Today on #ArchiTalks we’re talking about a typical day in our lives. I’m just as busy as the next person which doesn’t make me unique, so I’ll try to give a flavor of what I think makes my day a little different from my esteemed colleagues who are also participating in writing about this topic (there’s a list of them at the bottom of this post). While many things I do are typical for lots of people in the business of architecture (or anywhere for that matter), I think I have some not-so-typical things going on in my daily routine that you might find interesting.
My days are all about a particular kind of duality. On one hand I have systems in place that allow me to accomplish my goals through rigor and repetition, and on the other I try to keep things open enough for opportunities to happen so I can grow. I set goals and review them once a week; small ones, medium and big ones. I chip away at them one piece at a time and either make sure I’m staying on track or change them to reflect new thoughts or interests. This also means either putting things off or discarding goals completely that no longer fit into my future or will get in the way of accomplishing something I've prioritized.
So why am I starting out my Day in the Life post talking about this? Because it’s why I do the thing I do almost every day at 5am for the last 2 years, and that’s get up and study for my exams to become a licensed architect. And I’m almost done! I’ve put lots of other things off to accomplish this, so it’s a big deal to me. I can’t wait to begin living MY life again.
Sidenote: I just started playing A Day in the Life by the Beatles as I began typing to get me in the mood.
So here we go.
Somewhere between 4:40am and 5:10am
Woke up... Fell out of bed... Dragged a comb across my head.
My alarm goes off and I drag my butt out of bed. I use an app on my iPhone called Sleep Cycle that tries to wake me up when I’m sleeping lightly which theoretically means I’m in a better mood. It tells me my sleep quality last night was 79% after 7 hours of sleep. I have 571 nights racked-up in it so I can really see how much quality sleep I get which I believe is super important to living a quality life (much to the chagrin of my previous architecture school professors).
Over the past couple of years, I have come to enjoy the ritual of being awake before everyone else in the house, in complete darkness, and making a cup of coffee with my AeroPress. Then I crack open the books and get about 45 minutes of studying done in silence. I’m currently studying for the California Supplemental Exam which I’ll be taking this week and I might just become a real architect if all of the stars are in alignment (insert architectural joke here about things being in alignment).
Shower & shave, dress, etc. Not unique.
Wake up the kids. Not unique.
Breakfast. Our family has breakfast together at the kitchen table every day. My wife and/or I make it for us and the 4 kids. We usually do hot breakfast, always healthy. No PopTarts or other crap that will kill them or significantly shorten their life span.
Take two kids to school. Our four kids go to three different schools so I take two of them to two schools and my wife takes the other two to their school. I usually turn on Rdio in the car and find some music the kids haven’t heard before and give them a bit of a musical education en route to school. Sometimes I tweet about it.
Today children's education en route to school: Silversun Pickups, Elliott Smith, & Peter Bjorn and John— Evan Troxel (@etroxel) November 14, 2014
Sometimes I luck out and get to ride my bike to work with a buddy when I don’t have to take kids to school. This requires planning because I usually have to leave my car at the office the night before and get a ride home from a friend so I can pick up my kids on the way home the next day with my car after work. The ride is about 11 miles and takes me a little under an hour. I know what you’re thinking, but we have showers there so don’t worry.
7:30am - 12:00pm
Go to work at HMC Architects where I’m a “Project Designer”. Today I did a lot of sketching on a new master plan for a project I’m working on to get ready for the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) process. Here’s a little time-lapse of my sketching throughout the day as the project went from very loose to some semblance of a campus so we can meet and talk about it with the client. This was done just so we could start having a conversation about their project. In reality, this will never in a million years turn out to be the real project, but it was a fun exercise to go through. Something I do that never gets old is drawing things that might someday turn into reality. Who knows... there may be pieces in these sketches that I can turn back to years from now that made it all the way into the buildings of the campus.
12:00pm - 1:00pm
Lunch out of the office. This is my retreat from cubicle-nation during the day. I make it a point to get out of the office almost every day for lunch unless there’s a big deadline. Yes, it costs more than bringing my own lunch. But it costs less than a psychologist. It keeps me sane and gets me outside into the fresh air which I consider a must.
I like to take this time to not think about work-work, and think about the other things I’m a part of. I have lots of side projects and this is one of the only real times I have to write, sketch or plan those things out. I usually take my sketchbook, phone or iPad with me so I can capture ideas when I’m eating.
