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Archive for Architects Do That Too

How Do We Get Things Done?

Last week at the Market I got an interesting question. Interesting because it really had nothing to do with architecture, but it is something that I have been spending a lot of my brain energy on.

A couple asked how to get things done. Specifically, the wife asked how to get her husband to get things done. That’s an answer fraught with danger. But the more general question of how to complete those small tasks that linger on is one that many people struggle with. A quick glance around my house will show you dozens of projects in intermediate stages. I’ve read that procrastination is really just a delayed decision, and I get that. You can’t put something away if its place isn’t ready yet, or you don’t know where that place is. So you put it in the “Box of Waiting” and tell yourself you’ll get back to it soon.

I’ve had some success with the Getting Things Done methodology, but find that making time to do the reviews is my issue. I record tasks in my weekly planner and that’s pretty effective for me, but those are really things that need to be done this week. I had tried a system where tasks had points, and before I could break for the day I had to complete a certain number of points. But I cheated on that too often.

The one I’m trying this week is to categorize each task with its effort and result, and then divide effort by result to get a ranked list of tasks that will give you maximum effect for minimum effort. And while this doesn’t handle those things that must be done now because of whatever reason, I like the idea of quantifying my list.

As for the happy couple at my booth, I suggested a method that works for me at times: dedicate one hour to those half-done tasks, and go at them. And at the end of the hour, give yourself a reward.

How about you? What works for you and why? Please let me know in the comments.

Report from the Markets – May 14th

Last weekend was my first back-to-back-to-back markets of the summer. The good thing about that is that I only have to pack my car once. And I find it’s easier to stay in the right frame of mind when they’re stacked up.

The best part is seeing familiar faces and catching up on their lives. One person was embarrassed that they hadn’t made any progress on the projects we had talked about. I tried to assure her that I’m not judging – in fact, I haven’t made any progress on many of my projects either.

The really best part is when people just sit down and announce that they’re ready to start on the project we had talked about last summer (or even the summer before).

But this post is about an interesting conversation from the market, and the most interesting one has to be the one where we designed a new duck house.

One of the volunteers from the Newark Co-op was working at the information table next to me, and popped over to talk about her duck house. They already have a duck house that they can move around so that they can park it over the raised beds in the winter for the ducks to fertilize. But its too heavy, and the ┬áhandles are awkwardly placed for her to move it herself. So we started to draw up a new design. It used 2×4’s instead of 4x4s, and a single-slope roof so that they can use translucent plastic, and open sides for ventilation. Also, better wheels.

Through the process I learned that ducks can’t climb as well as chickens (they also have chickens), that they don’t need individual nesting spaces like chickens, and that the drakes sleep on the floor. Also, that the chickens like the skylight in their coop. And from this conversation came another. The other woman at the information table said that she can’t wait until she moves out of the city and can have chickens. And she was told that Newark had passed a backyard chicken ordinance that allowed 3 hens per household. So now she’s thinking about chickens.

In Which Will Shows that Architects Can Solve Any Problem

Last weekend I was at the May Market in New Castle. It’s hosted by the Arasapha Garden Club to raise funds for the historic gardens they maintain. I set up by the plants rather than the craft vendors because my gut told me that the people buying plants would also be the ones who would have questions about their house.

What I didn’t expect was the number of plant/landscaping questions that I got. One of my first visitors asked about how to eradicate bamboo. Which of course is impossible, as I know from my parents experience. But I offered my suggestions (which were similar to those that I linked to: cut the stalks down, put Roundup on the exposed ends, and cut off the roots with a mattock), and off she went.

The next day I had a question about what to put where a holly tree had been. This was really a visual question, so after drawing a sketch of the yard, with the tree on the other side, I suggested an urn that she could plant vines in, which would make a “fountain” of green.

(photo from Plow & Hearth on-line catalog)

I did get plenty of home questions, and one on where to find or make pantry door shelves (like this).

So what do all of these questions have in common? That I was able to provide enough of an answer to get the person unstuck from their problem and closer to a solution that will work for them.