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Readers: This is my entry in the ArchiTalks blogging event for September (ArchiTalks #12) in which a group of architects address the topic of “Work/Life”. Links to the other posts are provided below.

 

Honestly, the achievement of a healthy work/life balance has effectively eluded me for the thirty years I’ve been practicing architecture. (Ask my devoted wife or grown kids if you don’t believe me).

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Even including my earlier years as a student and intern, I’ve always tended toward being an over-worker. I’ve been an employee, an independent contractor, a partner, and a sole proprietor – and the result has been the same. I have no one to blame but myself.

If I could offer one bit of insight however, it would be this: Life isn’t so much about balance as it is about rhythm.

Life is organic and systematic, cyclical and seasonal – it’s not a static monolith to be propped up and balanced. A farmer would be silly to balance his time across the seasons. He will have periods of intense activity separated by periods of waiting. The fields and the weather require it. Most of us are far removed from the land but our work is still cyclical and we go through different seasons professionally. Ideals of balance should yield to the practicalities of rhythm.

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For me, one aspect of honoring life’s cyclical rhythm is by taking advantage of a weekly day of rest. On a set day I focus on family and faith and free time. I don’t go near my work computer, in fact I try to not even think about work. It’s not always possible – sometimes a deadline or an urgent client request eats into my day off. It’s the proverbial paradox of “laboring to enter into that rest” but it’s a habit worth developing.

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As some of you know, I’m in the midst of writing my first novel (an architecturally themed novel you’re sure to enjoy – I add in shameless self-promotion). Such an undertaking requires continual study and craft development. Successful writers have to read and write daily – so I’m learning to work these disciplines into my daily rhythm. I’ll keep you posted here.

Story Books I

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Please take some time and enjoy these other architects’ takes an the topic of work/life:

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Work Life

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Work | Life – Different Letters, Same Word

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Work / Life : Life / Work

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Work/Life…What an Architect Does

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The One Secret to Work – Life Balance

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
work | life :: dance

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
Living an Integrated Life as a Small Firm Architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: Work/life…attempts

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
what makes you giggle? #architalks

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Turning Work Off

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Work/Life — A Merger

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project (@miss32percent)
Work Life Fit: A New Focus for Blurred Lines

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Work Life

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks: Imbalanced and uninterrupted

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
ArchiTalks #12: Balance is a Verb.

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
I Just Can’t Do This Anymore

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
An Architect’s House

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Brady Ernst – Family Man Since 08/01/2015

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Father, Husband, Architect – typically in that order

Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
On Work: Life Balance – Cattywampus is as Good as it Gets

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Architecture: Work to Live

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
midnight in the garden of [life] and [work]

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Work = 1/3 Life

Daniel Beck – The Architect’s Checklist (@archchecklist)
Work Life Balance: Architecture and Babies – 5 Hints for Expecting Parents

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Work is Life

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
studio / life

Lindsey Rhoden – SPARC Design (@sparcdesignpc)
Work Life Balance: A Photo Essay

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Work / Life

10 Comments

  1. Michael Riscica /Reply

    Life isn’t so much about balance as it is about rhythm.
    Great advice.
    I hardly ever take a day or rest and when I do its always hard to come back mentally. Maybe I need to add it into my regular rhythm.
    Thanks for sharing! Keep up the great work on the novel. Looking forward to checking it out when your done!
    -Michael

    1. Collier Ward /Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Michael.
      You may have to fight off feelings of guilt when you first take a day of rest. Hardworking people have trouble telling their minds to calm down – you’ll think of a dozen things you “should” be doing. It helps me to think of it in terms of design efficiency – I believe we are designed to rest regularly so we can be that more productive when we return to work.
      Peace!
      Collier

  2. Enoch Sears /Reply

    Collier – welcome back to blogging! 🙂

    Speaking of rhythm, your writing has a great rhythm and cadence to it! I can tell that working on your novel has heightened your writing skills to the next level!

    Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

    – Enoch from Business of Architecture

  3. matthew /Reply

    This is a great post Collier. I have recently started to reserve my Sunday’s for (as you said) family, faith, and free time. It does not always work out. I had an incredibly busy August that ate into most of my Sunday’s, but i am back to it now that September has rolled around. I really liked your perspective on rhythm over balance as well. Something to think about.

    1. Collier Ward /Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Matthew.
      Some seasons are just more demanding than others aren’t they?

      I heard the rhythm vs balance idea at a church conference years ago: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven… a time to build up… a time to gather stones together.” (Some of Solomon’s writings in Ecclesiastes)

      Enjoy your rest!

  4. Jes Stafford @Modarchitect /Reply

    I love your saying “…focus on family, faith and freetime.” Great alliteration. I agree with Enoch. That’s some great writing and good perspective on resting. The more regular one can rest, getting back to work soon becomes obviously easier with renewed energy and creativity. We should all have that discipline!

  5. Lora Teagarden /Reply

    Great stuff, Collier. I’ve been considering implementing a Sunday blackout. No tech, no TV, no phone. This is a good inspiration.

  6. Steve Ramos /Reply

    Great post. James Williamson’s a The Architect is a great book. I remember thinking it was so spot on to real experiences. How about a teaser on your novel?

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