The Folly of the Creative Genius
Common mistakes architects and architecture students make
Architects are incredibly smart people, there’s definitely no disputing that fact. Over time, they develop a specific skillset which enables them to work under pressure and stress and still produce results with a reasonable degree of accuracy and excellence. In school, you have to juggle design studio (months’ worth of back- breaking work which ultimately culminates in a five to ten minute presentation) with regular coursework – both general classes and architecture based courses like Architectural History, Climatology, and Building Materials etc. In practice, whether in design, construction or some other enterprise, one is called to draft, supervise and consult with the client, contractors and sometimes other designers as well.
A friend of mine once remarked, “Having the same 24hours in a day as everyone else isn’t fair. It’s cheating!” Many share this sentiment but sadly, professionals in other fields experience the same kind of stress and even more in some cases. Giving in to this form of reasoning has however caused many of us creative geniuses to be branded poor time managers, negligent, hasty, moody and perpetually tired-looking people (I don’t mean to sound harsh but I have honestly heard worse). Below are a few of the mistakes architects and architecture students (myself included) make. I have also tried to include a few suggestions I think will help you stay on top of that seemingly impossible to-do-list.
Failing to master the art of backing up our work
“No time”- the biggest lie we tell ourselves.
Incredible how something as small as copying CAD drawings and reports into a CD or flash drive could make a huge difference in the face of a major workplace crisis. The time we did not have to put our work together seems to suddenly create itself when PCs crash, files get corrupted etc. Just last week, the desktop used for most of the work at the firm I am currently doing my 6month SIWES program in crashed. Now everyone has to go dig up all the drawings on their laptops so we can edit them and fill-in whatever changes are missing. The worst part is having to re-type ALL the financial reports we could get our hands on from August last year till now. We would have been saved all this trouble if we had backup files somewhere. If you are not a fan of hardware (maybe because you will lose them or get them damaged), there are other options.
Another way you can save yourself wasting time over lost work is by preserving them in cyber space beforehand. A couple of years ago, I lost all the handwritten manuscripts I had. It was a painful experience, and even more was the fact that they were fiction and they had taken months to put together. An older friend who happens to write for a living advised me to try emailing them to myself (and probably mark them as ‘Important’ to avoid having to scroll through hundreds of irrelevant Newsletters, Social Media notifications etc.).
Procrastination and indefinite postponing
“I’ll do it later.” (But you never do, do you?)
This is one of the greatest thieves of our time. I had a classmate who was always known to start EVERY assignment the day it was given and as far as I know, she was never behind in any of her schoolwork. This might not be possible for everyone, but you can at least kill the habit of putting things off till “later”. For architecture students, you can at least put your resources together (save web pages, mark pages of books or PDFs, download pictures or videos etc.), buy all necessary materials or make up an outline if it involves more writing than drawing. For the practicing architect, you could use your phone to make notes on expenses and income, set reminders , print your work as soon as you get the chance (four letters: P-H-C-N), make phone calls immediately the need arises etc.
And if all else fails, a sure-fire way is to keep the deadline in view. I mostly make a personalized time-tracker type calendar and post it on the wall of my room. On one side I draw up a calendar and count down till the deadline (you can have the date circled in red, if that will help) and on the other side, I make a list of all I have to do e.g. titling/paneling drawing sheets, graphic designs for preliminaries, develop design concept etc.
Last minute “rush-work”
“Deadline is best motivation”
Anyone who has experienced having a presentation due the next day and not being anywhere close to finished would tell you that they felt like every creative fibre in their bodies had fizzled out. Deadline in this case would much rather be the greatest source of a nervous breakdown.
You could have all these great ideas but because you did not start out early enough or take time to do your research, you end up looking like you do not have the slightest clue as to what you’re doing. You stutter, you stammer, you drop things- you are everything but composed. To prevent such experiences from occurring, you must from the outset of a given project establish a game plan. That is, make a list of what needs to be done and when you need to have it finished so you do not hold the rest of the work up.
Not delegating work overload
“I started it, so I should finish it”
Most architects I know happen to be perfectionists by nature and the ones who aren’t hate the thought of being blamed for someone else’s mistakes. Hence, the tenacity with which we cling to responsibilities which are not beyond our abilities but simply too much to handle at one time. If you have too much on your plate, you should let others in on the work. Even if you have your ‘standards’, you could still find a way around it. One way to do this would be to have others start it off and do the finishing touches yourself. That way, you help others learn and do not disappoint people- your classic win-win scenario.
Forgetting that you are still human
People who are generally busy form the bad habit of neglecting their health and general well-being. You must realize that projects will come and go, but your health will not. Here are a few tips I believe will help you
- Avoid sitting in the same spot for too long. Take a walk, get some fresh air.
- If you have to chew gum or drink coffee to help stay awake, make sure it’s in reasonable quantities. You could also try to make healthier choices like substituting sweetener for sugar, buying only dentist-approved gums like Orbit etc.
- Try to plan your meals against weeks you know you will be too busy to cook. You could pack food in small microwavable plastics, stock up on healthy snacks like fruits, granola bars, crackers, fibre biscuits etc.
- Take a nap. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. I sometimes have to time myself when I need to sneak a nap into my day. If you feel a headache coming on, there’s no point in pushing yourself too hard. Coming up with ideas at this point will be harder anyway so why not do yourself a favour and take a break?
- Exercise. This has got to be the hardest of all. Busy schedules do not afford most of us the luxury of spending hours at the gym, or walking the dog (if you have one) or jogging round the neighbourhood. We all can’t have set-in-place workout routines but there are still ways through which you can keep fit. For example, I sometimes stop the cab a little distance away from where I live and take a 10-15 minute walk on my way home from work.
Remember, hard work is not always smart work. If you are almost always drained and still have little or nothing to show for it, maybe you need to change the way you work.