Some days my friend and I get out to the local indoor rock climbing gym for a quick workout during the lunch hour. Between biking and climbing, this is the only exercise I’m really getting at this point in my life. I’m hoping to do more once my exams are done. This is one of those things I really cut back on to get more studying in.
1:00pm - 5:30pm
Do more “works". Aside from the master plan I’m working on for one client, I’m working through Construction Drawings on a K-6 Elementary School that is due at the beginning of next year. Right now I’m working on details to make sure design intent is kept during the final phase of the documentation process before it goes into DSA (Department of the State Architect) for agency review. We actually just found out today that the project has won a design award at the local AIA chapter which is really exciting!
Quittin’ time. Our office has a very family-friendly environment and we are all pretty good about getting off work on time. We don’t slave away all night like some offices, and if we do have a crazy deadline, we know it doesn’t happen that often. This is one of the reasons I like working at HMC. Because of our 7:30-5:30 schedule, we get every other Friday off which is a great benefit.
I like to listen to podcasts when I'm driving alone so this is a nice time to keep up on those. Sometimes I pick up kids from gymnastics or wherever on the way home. Today wasn’t one of those days, so I got to listen to By The Way, In Conversation with Jeff Garlin interviewing Michael Sheen. It’s a really fun episode. Podcasts are great.
Get home and make dinner with my wife. She usually does the heavy lifting with this because she’s so amazing at it, but sometimes she is still working on her business and I cover it.
Our entire family has dinner together at the kitchen table practically every night. We only eat in front of the TV if it’s popcorn for dinner night (because we can) which is very rare. Tonight we had salmon, white rice and green beans. Red wine for the adults. It was delicious.
Our kids get ready for bed while we clean up the kitchen. With six people the dishes pile up fast. We have a saying that our kitchen always looks like a disaster. Because. It. Does.
Read to the kids. Right now we’re reading a very cool book called Henry’s Gift: The Magic Eye that has those crazy 3d images you can see when you slightly cross your eyes and stare at it for 5 minutes. The story is great too. We don’t do TV on week nights, and it wouldn’t work anyways because our eyes have to get back to normal after reading this book.
Kids in bed. Seriously. Every night. If you have kids and you don’t do this, you’re nuts because when else do you have alone time or one-on-one time with your significant other? We take it a step further by doing our family tradition of tickling the kids every night when we tuck them into bed. They go to bed laughing… I can’t think of anything better.
Tonight is the night I record the podcast, so now is the time I restart my Mac and make sure it’s all ready to go for recording at 8:30. I make a fancy beverage and settle into the office behind the golden microphone for the next 2 hours chatting with Neal and Cormac.
8:30pm - 10:30pm
Recording time for Archispeak. This only happens once every 2 weeks, so most of the time I’m already falling asleep in bed by now. I'll usually end up editing the episode over the following weekend because 1.) it takes a couple of hours, and 2.) because I don’t have any other time to do it. It will go live on Sunday night at 9pm Pacific. In fact, now that this post is live, there’s a new episode out right now.
So that’s my day, and it's pretty typical. Rinse, wash, repeat. Like I said, I have systems in place so I don't have to think about what's next and I can chip away at my goals, and this daily schedule is one of those systems. But since I’m almost done with a 2 year goal (hopefully this week!), things are about to get interesting because I’m going to have some free time to fill. Stay tuned...
I think it's just as important to note what things don't appear on my daily schedule as it is the things that are on it: TV, news, hanging out at the bar, etc. That's not to say I never partake, but it's extremely rare when I do. I turned the volume way down on that stuff a few years back in order to take control of my life and accomplish more. I don't miss it a bit.
Check out my friends "A Day in the Life of..." blog posts today:
Cormac Phalen - Archispeak Podcast
Life in a Day of Panic
Jeremiah Russell - Rogue Architect
a day in the life of a rogue architect
Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design
A Day in the Life of MODarchitect
Nicholas Renard – Cote Renard Architecture
Another Day of Living the Dream
Jeff Echols - Architect of the Internet
What To Do When You Lose Your Job In Architecture: A Day In The Life
Bob Borson - Life of An Architect
A Day in the Life of an Architect
Matthew Stanfield - Field 9 Architecture
A Day in the Life of FiELD9: architecture
Marica McKeel - Studio MM
A Day in the Life of a Small Firm Residential Architect
Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect
a day in the life...part 2
Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect
EA054: A Day in the Life of Mark R. LePage [Podcast]
Lora Teagarden - L2 Design, LLC
A Day in the Life of: An Almost Architect
Collier Ward - Thousand Story Studio
A Day in the Life of an Architect