How to achieve work/life/career balance


I’m trying to study for the AREs and advance my career.  My boss wants many many many different options for everything we design and so the team is pressured to work late and weekends to get these done.  90% of the stuff is derided after he sees it and thus thrown away but he NEEDS to see it.  I’m fine working extra to see something out that is essential but so many of my weekend work is not used.  How do I focus on my own advancement?  Can I email a principal to discuss moving teams? Say I would prefer working on educational buildings instead since that team seems to have a good work/life balance? My boss is known for attrition but I don’t want to cause drama and stay at the place since everyone is nice and I feel like I have some skills they could use that were brought up in my interview. 

Dec 17, 17 1:36 pm

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Communicate your desire to become licensed to the wider leadership of the firm. Any decent principal will appreciate and value more licensed architects within their practice. If they don't it's not a place you want to be. I've seen many younger designers struggle with this at smaller firms - single or two person led operations. In any industry you will also have when to learn to put your foot down. Pick a day or two week and simply leave at a normal hour. If you're questioned state the truth you're going home after a full day to study, or better yet, you have to go, period, no explanation. They pay you for the hours they pay you; it isn't their business whether you volunteer to stay late or have some other obligation to attend to. Working weekends is never ok. Even with a deadline that kind of mentality is incredibly counter productive. If your boss hasn't learned that by now he's a fool with poor time management skills, probably too mentally zapped to function due to never taking proper breaks. Get out.

If you're still having issues after openly speaking about becoming licensed and have no support at this practice you should consider leaving to a place that is more perceptive to this and actually values work life balance. Plenty of places are hiring en masse right now.

I've known quite a few architects who were only able to find time to get the license after switching from a small setting to a mid-large size place that truly valued having licensed professionals.

Best of luck on the exams.
Dec 17, 17 2:23 pm

If you start pulling this kind of shit to get licensed, you will shitcanned faster than you can say ARE, if your description of your office is correct. Licensed architects are dime a dozen, sorry.


Making options for the sake of options drains your creativity and energy and is totally counterproductive if it makes you hate your job. You need downtime to be productive, creative and efficient.

Dec 18, 17 6:45 am

You're in the wrong profession.  Architects celebrate being exploited for low pay.  They love the whole starving artist romanticism.  It starts in school.  Stockholm syndrome abounds.  Around age 30 they begin to realize that they are being played for fools, but by then it is often too late.  There is always some dewy eyed kid to take their place.  Keep your ear to the ground for a better work environment, but they aren't easy to find.

Dec 18, 17 7:13 am

You're screwed. Sorry.

Dec 18, 17 5:20 pm

Don’t be a company man! Do something that finds you joy. If boss man can accept that you have a life outside of work, it’s time to move on. I stopped being a company man. I used to be the moron that worked 60-70 hours a week! For what!? 

Dec 18, 17 10:17 pm

You mean martyrdom for the mother art wasn't payment enough? Blasphemy, I say! LOL

Ok doc, so my friends and I, who worked 4-5 years at a single firm, maybe two, put in endless long hours and weekends, who finally left for a normal work week and found time to get a license after maybe 6+ years in the industry, not counting internships of course, are likely to get fired? Funny we all seem to still be highly employable and respected at our companies, none relegated to this can of shit you describe.

I was once laughed at in an interview after stating I'd like to get my license within a few years time. I turned down the offer. I'm now two tests away from that license at a firm where the interviewers responded quite positively to this goal I mentioned.

Surprisingly, not everyone wants to spend their 20-30s being a selfish curmudgeon's whipping boy draftsman, and as it turns out it's completely unnecessary to do so and still remain employed.
Dec 18, 17 11:03 pm

Unless you have your own practice, a licensed architect IS the firm principal's bitch.


Awesome archinine. Wish you best on the outcome of those two exams. Two away but hopefully you become architect in 2018.

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I love to see that our industry is full of so many humorous characters! I like to think that the humor is a result of us all having experienced the exact situation you are describing in your topic post.

How do I focus on my own advancement?
I recently went through the same situation you are describing. After struggling for years to get an employer to give me the time to advance my career I finally realized that I have to make that time. When I stopped expecting others to give me the time to make that advancement and began demanding of myself to set aside the time, that is when things began working for towards my goals. It's not easy, it requires discipline, and it requires sacrifice.

I'd be lying to you if I didn't tell you that the balance you seem to seek didn't happen during this period either. It always felt like it was a period of 80% work with 10% life and career each followed by a shift in focus to 80% career while life and work took backseat. I find that the balance was more apparent when you step off the timeline and look down at from a plan view and see what your progress looks like. When I realized that over the course of a few years progress in each of those areas was being made, that is when the balance became more apparent. 

I would encourage you to think about what your goals after licensure look like. Is your goal after licensure to lead a 40 hour work week with a good work/life balance? If so, is licensure required for that? 

