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Overwhelmed by NAs. Suggestions?

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  • Overwhelmed by NAs. Suggestions?

    I am an architect in my own one-person firm. While maybe 40% of what I do fits neatly in the GTD model, I am struggling with the area that consumes about 60% of my time -- producing construction documents.

    When it gets time to do these for a project, I have maybe 100 or more NAs, all equally important. I need to draw the interior elevations, draw the exterior elevations, create a plumbing fixture schedule, do a lighting plan, write specifications for the drywall, etc., etc. Most of these could be done concurrently, many of these have no serious dependencies after the basic design is done, all are essentially equally important so it is very hard to prioritize.

    Where to start? Is it even worth doing a NA list, because as soon as I do something, I'm going to have to decide what to do next. How do I manage a list like this? Just thinking about all the possible NAs makes me tired.

    But it's WAY worse than than that, because I probably have 5-6 projects going at any one time in various states of completion, and all screaming for attention.

    I look at all of the "blueprints" that I crank out and even in my inefficient, procrastinating state, it's still pretty impressive. But I know I could be doing a lot better and be under much less stress.

    Any suggestions? (BTW, I really am determined to stay a one-man shop. I prefer to multiply myself through technology whenever possible.) Thanks for any thoughts you might have.

    Richard

  • #2
    Hi Richard,

    Originally posted by RKM View Post
    Where to start? Is it even worth doing a NA list, because as soon as I do something, I'm going to have to decide what to do next. How do I manage a list like this? Just thinking about all the possible NAs makes me tired.

    But it's WAY worse than than that, because I probably have 5-6 projects going at any one time in various states of completion, and all screaming for attention.

    Any suggestions? (BTW, I really am determined to stay a one-man shop. I prefer to multiply myself through technology whenever possible.) Thanks for any thoughts you might have.
    Okay, for starters, I think you need a checklist for these diagrams and reports, which you can print out, stick in the folder for each project, and tick off items as you go (include dependencies). That will at least reduce the NA list, and I hope I'll explain why before I finish.

    For the things that do have dependencies, I'd continue to put at least the first parts of these on the NA lists (by first parts, I mean the bits that other bits depend on). Once those parts are done, you're left with a project with no dependencies, so you can dive into it and do whatever you want based on the other factors.

    Secondly, are there any aspects for which you can create templates? That would eliminate part of the recurring jobs. If there are documents, for example, for which you have 64 pages of Stuff, of which 28 pages is basically boilerplate, 15 pages is one of three choices, and the rest is tailored, you could have three basic templates (all grown from one) and only have to fill out 21 pages of tailored Stuff. Make it as easy as possible on yourself. Start with current docs and modify them for a quick template or three.

    If you can create basic templates for the designs, or modular parts thereof, that would be handy too, I suspect. Any repeated work should be able to be got quickly from stock: remember The David says that having the same thought a second time wastes time, and so does doing the same work a second time.

    With all that said, I think that you can then cheat a bit on the NA lists. The main function of the NA lists is to turn amorphous Stuff into crankable widgets, and if these reports consist of a lot of crankable widgets already, then you don't gain anything (except stress) by adding them to your NA lists.

    I'd do something like create a Report list, on which you list all your reports due, with the due date and the current state (from the checklist) for each. Then, when you're looking for something to do, you can look at this along with your NA lists and decide what's the best use of your time. Is it better to get half a dozen phone calls out of the way, or to spend an hour or two working through some of the parts of a report?

    All this assumes that you don't procrastinate on the parts of the reports themselves. If you do, then I'll have to think of something else.

    Comment


    • #3
      I second unstuffed's suggestion -- this setup seems to be crying out for a checklist, which should reduce the 100s of NAs to "complete checklist for X project", "complete checklist for Y project", etc.

      Comment


      • #4
        Unstuffed,

        That is a remarkably lucid analysis, and is very helpful. Virtually all of your suggestions can be implemented, although putting together a universal checklist will be a major undertaking. (But I think worth it, and will probably produce a whole bunch of insights regarding my current workflow.)

