Studio Life: Improving Upon Speed and Productivity

I’ll be the first to admit that I was never one of the faster people in our studio group. On many occasions I found myself racing to complete deliverables while a strategic few had already printed, mounted, and headed for a beer. I wasn’t alone in that position and I truly believe in many cases it just comes down to personality type. Many of us found ourselves over-thinking, then re-thinking, second-guessing, and over thinking some more.

One of my primary focuses for the past four years has been learning and training myself to improve upon the rate at which I complete tasks. Through critical self-analysis and close observation of some of my more successful peers, I have developed the below tips to improve upon speed and productivity.

Be honest with yourself about the level of complexity you can achieve in the given amount of time. Don’t lose sight of your current skill level. You do want to push your skills as far as they can go, but don’t forget about the consequences of not balancing your efforts.

As the saying goes: Put 80% of your effort in the most important 20% and 20% of your effort in the remaining 80%. As you begin your project determine what is the most important 20% and commit the majority of your time to that. Be rational: do not become fixated on stuff no one is going to notice. For example, in the first year of Architecture School no one is going to notice if you draw doors with perfect detail, or if a room is 10 square meters instead of 9 square meters. What they will notice is your idea and your ability to communicate it.

Make a decision. When trying to come up with the idea behind your project, set a time limit for yourself and stick to it. The minute you hit the first promising idea – take it and run. You will need to reserve as much time as possible to develop and market it. You could have the best idea in the world, but if you reserved no time at all to progress it and present it successfully, it’s strength may be lost.

Be selective of the critic suggestions you incorporate. Throughout the course of the project you may have many crits where you will receive a lot of feedback. Be selective of what feedback you decide to incorporate in your project. Even if all of it is incredibly valuable you will only have time to make the most important changes.

Write a list. Keep track of tasks by creating lists. As you complete things you can scratch items off and quickly move on to the next task without having to waste time thinking about your next move. This comes in particularly handy when you are sleep deprived and struggling to think clearly.

Prioritize and conquer one thing at a time. When you make a list, write numbers indicating the priority of each task. This way you can be sure to conquer the most important tasks first. If you reach your deadline prior to completing all deliverables you can eliminate the tasks listed as last priority and rest assured you’ve completed the most important items.

Set time limits. Within your list, write the estimated time that each task should take to complete. Then, write the actual start and end times, so you know if you’re on track. In the longer term this helps improve upon knowing how long particular tasks take.

As long as you keep speed and productivity as one of your main focuses during each project, you will become faster. It may take a fair bit of time, considering you’re attempting to re-shape a fundamental part of your personality, but you will improve.

Anyone have additional strategies they use to improve upon their speed and productivity? Please leave a comment below or email


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