Efficiency facilitates the creative process by enabling more time for exploration as less time is needed for the final production. — Casey Reas & Chandler Williams, FORM+CODE in Design, Art, and Architecture
Creating a plan to make a difference is easy. Sticking to the plan—and adopting it as a habit—isn't.
That's the difficult part—the reason why not everyone will succeed in the long run.
Think of what you want to do. Commit to it. Set deadlines. Involve others in the process. Do at least ten minutes of it every single day. Make the habit.
This essay is part of the book I am writing on how to organize your life in order to create more and better. If you want to receive new parts of the book as I write them, please join here, and check other posts that will be on the book.
The simple shortcut: the way we respond to the things that we can't change can instantly transform our lives. "That's interesting," is a thousand times more productive than, "that's terrible." Even more powerful is our ability to stop experiencing failure before it even happens, because, of course, it usually doesn't.
Happiness, for most of us, is a choice. Reality is not. It seems, though, that choosing to be happy ends up changing the reality that we keep track of.
The way you see the world—and the way you deal with things—is often more important than what is actually happening out there.
When all you have to worry about is leisure, it is way too easy to get trapped in social media.
The moment you check your Instagram feed, you go to your Facebook timeline (which can be long). Then, you check your email, and look at the new tweets on Twitter. After this, everything is ready for you to repeat, and check all over again.
Networks update at such a fast pace we could be online — just checking out more and more stuff — the whole time.
The thing is, it does not really take that long to check, but it is comfortable and entertaining to be constantly checking.
Up to a point, social networks are a waste of time — having a healthy relationship with them is important. What else could you invest your time in? Get out of the trap.
After a few months without updating, I decided it was time to tweak Everfocus a bit in order to fix problems and incorporate new features.
Version 1.4 brings bug fixes, theme updates, and more:
If you want to be notified when Everfocus goes free, you can join this mailing list — and I'll notify you.
Since I began writing this blog, one of the topics that has appeared the most is how to be efficient and productive — tips, reflections, or workflows in order to make things easier.
Here is a selection of my favorite articles of this theme.
Pretty often, book [or movie or series] characters push others to get things done — to get the most out of themselves.
These characters seem to be powerful, wise, and to have done great things before, but they don’t really exemplify it. They don’t take action.
Instead, they motivate others to pursue their goals. Goals that — while seemingly impossible at first — are achieved in the end. Even when those others thought they were not capable of doing it.
Is someone motivating you to achieve your goals? And, more important, who are you motivating?
How to structure the work you need to do for your final architectural project.
There is a clear reason why there are no tight guidelines on what to submit for the final architectural project: Each project is different.
You should do whatever your project needs to be properly understood by others. — Architecture Teachers. Always.
The present article tries to fulfill this lack of information. Please, understand that I am not responsible for any problems that following this guidelines may cause. They suggest a way of doing things to complete a final project of architecture which worked for me and my project. And, as I mentioned earlier, each project is a totally different story.
I have divided the checklist in various categories, each of them developed later on.
As of 2014, project boards should be presented in A1 format and laid out in landscape orientation. Usually, the amount of boards submitted is around 12 and 24 A1 formats.
The contents should develop the following sections — usually in the order shown.
Conceptual Approach. Analysis, intentions, strategies. A key part in any architectural project. However, what you need is an analysis deep enough to help you develop your project.
Urban Design (Spatial Environment). Location of your project within the city and its relationship with the surrounding areas.
Architecture. Drawings of the project, including; plans, sections, elevations, and other details that might help to better understand your project, such as perspectives or axonometric views. This section should include rendered views for the visualization of the main spaces of your project.
Construction. Details of the constructive systems used in the project. The details do not necessary need to represent real sections of the project, as long as they show the main constructive solutions. In my project, I detailed constructive systems at 1:20 scale, adding 1:5-scale zooms of the encounters between different building elements.
Structures. A module to show that you are capable of solving part of the structure of a project you designed—even if solving it means calculating it or delegating it to a consultancy. Any of these methods are perfect real-life case scenarios.
Installations & Services. Plans of the following solutions at an schematic level: Electricity and lighting systems (detailing the types of luminaries); Fire evacuation systems and routes; Water drainage; Water supply; Ventilation and air conditioning.
On previous submissions, the presentation of each final project has been done by students in front of three A1 summary boards. They should sum up all the points mentioned before, to explain the whole project at an schematic and conceptual level. Contents should be organized explaining first the general aspects of the project, finishing with technical details and particularities.
These boards need to be mounted on a 1-cm foam-board support.
For each of the following categories, here is a summary of what is needed to be include in the documentation file.
