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Goal Setting Tips for Young Architects

The New Year is a good reminder to set and review your goals. A successful career in Architecture doesn’t happen by luck or by chance.  It requires a clear vision of what you want, setting tangible goals, and then assigning tasks to work toward those goals.

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168 Hours

There are 168 hours in a week.  Assuming you sleep 7 hours a night (and you should), that leaves around 119 hours.

If you’re working a full time job at a firm, there goes another 40-50 hours (not counting lunch or commute times) bringing you down to 69 hours.  Adding in time for bathing, grooming, eating and other necessities, you’re down to (maybe) 55 hours a week.

That free 55 hours seems like a lot, doesn’t it?  Yet why do you feel so strapped for time?  It’s because you lack focus and clear goals.  It’s because you don’t make a plan for your time and get distracted.

When I finished my first book, friends asked me, “How did you find the time?  Did you take off from work for six months?”

“No,” I replied, “I spent every spare minute writing and had very little fun for six months.”  In other words, there is no magic or secret.  It’s just a matter of prioritizing your time.

Distractions are everywhere in the form of Facebook, gossip sites, TV.  For example, I recently re-watched all 50 episodes of Game of Thrones in a week.  So I used 50 of my 55 free time hours watching a show I’ve already seen!  It’s easy to get distracted, but you can’t let distraction become the habit.

Spending 30 minutes a day on Facebook might not seem like much, but there goes another 3 or 4 hours of your free time that week.  Imagine instead spending that 30 minutes a day working toward a real goal.  You could use that time to workout (with the goal being to get in shape), to read a book (with the goal being to finish a book a month), or to study (with the goal being to pass the Architects Registration Exam).

To help you manage your time, you can look for ways to boost your productivity, or keep a daily log of how you spent your week, or you could even have your computer track your time for you using RescueTime, but first you need to know what your goals are and the steps needed to achieve them.

Unintentional Goals

Whether you realize it or not, every minute you spend doing something is part of some larger goal.  It may be something you didn’t think about, but how you spend your time shows what your priorities are.  You likely have many of these unintentional goals.

If you spent 5 hours last week hanging out with your old college buddy, then you might have a goal of keeping in touch with old friends.  Now you may not realize this at the time, but it was important enough for you to spend your precious free time doing that instead of studying for the ARE.  Spending time with friends is fine, but you should be honest with yourself about what goals it is fulfilling.

By tracking how you spend your time, and looking for these unintentional goals, you could uncover things you didn’t realize about yourself.  For example, if you spend an hour before bedtime each evening looking at design blogs, such as Dezeen or Archinect, maybe it’s because you have a unspoken goal to do more high end design work, or to work on more design oriented projects.

Now’s the time to take these unintentional goals and make them intentional.

Intentional Goals

If you took time off of work to attend a green building conference, you might have a goal to work on sustainability projects, or get LEED Accredited.  Asking yourself why you’re drawn to these activities will start to make your goals more clear.

Go through how you’ve spent your time this past year and discover these goals.  You’ll want to set 3-5 big goals for the coming year, and other longer term goals for the future.

Goals are not Wishes

In order to be effective and useful, your goals have to be obtainable.  For example, a goal cannot be, “I wish I could fly.”  (You’re not R.Kelly!)  Instead your goal could be, “I will earn my pilot license” as that is obtainable.

In addition, goals must specific or you won’t know if you achieved them.  For example, a goal cannot be, “I wish I was skinny.”  It’s too vague.  A good goal would be, “I will lose 15 pounds” or even better, “I will reach my target weight of ___ pounds.”  Using specific and tangible numbers makes it clear what the finish line looks like.

Finally, no goal is complete without a deadline and the reason why you’re doing it in the first place.  Establishing a goal such as, “I will learn SketchUp” is ok but doesn’t set you on a path to success.  Setting a deadline by saying, “I will learn SketchUp by March 15, 2016 so I can work on my portfolio” suddenly gives you a clear sense of the time you have and why you are doing it.  Putting your reason why also helps you envision how great it will be to obtain this goal and may even lead to other goals (i.e. “…so I can work on my portfolio for my grad school application.”)

Assigning Tasks

For every goal, you should list all of the steps and tasks required to achieve that goal.  You’ll turn these into tasks and put them on your calendar.

Certain goals (losing weight, saving money) are easy to set, like this:

goal settingLarger goals have more steps.  Here’s how it all comes together:

GOAL:  I will learn parametric modeling
DEADLINE:  by my birthday in August 2016
WHY:  so I can work on more design oriented projects at my firm.

ACTION STEPS:

* Enroll in the course at the local college in January 
* Purchase Grasshopper software by January
* Practice watching 1 video tutorial each night, 5x a week
* Select a real project from work to test out in the software
* Find an online support forum by February 
* Practice using the software for 4 hours every Saturday 
* Research a local source for 3D printing models
*  Schedule a lunch and learn at my office in August to show off my new skills 

By listing things out like this, you’ll start to feel better and more excited about each goal.  Breaking it down into these simple steps provides you with a clear roadmap to succeed.

I put together a free Goal Setting Worksheet for your use.  It will help you follow these steps and take steps toward completing your goals.

Share your goals in the comments below.  We’d love to hear what you’re planning for this year!

RESOURCES:

Goal Setting Worksheet (Source:  organicARCHITECT)

Additional Reading on planning your 168 hours (Source:  Fast Company)

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