Don’t have a practice manager? Want to spend more time being creative and less time on admin? Our guide on how to be your own practice manager shows you how.

If you’re an architect in a small practice, chances are you don’t have a practice manager and you share the admin among your team. We spoke to practice manager extraordinaire Kate Johnston of Gresford Architects who shared her advice on how to make the most of your time and focus on what’s really important.

Making time for admin

Admin’s not everyone’s favourite topic, but setting aside time consistently every week for admin tasks will pay dividends in the long run, when your team is on top of their time sheets, projects and invoicing.

Kate makes time for team admin every Monday morning, which means that everyone starts the week on the front foot. ‘We look at what everyone’s working on that week, then run through invoicing and catch up on timesheets. When you’re on top of timesheets you can analyse them regularly to figure out which areas have taken longer than they should have, and whether we need to allow more time for these tasks in the future.’

Project and Cost Analysis

Kate advises regularly spending time looking at live data from projects and doing some cost analysis. ‘We don’t look at every project in this way, as that would be too time consuming, but I do pick a few projects and look at those in depth to see where they have and haven’t made money, or where we might have overspent on the time. I know it’s hard to do this amongst other work, but it’s so important to give you an indication of what’s working and what’s not when you’re planning for future projects.’

Involve all the team

Even in a small team, it’s crucial that everyone feels they have a voice and that their input is valued. ‘When you involve everyone in the practice in the decision-making process, you all feel that you’re working towards the same goal. We have team meetings several times a year when everyone comes to the meeting with three things that they think are going well and three things that could be improved on in the practice. We spend some time finding common themes, then follow up on these throughout the year.

We also have weekly meetings where we catch up on where our projects are at, and although it can be hard to find the time for this in a busy working week, it’s so worth it. We all use to check project progress, which means we all know which tasks and key milestones are coming up.’

Bedtime Reading

Kate recommends a couple of books that have helped her manage her time and priorities. ‘The 4 Disciplines of Execution’ helps you to focus on your most important tasks and ‘Time to Think’ shows you how developing active listening skills can help build better professional relationships and more productive meetings.’

Making the Time for Business Development

The working week can fly by, with little time to stop, think and plan. But taking that time out to spend time on admin, analysis and business development can help you build a stronger and more effective practice in the future. Kate says, ‘When you step back from your work, it gives you a chance to look at things objectively. And with the right admin tools, such as, you can keep your business heading in the right direction.’