Analysis and Conceptual Approach. Extensive explanation of the analysis and things that have been taken in account in the initial stages of the project, as well as a detailed explanation of you conceptual approach to develop the project. This initial part also contains location drawings, programmatic schemes, and some other data of the project.
Constructive Solutions. Explanation of the constructive systems used in the project, as well as their compliance to the CTE (Código Técnico de la Edificación) and other codes that may apply.
Structure. Structural systems should be described at a conceptual level. Calculations should be attached at the appendix of the documentation.
Compliance of CTE. A section for each of the DB (Documentos Básicos), proving and explaining how project decisions help the project to comply with the regulations.
Installations. Systems adopted and calculations made for each of the categories.
CD. Remember when Compact Discs existed? Even though we are living in the twenty-first century, organizations still ask to burn data into CDs, instead of copying folders though the Internet or using flash memories. Some of your computers probably don’t even ship with a disc burner. For the project, you are required to burn all of the information contained in the initial checklist into a CD, so the jury can look at your project from home.
The scale depends on your project and on how your project can be better understood by others.
Some projects — that have a strong landscape component — require more than a single model. Usually, building models are done at scales ranging from 1:200 to 1:500.
My project has an important urban role. Would an urban proposal be suitable as a final project? Do I still have to define a building which I can then detail?
Some briefs are less clear about what their intended outcome is, and have a bigger need of analysis and urban study than others [briefs] which are more defined, and set a clearly defined outcome, both spatial and programmatic.
Because the purpose of the final project is to test your abilities in every single category previously mentioned, every project should have a constructed part — which is to be detail in terms of its architecture, construction, structure, and installations.
This is why I usually recommend to choose architecture-focused briefs. Other topics may be more interesting for its development, but the way we are marked by the jury does not exactly correspond with those types of projects.
Even though an extensive analysis and a detailed urban plan are needed for every project, you should have all this in mind from the beginning, even before of choosing a brief. After all, you will need to detail a building.
Don’t obsess with any of the parts. You need to get a project done as a whole, and the different sections of it need to be closed as soon as they are ready. This project tries to prove that you are capable of solving every single part at a well-enough level.
This article is part of the Getting Architecture Done series. A series of posts about architectural methods, workflows and tools, titled . If you want to be notified when other articles are posted, go ahead an subscribe here.
It does not exist. Or, at least, you have no way to know it while you are doing it.
Do not put that much effort. Take decisions quickly, and ship things often.
Every project should be considered important, but it is important to finish and release them. And then, afterwards, polish them—as they are being used by your intended users.
A book is not complete until there is people reading it. A website is undone if users can’t browse it. A product is not finished until clients can pay for it. What is left in your project until it is ready for its public?
Seems crazy to me how easy it is to focus when accessing the Internet is just not there. The train without Wi-Fi gives you a span of precious time. Compared to office hours, the minutes you spend on the train are a gift to do something different.
Forcing ourselves to disconnect and create those moments is not that easy. Your brain gets bored of doing stuff after a while, and the one-minute-visit to Facebook quickly kills your 30-minute potential creative gap.
This essay and The Call Receptor were written in a train from Madrid to Málaga in just 20 minutes. No email, no Facebook, no Twitter.
Projects, projects, projects. More projects.
Which of your current activities would endanger your long time goals if you stopped doing them? Those are the important things in your life.
In addition to important projects, are side-projects. Projects as personal research in fields where you want to practice deliberately or learn new stuff on your own. These are projects that won’t bring you money in the short term and won’t affect your long time goals if you kill them.
To make things work, our overhead needs to be kept low, setting a focus on our main projects and responsibilities. But side-projects are also necessary; Small projects to procrastiwork with each once in a while and disconnect from our main duties.
Make clear which of your current projects are important to focus on them, and which ones should be worked on the side.
This article was written for us. To organize the work of the projects I am currently involved in. To make them more effective. The following are definitions of three strategies we are going to test in the incoming months.
Stories help up spreading ideas. Explaining concepts is a lineal process suitable to be compressed in a talk.
A talk empowers the speaker to be concise, to highlight the important, and to clear up the ideas to be transmitted.
Concepts, projects, ideas. They all can be formalized as small talks, bits of organized and synthesized content to be spread easily, giving a speech or sharing a couple of slides.
Everything has a by-product. — Jason Fried
In the digital era, a vast amount of content is produced daily, often with a defined purpose.
Spending a bit of time looking for extra possible uses —even before creating— can multiply the effectivity of creating something, and increase your productivity.
A by-product is the result of using a product for a purpose different than the one it was originally created for.
This leads to the next point: passive income.
Passive income is the opposite of active income. It involves obtaining money without having to constantly interact with the content, as you already created it and it is in a place where people can pay for it.
