Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The power of the list

Some of us are natural born listmakers; I am among those people. I regularly make lists of what needs to be done on my project(s) so that I can cross tasks off and add new ones on, and it also helps keep me organized. Listmaking doesn't come naturally to everyone, and if you have a solid, proven way to keep track of everything you need to do that doesn't involve a list, then don't sweat it. But if you find that you're forgetting to get things done or you're missing deadlines or major details, then I encourage you to give it a try.

The real power of the list is when it is shared. When you deal with other team members in your office, emailing out or tacking up a list of who's doing what and when it's due is a good, clear way to keep everyone accountable and make sure your team is on the same page. That goes doubly for dealing with consultants that aren't in your office, like engineers or various other design professionals like interior designers or landscape architects. Back in the day, when iPods were just coming out, I used lists to keep everyone on track when I was doing CA on a hospital in the next state over. On Friday afternoons, I sent out a list of the upcoming deadlines and issues of the next week, and I sent out a list of outstanding RFIs and whose court they were in. Years after the project was over, one of the engineers told me how handy that was to have once a week. (I realize this sounds like you're doing a bit of parenting, or at the very least you're kinda doing other people's jobs for them, but remember: architects are the ultimate coordinators on a project, especially up until the contractor starts building the project. You will have to look at everyone's stuff before it goes out to make sure it jives with what you've drawn/designed. Therefore, you occasionally will have to remind people of deadlines and commitments.)

Some project management software will do some of this coordination and listmaking for you, but sometimes it's good just to remember what all you have to do yourself. I recently began making a list of everything that still needed to be done on my two projects, and it hit me: I'd been incredibly busy for the past month. I'd been feeling tired, and no wonder given the tasks I had left to do and the deadlines to do it in. Making lists for yourself can help ease your weary burden when you show them to your boss. When they ask you to do yet one more thing, you can show them the list and ask, "what would you like for me to move down the list so I can do that for you?" Remember the boss' paradox: they don't always know what you're doing, but they know how well you do it. Lists remind them of the first part.

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