necessary evils of practice

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It’s imperative to start with the fact that I love my job.

As long as I have written this blog, I have clearly stated I find it a privilege to earn a living doing something I truly enjoy and something I have only wanted to do.

Do you think it’s easy to talk about work when in a beloved position? May I remind you that it takes sacrifice to achieve a level where one can spend the day filled with enjoyable work. Even though I’m fortunate to have gotten here, I cannot do anything unless I do it well; even the parts I don’t like. In any job, profession, or career, there will always be undesirable parts of the day or tasks that are disliked. So the question that begs to be asked is – why do those types of tasks exist? Why are they not our favorites? Are they our own fault?

Is it merely that we are lazy? Is it that we are spoiled? Are we afraid to get our hands dirty (literally or figuratively)? For me there are things outside my control that cause parts of my profession to be unpleasant.

Let’s elucidate.

punch lists
If you are an architect reading this, you are chuckling at this point. I have yet to meet anybody in this profession who enjoys preparing a punch list. For those that do not know, a punch list is a written or graphic list of items remaining on a construction project to be completed in order for the work in place to be consistent with the contract documents (i.e. drawings and specifications). Sometimes this means the work in place is incomplete; sometimes it is not completed to the quality level or level of craft required by the specifications. Sometimes, it means the work is not there at all. Regardless, I don’t like it.

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The reason that I don’t like to make these lists, I believe, is not because I am not a detail person. To be honest, it is because I am a detail person and can’t understand why everyone is not like me in doing their work. Why do I have to fuss through a list – as comprehensive as possible – merely because someone else didn’t live up to a standard? In other words, why must the architect be punished for the contractor’s actions? Too harsh – huh?

I will admit this lacking isn’t always due to an absence of willingness, but a deficiency in scheduling. On rare occasions, it could be related to a lack of skill. What I hope to avoid is a situation where the contractor in question just doesn’t care. In the former, it often means that because of the schedule, the architect is called to prepare their punch list prematurely to speed up the process. In the latter, it’s just annoying. Remember that old adage, “if something is worth doing…”

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meeting minutes
I don’t like to write meeting minutes. They are incredibly important and absolutely necessary in our day and age with inaccurate memories. Yes, they can be friendly reminders and checklists for things to do; however, we all know that meeting minutes are primarily recorded because of our litigious society. I’m mostly referring to construction meetings more than design meetings. We want everyone to be on record that someone was going to do something or someone was not going to do something. It gets documented for accountability.

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I’m grown-up enough to know how people behave, and I recognize we often forget things innocently. Nevertheless, I can always find something else I prefer to do then type meeting minutes. Perhaps I’m fastidious when it comes to writing them. I like to use a consistent verb tense and I tend to write in the third person. These are not creative writing documents or novels; they are merely a record of who said what, who did what, and who agreed to what. Therefore, I pore over them to ensure the phrasing is concise, yet accurate. Generally, for a project meeting this amounts to a mere two pages of notes – on rare occasions three. This might be brief for many practitioners out there; however, I just wish we would remember what we said and be people of our word. Our notes could be briefer and less formal.

business tasks
For those of you who enjoy that architecture is a business can get up off of the floor as you are shocked that I would admit such a thing. Hopefully you’re still reading at this point.

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By nature, I am a right-brained, artist-type person and artist-type mentality with a nature that is also prone to detail. I think that is related to the artist/craft part. The whole aspect of chasing the dollar each day, being concerned about efficiency rates and project schedules along with expenditure reports, billing and accounting are not high on my favorites list. I don’t like neckties and I prefer to wear my shirts untucked.

Bills must be paid and I do like to eat every day. Nevertheless, I don’t do architecture with a goal of making a certain amount of money, nor did I ever have a yearly income amount as a goal. I only ever wanted to make architecture. Nevertheless, if I wish to keep making architecture, if I wish to practice long enough to be good, I must work hard at being a good business person too.

no green grass
Share with me what things you don’t care to do – maybe I’ll find them to be my favorite (thing to hate too). There is no greener grass on the other side of the fence. That’s understood. However, in our world of pushing our kids into high paying jobs, high tuition colleges, and high expectations for a perfect life, we all know that happiness doesn’t come from money, position or role. One should find and pursue something they enjoy doing.

If you find yourself enjoying how you spend your day, feel fortunate and try to make someone else’s day brighter too.

photo 1 credit: Working Environment. (Ballycotton Co. Cork, Ireland) via photopin (license)

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necessary evils of practice

One thought on “necessary evils of practice

  1. My list is very similar to yours. The business side is so hard for me to do. I especially struggle with proposals and chasing after work. I do not like to ask for money, but in order to keep my business running and provide good designs, I have to make sure we are taken seriously (which means not undercutting our price) and professionally (which means getting proposals out in a timely manner). I am getting better at it, mainly because I’ve been forced to, but it hasn’t been an easy process and I probably will never like this aspect of running a firm.

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