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What are the organizing challenges of engineers?

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  • What are the organizing challenges of engineers?


    I am a professional organizer currently working on an article about organizing for engineers. I am wondering about the major challenges you face regarding getting organized at work. Do you struggle most with organizing your time, organizing your data or papers, your schedule?

    Any responses are appreciated! Thank you!


  • #2
    My Engineering Challenges

    Here are some things i've found difficult, especially when trying to implement GTD.

    I'd say I struggle most with organizing my time, because someone could always bring a new problem to my attention, and these problems could take anywhere from minutes or weeks to solve.

    Problems/projects that you thought were completed years ago creep back up because of some other change, new product version or new data. Resurrecting projects is very common in engineering, but is not addressed in GTD. also, b/c projects can be resurrected so often, excellent personal documentation system (or a perfect memory) is required to resurrect these projects without re-working anything.

    Also, in engineering, processes are often difficult. Some processes take up to a few hours, but splitting them into "next actions" doesn't make sense because it disrupts the flow of the process, which is what you are focusing on. Processes are often documented external to the process users.

    Here are a few more things.

    1) Uncertainty in tasks. The 2-minute rule (do something if you know it'll take 2 minutes) doesn't apply b/c so many tasks take more than 2-minutes, and one 2-minute tasks could easily lead to 3 more tasks which all could vary.

    1a) Working projects in Parallel. Often, one project requires many "next actions" worked in parallel. This can make for a more difficult weekly review.

    2) Project Management in Engineering is always complicated. We (engineers) often make things more complicated than they need to be. This is probably one of the big picture problems.

    3) Documentation systems, especially in big companies, often involve sophisticated tools, and very rarely do you "own" documents. Therefore, filing systems aren't that important, but developing a system (folder of shortcuts, or reference file index, for example) for you to be able to quickly reference documents that you don't own IS important.

    Good luck....


    • #3
      Thank you! I appreciate your insights. I'd be grateful for any other ideas people have.


      • #4
        I guess it's dependant upon which branch of engineering you operate but with regards a manufacturing engineering role:

        Organising my time/schedule is the hardest thing for myself as:-
        -Emergency activities have a duration that cannot be estimated ahead of time.
        -Multiple customers make demands on resource, again without a timeline (or warning)
        -Projects sitting in the Waiting category until such time as more than one is moved on at the same time (oscillating wave between stupidly busy and quiet)

        Activities such as preventative maintenance are one way of helping to schedule an engineers time but it isn't the be all and end all of all things though.


        • #5
          Engineers & Organising

          I guess if you're a civil engineer, one of the issues might be the extent to which your work is boring (sorry, couldn't resist an awful pun).


          • #6

            Thanks for the suggestions. If anyone else has anything to add it would be great. I'm coming from a right-brained background.


            • #7
              Interesting question, I'd be interested in seeing the article once you're done.

              The first challenge I'd say for many engineers is that they have Attention Deficit Disorder. I'd estimate that from 20 to 30% of the engineers I've worked with "exihibit symptoms similar to ADD" (since I'm not a Dr., I can't diagnose). I usually work with Mechanical, Electrical and Software engineers, other types may have different percentages. If you have any suggestions for organizing for the "organizationally challenged" I'd like to hear them. Oh, yah, I do have ADD and, although it's taking awhile to impliment, the GTD system and a Palm (nothing like an alarm to remind you of a meeting you forgot you had) are the only things keeping me from imploding.

              Engineers who support production lines, whatever their title, have to deal with new issues dropping on them without a moments notice, so I'd suggest tracking all projects and prioritization.s Tracking the little issues is critical because if they aren't dealt with they usually become big issues.

              While most companies have systems for tracking and storing important data (drawings, reports, etc). Learning to organizing data or papers for current projects is usually a problem, especially as companies start requiring all propriarity data be locked up at night. It took me a long time to file drawings instead of leaving them in a big pile on the desk. Although carefully folding 22" x 34" drawings is a pain, I've found it less painfull than anything else. David's suggestion of 1 A-Z filing system has helped since I used to stuff files where ever I could find space and, of course, it used to take longer to find what I needed.

              As others have said, the standard ways of scheduling your day doesn't work. I like the GTD concept of having your 'punch lists' to look at when you get an odd moment of time. Dealing with the lists between the 'hard landscape' of meetings is the only way to go. Granted, if you'r designing something you're not going to create a punch list of each step you're going to take, but I'd suggest having a list of 'sub-projects', or things you don't want to forget, would be a good thing. If you need to remember something, figure out how to categorize it, write it down and track it, or you'll forget it until the most embarrasing part of the design review.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bitsy

                I am a professional organizer currently working on an article about organizing for engineers.
                Have you written or run across a similar article with regards to IT Support personel? I am in IT support and the nature of the game is NOT proactive in nature, but rather reactive (when a problem crops up).

                I would be interested in readings on how some in IT have implemented GTD into their professional lives.

                Michael Ramm
                Network Support Specialist