Burnout- how do you manage it for yourself?


Need serious mental advice- I'm running on fumes. Just had a senior PA give their notice when we are already short on staff and have a huge amount of current and upcoming work.

I started a new sector within a larger firm 4 years ago and have been really successful at getting work. It's been exhilarating, but physically and emotionally tough. Literally start my day at 5:30 am and often don't shut off until 12:30 am.

We  are still a small studio and I am trying to hire more people but get outgunned by firms that are larger and  have more built projects. Not as appealing to work for a scrappy, design start-up sector.

What do you do to manage burnout ? Therapy is obvious, but don't have the time or good insurance to go. I would rather spend any free time I have with my family. I am the breadwinner in my family so definitely feel like .I can't just switch jobs easily. I'm a realist and see that the market is still tough out there.

 Is anti-anxiety medication something that people use? Meditation helps somewhat, but I feel like I need more. Drinking is not an option; history of alcoholism in my family.

thanks for your help-

May 24, 14 4:59 am

You cannot productively work more than about 45 hours a week over an extended period. You can certainly put more hours in but you will only be making mistakes and getting less done. There is quite a bit if truth in the old adage "work hard, play hard". Maybe you could delegate more, or hire experienced, retired architects on a part-time basis until you can bring additional full-time staff on, if the part-timers don't want to convert to a full-time gig.

May 24, 14 6:53 am  · 

People will work for a scrappy little start-up, the appeal can be there. Perhaps they are turning down offers to work for you because they see how stressed you are and how little you value life outside of work. Nobody wants to work for a boss like that. 

May 24, 14 9:03 am  · 

Work less.

You are working for somebody else, so you don't have to give as much of a shit.

May 24, 14 9:34 am  · 
Exercise and get outside! Seriously, don't start taking mood/mind altering drugs for something like this...

During stressful periods getting out and doing anything physical will help tremendously. Just make it part of your weekly schedule.
May 24, 14 10:44 am  · 
Talk to the other principals and map out a biz plan for managing the workload and hiring. Remember, you don't want more work, you want more money made in less time. And, start offering more money and more respect to your PAs and PMs. (This is why I left the corporate world.)
May 24, 14 11:12 am  · 

Thanks to all for the advice. I think sleeping more this weekend has given me better perspective. I am actually training for a race so the daily runs and workouts do help a great deal. Usually, I can manage the stress ok, but winning 3 new projects and then having a core staff person resign, definitely puts one on edge.

Compensation: we are offering upwards of $90k -$100k+ for PAs and PMs.  It seems to be in line with the market, but the bigger corporate firms can offer huge signing bonuses as well. 

Work less, more money in less time, and produce great design: completely the goal. Respect:  curious to know, how does a smaller or boutique firm show more respect than corporate ones? In our firm, we are flexible with people's schedules so if you have family obligations, you don't have to be at your desk at 9 am or stay until 6 pm. We also have telework options for if you can't make it in ( sick kid, furniture delivery, etc). The work just needs to be accomplished correctly and on time.

As far as projects, it seems like all of the firms in this area are overloaded as well due to high market demand. I guess that is not the worst problem to have, but I don't like the feeling that there is going to be a long period of scarcity after this boom.

thanks again and enjoy the holiday weekend-

May 25, 14 7:58 am  · 
What's your market? Lack of respect, in my case, meant that the firm billed me out (and gave me responsibility) of senior staff, but refused to promote or give raises in line with the position or even cost of living. A second firm laid me off regularly when they had trouble making payroll. I've realized that we are all disposable cogs in the machine, decided to get out and fail on my own terms.
May 25, 14 10:09 am  · 
x intern

Its been my experience you can only push like your talking about for a couple maybe 3 weeks before your probably not getting anymore done than you would in 40 hrs if you just left work and got some rest.  I would imagine you lost your employee because you added additional projects.  When you are the guy making salary there is no gain to adding additional work if your already busy and especially if you are already working overtime. Once you have some experience in this business the architecture mentality of anything for a project starts to wear a little thin.  Its a business,  if your working like this for yourself that's one thing you will/may reap the profits of your effort, if your doing it for the guy in the big office you're the perfect employee.  

Hire you a couple of smart guys just out of school with no family.  They will work like they are still in school for a couple of years until they look around and realize whats going on.  

May 27, 14 2:37 pm  · 

What geographic region and project type is your market?


work methodically and with purpose, and leave as soon as you feel yourself lagging. Diminishing returns and all that. 


I have noticed that many small firms spend lots of time looking for the "perfect" candidate instead of hiring someone with promising skills and letting them give it a go. Not only do you spend less and have a larger candidate pool, but it creates the kinds of collaboration and synergistic meetings that propel design firms forward.

May 27, 14 7:09 pm  · 
won and done williams
Eliminate caffiene. Low fat, high protein, tons of vegetables diet. Cardio at least three times per week and switch up your workouts, not just running, mix in bike, swimming, rowing, etc. Meditation. Shoot for at least 7 hours of sleep. Be good to your wife, your kids, and your employees in that order.
May 27, 14 9:27 pm  · 

Learn to say 'no' is a good start. If you are swamped and need the money, you are selling yourself too cheap.  As odd as it sounds, in my head I figure "my off clock time" is worth $100/hr.  Think of it like a curse jar and if need be, even create a 'vacation fund' that you have to pay into if you work on 'personal time'.  It cost you money... or has a payoff because you'll be able to take that expensive vacation (or buy that toy) in no time at all without guilt.

Meditation is also fantastic and doesn't have to be so 'new age' spandex.  Seriously, just learn to clear your head a few times a day and smell some roses or focus on breathing. A ten minute "smoke break" to catch some rays outside helps if you can go 'zombie' in your head and refresh you. 

May 28, 14 6:27 pm  · 
For me, relaxation is building stuff (like home improvement) riding the motorcycle or drinking beer.

Mighty is right, don't bite off more than you can chew.
May 28, 14 6:33 pm  · 

just light a fire under your ashe...and you will get a going!  Be sure to  toss in some pine cause it burns hot and really get you moving.  It works every time.

May 28, 14 9:40 pm  · 

i have been asking myself this same question recently. I think one answer is delegation or being willing/able to step back and let other team/mates help.

May 28, 14 10:21 pm  · 

nam....sounding like a bi-polar Architectural Experience......Don't want no one messing with my design.

May 30, 14 7:48 pm  · 

Part of being successful in business is knowing when to say no. And not just in business.

May 31, 14 10:45 am  · 

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