Can I email a principal to discuss moving teams?
I would certainly hope that you can. I gather that you are early in your career and often times approaching the big scary principal can be nerve racking! You may even approach your principal personally, request when their schedule would allow a few moments for the two of you to talk. If you feel that honestly discussing your situation with them is a one-way ticket out of employment then I have to ask if you are at the right place for advancement to begin with. If this isn't the case the firm you are at, then informing them that you are looking for ways to better focus on your career advancement would be a great discussion to have with the person with their name on the door.

As a suggestion, I would recommend that you approach them letting them know that you are wanting to work with them in an effort not to gain more time for your self, but to gain a larger chunk of time to focus. It sounds like your momentum for studying is broken by constant need to be in the office designing. Ask them if they have any suggestions on how to make your schedule more structured so that you can take larger blocks of uninterrupted time for you to focus on those tasks that you need to accomplish in order to reach your goals.

Best of luck, I'd love to hear how this goes over for you! Happy holidays!

Dec 19, 17 10:43 am

Get out of dodge and work for yourself,  if you work hard you'll be rewarded by the satisfaction of doing your own thing on your own terms ( whatever you consider "your terms" ) 

Otherwise your still never have the control over the "balance" you are after. Whether it's critical success, financial, great home life, admirable lifestyle etc.  I have friends who balance their life by working their brains out for 2-3 years on a couple projects and then blow off work for a 1-2 years and consider that balance. For me I need to find balance through on a weekly basis, but did have it worked out on a daily basis when I was younger.

Dec 19, 17 12:15 pm

As a building designer, my business hours are usually about 6 to 8 hours M-F. Since I do work with residential clients, I usually have to work also on Saturday but usually Saturday is days I would meet with residential clients who can't meet during the week. I usually set aside up to 8 hours. Sundays, I usually don't work on unless I am on a looming deadline then I may put extra hours in as I may on other days of the week. Try to keep in the ballpark. You may work 8 hours a day Monday through Friday and leave your weekends open. If you have family (spouse and children) then you might want to keep weekends free and limit your hours to week days. That's difficult with if you work with residential clients because they maybe unable to be available to meet on week days so you have to have to meet them on Saturdays or Sundays. I don't think it is that much different for architects running their own business. There are weeks where one has to put in more hours but it isn't necessarily every week. If you can keep to about 36 to 48 hours a week 80%+ of the time, that would be awesome. It is more likely to be about 70% of the time because there are some weeks you have to put in extra hours and during tax time, you may have to.


ugh.  The many iterations thing is annoying.  I've always hated that.  Its a huge waste of time imo. 

Dec 19, 17 12:58 pm

Your boss is using a 1st year studio design process. lol


Thanks everyone for the comments.  I’ve been busy at work… surprise! I’m in an outpost office of a larger conglomeration with my small team.  Something about being in a hip area for clients and autonomy from the main place.  That makes it harder to schedule something with the big man at the main office.  I get up at 5 every morning to work on my own projects to test ideas/learn technology and hopefully begin writing for academic journals.  It’s something that I did before going to grad school and why I picked this place over a starchitect.  I want to use the evenings for ARE studying but going home around ten isn’t conducive to either waking up early or studying.  I really would like to work in academia to do research/work on projects eventually – I was big into digital fabrication all throughout school and schools seem to be the place to go for access to equipment, plus I enjoyed my time helping teach/frequent archinect to give crits on portfolios.  I tried just getting up and leaving after 9-10 hour days but then he started coming to my desk to give redlines before I usually left.  I feel bad too with leaving my team members in the trenches. 

Dec 20, 17 2:43 pm
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There is no such thing as perfect 'balance'.. Its always a back and forth, sort of like a ping pong game. No one who achieved anything significant did it while having a balance.  They may say so but a lot of work is put into it and many things are sacrificed (sleep, social, relations etc).  Decide what is important to you and prioritize for that.  If ARE is your #1 goal, then don't let anything else compromise that, not until you've achieved it.

And remember, we all do it for the love of the profession and process, not for the money...or something like that. xDD

Dec 20, 17 4:17 pm

Careful. People who do it for the love and not for the money are hobbyists not professionals. We do it for the love of the profession, the process AND for earning a fair and decent income. We most certainly are doing this for money. If we didn't, it wouldn't be a profession. It would be a hobby. 

If people can not, individually, make a decent livable income that can responsibly support a family by working in architecture, then architecture is not a profession. Then there shouldn't be licensing or architecture schools offering degrees in architecture because the purpose of college is to prepare students with the theories and principles and other fundamentals of professions so people can enter them. 

 We know that colleges may fail to prepare students to enter professions and also know some people fail to make something of their education. 

I don't think anyone with a brain in their head is doing this profession just for the love of the profession and process. We may love the field and the work and that is why it is a career for us and not just a job but DAMN.... man... we are most certainly doing this so we can come home money in our bank accounts, pay checks, etc. so that we can support ourselves and our families.


Damn it man, I want my cake and ice cream !!!!


You can have the balance, all you need is people to do the work for you.


go home when you can, work as much as you can.

Dec 20, 17 4:30 pm

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