For the last few weeks I've had my head buried in work. While it seemed to continue to pile up, I finally created a little room to breathe the last couple of days. I've been able to get a bit ahead, finish up some tasks and I have to say, it feels quite good. It has also allowed me a bit of time to contemplate how much I actually do enjoy doing this work we call an internship, but it hasn't always been this way.
I remember having a similar situation (buried in work) at my first job as an intern, but without the subsequent feeling of relief and accomplishment. The work wasn't very fulfilling and I found it quite difficult to find any pleasure in just picking up redlines and cranking out (and by cranking out I mean copy, paste, and modify slightly) the same boring interior elevations again and again and again.
There would always be a feeling of relief when a set of drawings was ready to be sent out for review, but I always knew the next project was already behind schedule so I never had time to savor the feeling. Add to all this, that during the summer the lack of air conditioning literally meant I was working in an architectural sweat shop. The only good news was that with a pretty relaxed dress code, shorts and a t-shirt were pretty standard.
So what can we do as interns and/or architects to handle a job situation that is less than ideal? Simply put, and I never thought I’d see myself jump on this bandwagon, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Simple enough to say, right? But how does this really happen and what does it look like? It’s more than just a poster on your cubicle wall.
First of all, understand that there will be highs, and there will be lows. Recognizing that is half the battle. Once you know that the string of 60-hour weeks that you’ve been putting in won’t last forever, it becomes a little bit easier to keep your head down and your nose to the grindstone. Of course, with this comes the realistic expectation that you work a standard work week most of the time, and that the 60-hour ones are the exception and not the rule.
If you find that you just can’t get ahead of your workload, there may be something else going on instead of just working more hours. Are you working efficiently? Are you expecting too much of yourself? Is the firm expecting too much of you? Sometimes it can be better to realize that you need to ask for help to get caught up than to be continually late to meet deadlines. Part of being an intern architect is knowing when you’re in over your head and when to ask for help.
Something else that I find helps me a lot with the daily grind, is recognizing milestones or accomplishments. Set daily goals of what you want to accomplish and be happy when you accomplish your goals. Time management can be critical here, and knowing what you can accomplish in a day, or hour, can go a long way. Some of my most rewarding days have not been when we’ve finally finished a project. Instead, they’ve been when I set a goal, worked hard at that goal, and I’ve gone home at the end of my normal work day knowing that I accomplished something. Most of the time there is still stuff waiting for me the next morning, but for that day, I earned my paycheck.
Finally, I think it is important to take time and relax. Personally, this usually means taking off at 5:00 and going cycling. There is something about physical activity that tends to clear my mind and boost my endorphins. Not to mention, it feels good to have somewhere else to be other than work, or home. For you, it might be yoga or meditation. For others it can be sitting down with a good book, or cooking a delicious meal. Whatever the case, it’s important to take time to unwind and let your mind and body get away from the office.
So remember that even though your situation may not be the best, you can always find something to get excited about and feel good about the work you’ve done. You will be better prepared to celebrate the highs, and power through the lows. It will get better, you just need to keep calm and intern architect on.
An ellipsis [...] is used to signal an omission, an unfinished thought, aposiopesis, or brief awkward silence. Architectural ellipses are those aspects of the profession we (perhaps intentionally) omit, gloss over, or let dwindle in silence. Generally applied this blog should encompass many aspects of the profession. Yet, as an intern architect I'll focus primarily on the architectural ellipses that occur in the internship process.