Imagine you’re driving along a two-lane, one-way highway. You’re comfortably cruising at a pace marginally higher than the speed limit because your travel music, Flight of the Bumblebee, commandeers your cruise control. Traffic is light and life is good because all is in order, but ahead you spot the inevitable “MERGE” sign.
Your good day turns cloudy, your harmonic music plays flat and your smooth pace becomes erratic! You’ve been forced to merge before and you know this sign indicates squeezing two lanes into one. You don’t want to merge but you must because failure to merge successfully means collision! You glance furtively between the vehicle in the adjoining lane and the merge apex. You must choose to accelerate or decelerate and execute the merge. Hold your breath…You DID IT!
You successfully merged two independent elements without conflict. That was easy! At first Merging feels a little uncomfortable but awareness and responsiveness make it possible. Incidentally, being aware and responsive is also the secret to a work/life merger.
A work/life merge may not be as easy to detect as a traffic merge, but this condition exhibits indicators to diagnose whether you suffer/enjoy a work/life merge.
How do you know when it’s happened to you and what do you do about it?
I present the anecdotes for living a work/life merger:
Symptoms: No distinction between weekdays. The work/lifer views days as a continuum and weeks as time blocks and may commonly ask, “what day is it?” or may interchangeably use the term “work day” and “play day“. In severe instances, the work/lifer does not distinguish between weekdays and weekends.
Recovery: For recovering work/lifers Friday earns distinction because the local coffee shop your friend owns promotes architects-drink-free-Friday as an incentive for architects to exit the office. For architects who don’t drink java, consider days-of-the-week-underpants and a high-fiber diet.
Symptoms: Work tasks punctuated with Life events. Task completion (results) takes priority over hours worked (quantity). A work/lifer often schedules leisure activities between work meetings. In severe instances, the work/lifer inadvertently invites non-architect friends to design Charrettes out of confusion about what others consider “fun“.
Recovery: Add Life-appointments to the architect’s shared gantt chart to remind your lifer to shower, buy groceries, take pet to the vet and go to church. Always remember to BYOB to the design Charrette.
Symptoms: Frequent sprints from the bed to the studio (often from a deep sleep) to sketch an idea or record a thought. Sketch duration varies but may randomly repeat throughout the night and morning. This behavior is often confused with Perpetual Shifts. In severe instances the work/lifer has a bed IN the studio.
Recovery: Keep a LED flashlight, sketchbook and pen on the bedside table. Alternatively, install motion-activated running-lights in the hall between the sleeping space and studio. If all else fails, keep a bed in the studio.
Symptoms: Panic attack when unable to locate sketching substrate. Jittery fingers unless occupied with a properly-weighted pen. Feverish sketching on any available media including the skin. In severe instances, the work/lifer may sketch on unprotected bald heads during a subway work commute.
Recovery: Supply the work/lifer with a palm-sized sketchbook and trendy pen. Ideally the sketchbook integrates into must-have clothing like days-of-the-week-underpants. A tablet and stylus may satisfy the electronically-inclined providing it is equipped with a sweet sketching app. Maintain an active supply of hand sanitizer to remove Sharpie residue from the skin.
Symptoms: Intense gaze or tightly-shut eyes coupled with passionate talking-to-oneself. The afflicted’s voice-activated phone app responds to the phrase, “the architect says” to record spontaneous ideas and specifications when in traffic, meetings or during intimate moments. In severe instances, the work/lifer blurts architecture vocabulary such as “adytum” when the appropriate response is “amen“.
Recovery: Engaging the afflicted in dialog is a fruitless venture. Just nod and smile.
Symptoms: Blurry photos, partial photos or photos of ceilings, floors and wall perspectives. In severe instances, the work/lifer invites strangers to pose in photos to provide entourage scale.
Recovery: Secretly borrow your work/lifer’s camera to photograph whole buildings, interiors and landscapes. The whole images may subconsciously alter your architect’s part-whole perception (but probably not). Encourage your work/lifer to take MORE pictures. Eventually enough photos of a single subject may reveal a recognizable object. Agreeably BE the entourage and smile for the camera. The smile won’t matter because the architect only uses your profile, but you’ll “look” happy.
Symptoms: Abbreviated communication using secret symbols to communicate ideas and thoughts. Includes the use of standard and non-standard symbols. In severe instances, the work/lifer sets the emoticon keyboard as the default to create the annual family Christmas letter but excludes a legend. Tis the season!
Recovery: Agree to play Pictionary as often as your work/lifer asks. Eventually he/she will divulge enough architect-hieroglyphics during game play that you will learn the symbocabulary. Take photos of the symbols to show friends at parties so they can mock the architect in your life too.
Symptoms: you love what you do and do what you love!
Recovery: There is no recovery. Work/Lifers never work a day in their life.
If this hasn’t happened to you, it has happened to an enlightened architect in your life. Here’s a few tips for how to live with your work/lifer.
- Don’t try to change them — The work/life blend is a natural biorhythm. It’s innate. Changing your architect is like teaching a dog to dance. It will frustrate you and anger the dog.
- Watch for mood swings — Creativity is a type of mania. Your work/lifer oscillates between jubilant and despondent. Mood is like the weather. If you don’t like it, wait, it will change.
- They won’t grow out of it — This isn’t a phase, a fad or an aberration. Your architect eats, sleeps, breathes and works / lives!
Danger and hooray, there’s work and life ahead! Proceed with caution and enthusiasm.
This is another entry in Bob Borson’s blogging brain-child titled, “ArchiTalks”.
The #ArchiTalks goal is to inspire blogging architects with similar educational and professional requirements to opine on the same topic and simulpost their response so other architects and a broader audience can enjoy the rampant thought-diversity within the architecture profession
Select the links in “Architalks Entries” below to read how architects responded to the “Work-Life” topic.
Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
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)
Collier Ward – Thousand Story Studio (@collier1960)
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)
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