Monday, December 1st, 2014

a day in the life of a rogue architect: #architalks

In our 4th installment of the Architalks blog series we’ve been asked to chronicle a day in our lives – a typical day spent as an architect, and in my case as a sole practitioner currently working from a home office. I think you’ll find that my perspective on this subject is going to be much different from everyone else that may chime in because I’m only a few weeks into working for myself. Prior to this new adventure I was a salaried employee at a large corporate firm and my day basically went like this:

Wake Up
Take my son to school
Drive to work
Log In
Put out fires and answer emails
Eat Lunch
Put out more fires and do some drafting
Drive home
Play with kids

Every day, Monday through Friday, the same thing. It was routine even if the projects I was working on were not. But since quitting my “day job” and going out on my own full time my days have shifted a little, and in some not so subtle ways. The morning routine is basically the same. I wake up at the same time and I shower and get dressed before doing anything else. If I don’t, I get distracted, and then I’m late. I hate being late.

So now I’m clean, brushed, dressed, properly styled and smelling fabulous. Where’s my coffee cup? It’s time for “go juice”. I sit down at the table with my cup o’ joe and open up the newspaper. This is something new for my typical day. I find now that I’m on my own it is incredibly important to stay up to date with what is happening around me because, as you’ll find out shortly, working for yourself can be isolating and it’s easy to fall out of “the know”. This also counts as marketing time as I spend some time looking through the RFP and RFQ section of the paper for potential leads to pursue.

my son - future intern

my son – future intern

Now it’s time to take my son to school and this is by far the best way to start your day. I’ve taken my son to school every morning since he started kindergarten (he’s in the first grade now) and even if I’m running late or rushed for a meeting I still take the time to drive to his school, park the car, get out, take him to his classroom and hug and kiss him goodbye. After all, he and his sister are why I’m doing this. They are why I’m working so hard at what I love to do. I can afford 5 minutes to walk him in to class. If you have kids and you don’t do this or think you don’t have time….do it anyway. Trust me, you have time.

Once I get back to “my office” (i.e. the dining room table) it’s time to hit it hard. The first half of my day is always the most productive. Chances are if it’s not done or reasonably complete by lunch time, it gets pushed to the next day. That being said I try not to answer emails or check social media in the first few hours of my morning because we all know what kind of time suck that can turn into. So, I get cracking with the bulk of my drafting and design work while I’m fresh and able to concentrate. Right now it looks like a lot of chaos because I started my firm with 6 active projects and have since signed on two more with another 3 pending. They’re all relatively small residential projects – remodels, new construction, and a fairly significant historic rehabilitation – and as such demand a lot of time. So I am careful about how I divide up my mornings. I use my calendar for this and set reminders in 1 and 2 hour increments to get at least some work done on each project every day. This doesn’t always work as we all know there are times you need to focus on one more than another especially when there’s a deadline, but it’s been a good habit to start.

my little monster

my little monster

After lunch my daughter gets home from school, which of course means that productivity almost grinds to a halt. But I can use this time to answer emails, pursue leads, check social media and at least pretend that I’m connected to the outside world. Have you noticed the one thing missing in this post so far? That’s right – other people. My wife and I both work from home for now and God bless her for putting up with my random interruptions to chat about one thing or another, but other than that my days are spent mostly alone in front of my computer (kind of like right now writing this blog post). And, after only just 3 weeks in business, I can tell you it is isolating. I actually have to work at interacting with other people, and not just clients. When you’re in an office full time with other interns and project managers, principals, etc. you take for granted the human interaction that happens all the time. You couldn’t escape it if you tried in a traditional office. But when you’re on your own it’s much more difficult. You have to find ways to get out from under your rock and get out there. The easiest avenues to take are community involvement and public service. Recently I joined the PTA board at my son’s school, the Historic Preservation Commission in Little Rock, the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas, 1 Million Cups (a weekly small business get together started in KC by the Kauffman Foundation) and a few others that I’m sure I’m forgetting. The bottom line is architecture is a people business and relationships – all relationships – are important, so get out of your hole and meet people.

So we’ve sped through the rest of the afternoon, the kids are home, dinner is done, kids are bathed and in bed. While my wife winds down her day I typically get a little more drafting and design done until about 9 or 930 and then I finally call it quits for the day. When I had the “day job” as well as the “side job” I was working till about 11pm every night – including the weekends. It was miserable. I still work 6 days a week, and I still work more than 8 hours a day, but the biggest difference is now I have the flexibility and the freedom to be an architect, a father and a husband. I don’t have to pick and choose because my time is stretched so thin. This is not to say that flexibility and freedom aren’t without cost. But the cost is far FAR outweighed by the benefits.

There will be trials and there will be stress and there will be great challenges, but “A Day in the Life of a Rogue Architect” isn’t something I would trade for anything in this world.

me and my "staff"

me and my “staff”

Other Architalk Fanatics:
Bob Borson – Life of An Architect

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture

Marica McKeel – Studio MM

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC

Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect

Collier Ward – Thousand Story Studio

Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen

Nicholas Renard – Cote Renard Architecture

Andrew Hawkins, AIA – Hawkins Architecture, Inc.

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design