        Interestingly, the "modularity" (templates) which you discuss, is a very rapidly evolving area of CAD programs right now. I am currently involved in the beta testing of a couple of different programs which automate these to a large extent. Unfortunately, the really slick modules or "templates" of one program (e.g, the detail "library") don't play extremely well with the other, and so it's always a compromise of having to select the likely best tool for the job at hand. But time will improve this situation.

        At any rate, thank you for your insights, which are remarkably perceptive for a non-architect.

        Richard

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by RKM View Post
          That is a remarkably lucid analysis, and is very helpful. Virtually all of your suggestions can be implemented, although putting together a universal checklist will be a major undertaking. (But I think worth it, and will probably produce a whole bunch of insights regarding my current workflow.)
          Thank you, it's always nice when I can suggest something that works for someone. With the checklist, you might be able to build it in pieces as you go along, rather than trying to get it all in one hit.

          Originally posted by RKM View Post
          Interestingly, the "modularity" (templates) which you discuss, is a very rapidly evolving area of CAD programs right now. I am currently involved in the beta testing of a couple of different programs which automate these to a large extent. Unfortunately, the really slick modules or "templates" of one program (e.g, the detail "library") don't play extremely well with the other, and so it's always a compromise of having to select the likely best tool for the job at hand. But time will improve this situation.
          Fairly typical, sadly. Proprietary software means that companies are reluctant to open their interfaces to other companies, much less design tightly modular software, so mix 'n' match is always a bit of a nightmare.

          Originally posted by RKM View Post
          At any rate, thank you for your insights, which are remarkably perceptive for a non-architect.
          Thank you again. In fact, I'm from a background that's not entirely architect-free: I started life as a mathematician, and then spent most of the last decade being a research software developer. That's where I get the passion for cleanly modular design and well-formed and well-documented interfaces (on which topics, you can get a rant out of me at any time). The major difference between you and I is that my designing was wholly conceptual, and didn't have to match any physical constraints (although the software often had to model them).

          Sadly, the software world is still in its infancy, so we have the equivalent of a unique screwdriver for every screw, and a unique hammer for every nail. I'm hopeful that this will improve, and the open source movement is helping in that direction, but it will take some decades.

          And I'm a bit of a hacker: I love the problem-solving aspect of just about anything.

          Comment


          • #6
            NA overhelming

            Hi,

            Others have suggested templates and such, which are always good idea.
            To me, the core issue here seems to be the overhelming feeling of having 100 NA's.

            I suggest having checklists for each project, so that you can free up your next actions. You really could have just 1-3 next actions to get you rolling. The idea of next actions is that they are written down, so you don't need to constantly think about them. Project-checklist does the same.

            You need to find a way to turn these 100 nagging actions to positive achievements, celebrate each little achieved step!

            You might want to read this post:
            http://davidseah.com/archives/2005/1...task-tracking/

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Algernon View Post
              To me, the core issue here seems to be the overwhelming feeling of having 100 NA's.
              I agree that this is a big issue.

              Originally posted by Algernon View Post
              You need to find a way to turn these 100 nagging actions to positive achievements, celebrate each little achieved step!
              The link you provided was interesting. One facet that struck home for me the visual feedback of understanding exactly where you are in the process, although you can't really see the BIG picture of how far behind (or hopefully, ahead) you are with everything in that system. And I think that is one component that is missing for me from GTD. I just can't get a sense of whether I need to go faster (or start making excuses) or I'm pretty much on track. Knowing what needs to be done next is great, but it's hard to see if you should be planning for a few extra nights at the office next week.

              The other aspect that I liked in that link was the sense of challenge/accomplishment, that could allow the challenge level to be adjusted. Sort of taps into all the principles of "Flow" that were described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

              I've been toying with the notion of trying out Microsoft Project, as it can give a very good overall picture, as well as give you rapid visual feedback on completion progress. Wonder if anyone here has used it to good effect?

              Comment


              • #8
                Yet another Project on your list.

                Originally posted by RKM View Post
                I've been toying with the notion of trying out Microsoft Project, as it can give a very good overall picture, as well as give you rapid visual feedback on completion progress. Wonder if anyone here has used it to good effect?
                Bear in mind that using new tool (Microsoft Project) in your GTD implementation will be initially yet another Project on your list and later it will need some maintenance (data entry etc.). But you are already overwhelmed!

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