2 Keys to Time Management and Measuring its Effectiveness

Truss designing is one discipline where we can feel time is always running against us. Deadlines can even yell at us when they are coming near and the clock becomes an annoying reminder every time we look at it. At times, it seems as if every job coming in the door is a rush. Can anyone identify?

If we are so busy and working hard to fulfill everything that is required why is it taking so long? And even consuming time needed for other issues (professionals or personals). Cyril Northcote Parkinson made a brilliant statement in 1955: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. He made this remark regarding his observations on the bureaucratic functioning of the British Civil Services. Later, his notes would be known as Parkinson´s Law. These are not exactly “laws” such as gravity, but statements showing us how time is managed and how it and can be used as warning signs by professional to document and measure efficiency.


Use time to your advantage

Another way to look at Parkinson´s Law is “The amount of time that one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task.” If we take this as being true, then we can study our tasks and divide up a number of activities which consume a portion of time. In this way we, can see the endeavor not as difficult as it could be but as a group of smaller activities that can be easily handled.

The advantages of doing this “dissection” of the activities are:

  1. Can provide a realistic vision of efforts required
  2. We can see if the tasks (or part of them) are beyond our capacities and we can ask for help for specific matters
  3. We can see all information needed has been provided
  4. Establishing time lapses for every task and acting before consumption of them if we are not done yet. This action can be modifications to work schedule, notifying others involves on the project (supervisors, coworkers, clients, etc.)
  5. It develops a sense of commitment. As we are aware of our work schedule (designed by ourselves) we can keep responsibilities under our wing so we know when we can finish a job

Perform a review at end of the day

When the day is over we need to take a mental inventory of our results and see if they have fulfilled what we planned out. We MUST make them measurable (task/time) so we can establish an even rate of results vs. effort. In doing so, we are verifying if we are improving or showing areas of regression. These can include (but are not limited to) planning, overconfidence, overlooking details, poor communication, etc.).

As the unexpected is a common currency in any project, our plan must be flexible in adapting to changing situations. But, at the same time, it must be robust enough to keep going despite modifications. We need to have priorities in mind and be aware of what we can postpone or re-evaluate a realistic finishing time. We cannot allow disorder to take control of any situation if we suddenly need to reach 3 deadlines the same day. It is preferable that we sincerely respond to one or two of those requirements than not accomplish any of them. That way the rest of people involved can also make their plans and act accordingly.

Do you let your tasks consume the whole time available? Are you planning the activities or letting them to control you?

If you have any experience with this seemingly timeless challenge, please share it with us!

Javier Dominguez – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.