Passive income can be generated in different ways. Writing a book, creating an app, designing icons, taking pictures, or creating templates, are some examples.
Contrary to directly selling your products to customers, distribution is usually done by someone else, who gets a share of your product. For instance, the App Store and the iBook Store retain thirty percent of the income generated with your apps and books, and frees you from setting up your own server to distribute and sell content.
On the lines of working towards by-products, a passive income framework is a powerful tool. Your content, created for some other purpose, can be available for sell online.
A passive income framework consists in organizing —before production— where and how will your by-products generate income.
There are different mediums in which content can be distributed online to generate passive income, as I will show in an incoming article.
Thanks for making it so far. Hopefully you find ways to apply these strategies to the work you are already doing. If you do so, I would like to hear about it.
Having some action taken to get the feel of the product you want to make is a fundamental step before risking too much. As it happens in architecture and other creative fields, early prototypes help judge ideas, discarding bad ones and pushing forward the best ones.
The best way to have great ideas is having lots of ideas. — Linus Pauling
Ideas are just ideas. An idea can be formalized in many different ways. This is why, even though you have a concept to start with which is valid does not mean you are going to shape it in the correct way in your first try.
Iterate, abstract problems into small decisions which can be taken independently. For instance, if you are designing an appliance, two separate decisions could be its material and its shape. Even though one decision may affect the other, you could decide one ignoring the other. Abstracting problems makes evident which decisions need to be taken in order to move the ball forward.
Design methodologies do not work the same for everyone. But trying other people's processes of design can help you find your own. What do you think?
Everyone gets organized at some point, they just might not be around for it. — Sue DeRoos
This sentence was quoted by Erin Doland in her book Unclutter Your Life In One Week:
DeRoos comment was morbid, but absolutely true. At some point, someone is responsible for sorting, purging, and getting your affairs in order - either you do it while you’re alive, or your loved ones do it after your gone.
Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.
— Curtis Armstrong in Better Off Dead
Fail fast, it is the quickest way to succeed.
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Byproducts are collateral outcomes from an activity which main purpose is not that product.
Many times, we produce things that we ignore or we do not take advantage of. The small parts that conform a big project can have value themselves.
“When you make something, you always make something else. You can’t just make one thing. Everything has a byproduct.” — 37 Signals
Work can be structured in order to force byproducts and plan what they will be used to. For instance, a book could be a byproduct of a series of blog posts, which initial intention was not a book. This approach provides benefits without having to do a lot of extra work, but being conscious from the start of potential byproducts can help making byproducts useful without extra effort.
An example is my blog’s Link Pack. It usually contains things I found on the web over that week, without specifically looking for content for those articles. I store them as they appear. Those articles are a byproduct because even if I do not use the links for the Link Pack I am still going to read them.
Byproducts can also help motivating you to accomplish big projects. Giving importance to small parts of a larger project —understanding those small fractions of the big project as byproducts— will help completing the whole thing with small steps, getting done the project in small chunks that are useful on their own.
People develop a general tendency to interact with multiple flows of information at the same time when working. We tend to multitask.
When we multitask, we perform many things that fool our brain into thinking that work has been accomplished.
This produces a false sense of productivity in our mind. Even if your main task has not yet been started, the tasks of checking your email, making a call or simply removing files from the trash can of your computer can create a sense of achievement in your mind.
The first step to avoid this problem is to establish self-awareness. Be conscious. One step forward is to avoid doing any of these smaller tasks at the same time you are working on that big project. To leave all of this 'stuff' until you have finished the task at hand.
This is ideal, but difficult.
Is reading this post helping to move you current project forward?
Thanks to Rory Avis-Foster for reviewing my draft.
Last fall, in order to disconnect from the Internet on my holidays in New York, I decided to deactivate my email during a week, from the 11th to the 18th of October.
First, I removed my email account from the iOS mail app settings, so I would not get any alerts whenever I got wifi connection during the trip.
Second, I programmed an automated reply for incoming mail, so people who emailed me knew I was on holiday. And last, I gave an alternative contact to some of my clients, so they could reach me in case they had an emergency.
I got back home from the trip the morning of the 18th. That night, at 3 am, I checked my email. My Inbox had a total of 167 new emails, just from that week. 75 out of those 167 were classified by Gmail as social emails, from Twitter and other services.
It took me 23 minutes to go through all of the email. How much time would I had spent looking at each email as they entered my Inbox during the trip? Surely more than 23 minutes.
It is not always possible, but when it is, services like email should be processed in batches. As I wrote previously, email can also be filtered in order to prioritize some remitters from others in order to avoid getting distracted with email.
How often do you check your email?