a month in the life

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We’ve heard it said (or read) many times before about a day in the life of someone in architecture (or any other profession for that matter) as a means to appreciate life from their viewpoint. It also happens to be the title of one of the best Beatles songs ever recorded.

As solo practitioner architects, we often talk about a typical day in our life to illustrate to others what it might be like on our journey of going it alone. But I’ve been thinking recently that perhaps we should be looking at it at a month of time, instead of a single day.

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Work has been quite steady for me this year, in fact, it has been quite busy. I’ve gotten to the point where the phrase “I’m busy” has become a sickening cliche that has lost any of its meaning. We use it to brush off scenarios we want to avoid, duck out of social situations that are inconvenient, and I find it to be off-putting as it subtly tells people I’m not interested in what you’re offering.

Regardless, as I go back to considering my work pattern for last month, I found myself at one of the most difficult times I’ve had of the year. I predicted things to be somewhat steady as I was finishing construction documents for an apartment building that we had scheduled to send out for bids by the first of November. Inject into that the recurring time needed for various projects under construction that require a few hours of my attention throughout a week.

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I had suspended my somewhat frequent pattern of having coffee with people to maintain contact, but I was introduced to two small tenant improvement projects by an excellent client, with the promise to finish by the end of the month as well.

Silly me.

In the course of a given week, I would have days with multiple meetings with clients, contractors and to measure the new project spaces. Most days when working in the office, I would focus on the construction documents and project management for the larger apartment building and then in the evenings switch to the tenant improvement projects as a change of pace, or a mental palate cleanser. Marry all that with family time and cross country meets once a week for my son.

Looking back everything was completed, but I spent most of my hours on these projects only to find that after a weekend away, the work pace ended with a crescendo much like the final chord of this Beatles song.

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Yes, I have ongoing work to continue, but the pace has shifted at which I was operating last month (and the ones prior) and the backlog at this immediate time. There is the scent of much (near) future work where I can rejoin that pattern. I find it quite difficult to come off of the buzz of intense schedules; not unlike our days in school. We get concerned with steady income, steady billings as this is always on the mind of the solo practitioner. It is as if our validation comes from an excessive schedule.

What does one do when there is a bit more time in one’s day knowing that the busy work and full timetable will return shortly?

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One, it is a common problem to stretch out current work to fill the available time. This is not productive – a time waster that can result in being behind when that phone call comes suddenly to start the machine on full speed again. We waste time on distractions (like reading this). A better plan is to find a way to care for things that have been ignored and reconnect with individuals in our circles of influence. Mental rest isn’t an evil foe.

Maybe this doesn’t happen to you, perhaps you wish this would happen to you, or possibly this is happening far too often. These are only my observations to share and commiserate so that others don’t feel so alone.

I’m in my 16th year of business on my own and have worked through these days before. Now that I’ve taken a pause to reflect, it is time I finish a report that is taking far too long to craft.

That is the news you’ve read today, oh boy.

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a month in the life

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