CAD Manager Productivity Hints, Part 1

8 Feb, 2006 By: Robert Green

Use these tips to help identify your priorities, get organized -- and save time

In the last edition of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter (click here for archives), I promised to pass along some productivity-maximizing tips. So over the next couple ofeditions of the newsletter, I’ll do just that. These tips are culled from years of personal CAD-management experience and observation of successful CAD managers in a range of industries.

In this installment, I’ll focus on organizational and reporting tips so you can improve your responsiveness, reduce repetition, stay on track and keep your management in the loop. Here goes.

Tip 1: Keep a Diary

Time consumed per week: 20 minutes, usually in one- to two-minute increments, once or twice per day.

Time saved per week: At least 30 minutes, but sometimes a lot more.

I’ve always had trouble remembering all the little things I did well, needed to do better or, in retrospect, wished I had done. A simple diary is a great way to record all these nuggets of information so you can find them later. And because it is your personal diary, you don’t need to worry about formatting, spelling or grammar. Your diary is simply an “expanded CAD-management memory bank” that you can tap so you never have to solve the same problem twice.

I do recommend that you keep your diary in an electronic format such as Microsoft Word or Excel, rather than hand-written, simply because you’ll be able to easily search for key words and phrases. Want to know how you fixed a plot style problem last year? Just search for “plot style” in your electronic diary. Think of your diary as your own personal, searchable memory aide, and you’ll start to see how much time you can save by not having to reinvent the wheel.

Bonus points: At year end, reviewing your diary serves as an excellent way to review (and show) what you’ve accomplished and how much you’ve progressed over the past twelve months!

Tip 2: Write a Brief Weekly Report

Time consumed per week: 20 minutes, usually two ten-minute sessions evenly spaced throughout the week.

Time saved per week: At least an hour.

Even if your manager doesn’t require you to write a weekly report, I highly recommend that you do it anyway. I’ve used a brief weekly report format with great success over the years because it affords me the following benefits:

  • It summarizes what I’ve achieved in the current week.
  • It summarizes what I hope to achieve in the following week.
  • It serves as a checklist that I can use to make sure I’m staying on track.
  • It shows my management that I’m on top of the details and have a plan.
  • It allows me to keep an open dialog with my management team, because they’ll always know what I’m doing and what I’m thinking -- even if the only contact they have with me in a given week is reading my report!

I’ve come to understand that I work better when I create a list of tasks and write it out. By working to my list, I find that I complete tasks faster, stay on top of tasks I might have forgotten and show my management team my organizational skills all at the same time. When I first tried the weekly report technique, I worried that I was adding another task to an already busy work week. But over the years I’ve come to believe that the time I spend on my weekly report is the best 20 minutes I spend all week!

Tip 3: Set up a Standard CAD Drive

Time consumed at startup: Two to eight hours, depending on how much setup/cleanup is required.

Time saved per week: At least an hour.

You already have standards documents, procedures, template drawings, programs, reference materials, training guides, driver files, patches and a lot of other stuff I’m not mentioning scattered all over your personal hard drive and elsewhere, right? Why not consolidate all these materials in a centralized and standard CAD drive that everyone can access -- not delete or change, just access -- so all users can find the information they need on their own?

You may even want to circulate an e-mail or memo so everyone knows where the CAD drive is and which useful materials are found there. By creating a standardized CAD drive, you realize the following organizational benefits:

  • All materials on the drive are universally accessible, thus reducing the number of phone calls and e-mail you must answer simply to direct people to the resources they need.
  • All materials will be accessible even if you happen to be out of the office.
  • You’ll enable people to help themselves rather than depending on you so much.
  • All materials stored on a network drive will be backed up so you won’t have to worry about accidentally deleting key information from your personal hard drive.
  • The CAD drive sends a message that you’re serious about standardization and consistency.

Whenever I make information available and easy to find, people will help themselves because, in the end, it’s faster to grab the files they need than to ask me for them. The CAD drive is one of those rare tools that will save time for your users and you!

Bonus points: Because one of the hardest things we do as CAD managers is getting people to follow standards, establishing a standardized CAD drive is the most powerful step you can take to get the standards ball rolling.

Summing Up

I hope you’ll be able to use these ideas not only to save some time but, more importantly, to help identify your CAD-management priorities and establish an organized work plan. If you’re like me, you’ll take great comfort in simply knowing that your week is planned out and the details are covered.

If you’ve come up with some neat organizational tips you’d like to share, please e-mail me at and I’ll share your ideas in the next issue.

In the next issue of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I’ll focus on some technical tips and tricks you can use to make it easier to enforce standards. Until then.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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