’Avella and Thomas Frank.
Building a productivity system will take some time and once it starts working for you, there’s no guarantee that you won’t have moments of burnout. Really, there’s only so much we can do in an hour, a week or a month and there’s no point setting up an organised system just to overwork yourself. Everyone has moments of feeling like their work is taking over so to avoid that you need to remember that you have a whole life other than architecture school which you can also incorporate into a productivity hub to make sure you’re still prioritising other important events and taking some time for yourself.
If you’re struggling with keeping on task and often end up procrastinating, you might need to change things up in the way you work. This could be re-organising your desk and keeping some snacks and water on hand so you’re not always getting up to eat. Or, if you end up scrolling on Instagram to keep up with our stories and posts, you might want to download some apps that limit your screen time.
During the early phases of a project, students usually struggle with coming up with new ideas in which case you may need to find some inspiration or sit down and draw out all your thoughts. Allocate a specific time for this and turn off all other distractions. Currently, you might be finishing off your projects and getting your portfolio together in which case a ready-made checklist could be helpful. I like to storyboard my portfolio weeks in advance and set up a checklist in my spare time when there’s still a bit of clarity. Once you’re in deadline mode, it can be frustrating to think of the exact things you need to include, but having one set up will make your life much easier.
Introducing a work-flow and mapping out your day can help your mind feel less cluttered because all your ideas should be written out somewhere, in a diary or online application. The repetitive nature of being an architecture student and dealing with weekly tutorials or monthly crits can leave you feeling like it’s a never-ending process. If you think about it in terms of a simple day, usually it may start at 10am and finish anytime in the evening. Including other commitments like a lunch date or a weekly shop, you want to find the best use for your time. For example, I found that printing drawings or draft pages on a Friday night worked great for me. I wasn’t wasting time waiting for the printers to be free and didn’t have to spend the time in studio plus it meant I was prepared early enough to not stress out on the day of a tutorial or crit.
Productivity Habits for Architecture Students
There isn’t a need for huge steps or changes in your life but instead, if you improve upon something by a small amount, it adds up later on and you won’t even realise it, but you’ll be working much more efficiently. Set yourself achievable and desirable targets or personal deadlines that you can work to without any external pressure. When you do sit down to work or organise something, make sure the task has your full attention and cut out the smaller, non-essential stuff. By prioritising what you need to get done immediately you can direct your focus towards it but still have the benefit of keeping the less urgent tasks still in front of you.
Introducing a productive mindset over the past year has really allowed me to do the things I want to be doing and opened up doors that wouldn’t have even been in my sights if I hadn’t had organised my mind and used the technology available to me to my advantage. You may already be using some kind of productivity technique just by having a sketchbook to fill your thoughts with. Your time at university tends to go by pretty quickly since everything happens at such a fast pace. If you start introducing certain habits such as a daily schedule or take up a project to improve your skills, it can set you up very nicely for the year to come. We would recommend you take this summer to relax and get back to the other things you enjoy but also sharpen yourself for the year ahead if you’re starting work or university.
We’ve put together a list of resources that can help you take a step into productivity without it being overtly complicated.