09.06.2015Asheville, Business Practice, For Fun

Work / Life Balance : A Photo Essay

“The key to getting work done on time is to stop wearing a watch.”  -Ricardo Semler

The phrase work life balance is not new to me. It’s something discussed at home, and at the office (and in the car, and while at happy hours and so on and so on). I decided to document moments of this past week in a photo essay as a way to articulate if I do have a work life balance. I tried to snap fun moments, but also the mundane tasks that come with practicing architecture.

8.27.15-830pm - work life balance

During a quick trip to a grocery store for cat food (Who am I kidding? It was mostly excuse to get Indian takeout), I notice they’ve updated their flooring in the sales floor aisles. I text this picture to Thad. We recently proposed this type of flooring as less maintenance alternative for one of our client’s, Earth Fare. Thad responds with the brand and color.


Friday, August 28th, 2:00pm : I worked through lunch and decided to drive by our construction site that also happens to be my future house. Foundations were being dug, but the more interesting thing is the bear and her four cubs.  Mental note: buy a bear-resistant garbage can. After that excitement, I head back to work and set up for a big weekend push on a deadline.

8.30.15-10am work life balance

We had intended to go out of town to visit family this weekend, but work deadlines made this impossible. One thing we have learned is that it isn’t always the work associated with the actual deadline, but the other elements of ‘running a business’ that creep up uninvited and cause the last little push to get the work done. Influenced by this work life balance post, Thad and I used our annual passes and had a quick stroll at the Biltmore. We also made note of a trench drain as a reminder to discuss driveway drainage options with our contractor. I found the time spent in (manicured) outdoors restorative and I’m ready to redline and work on the computer the rest of the day.


Had leftovers for lunch and decided to take a 15 minute walk.  I never took walks before owning my own business. Maybe this is because I wasn’t yet into my 30s, or because I used to work on the 15th floor and committing to leave the office felt like cheating. Now, a good 15 minute walk is necessary. Today I opted to jog up the best parking garage stairwell in town (it has been awarded this title simply because it does not smell awful and has a large storefront) and get a glimpse of the blue sky and this pretty town.

8.31.15-4pmAfter working long hours both days of the weekend and starting the day pretty early, the headache I woke up with doesn’t seem to want to go away. The phone’s been ringing all day with unexpected construction administration issues. I find some medicine that Peyton warns me has expired over a year ago. I hope, if nothing else, a placebo effect will take place. By 5pm, it does seem to work!

8.31.15-7pmUpon completion of a sizable deadline, Thad and I opt to grab an outside drink at the Social Lounge. I bring a brand new pen and we sketch away on a basement layout of our house that’s under construction. It’s fun to sketch in a casual atmosphere, but I also can’t help thinking I’ll be glad when all the decisions are made and our house is complete.

9.01.15-2pmWe have a meeting with the facilities architects for Buncombe County Schools to discuss the need for wayfinding signage in their building. Our firm has done wayfinding for several high schools; we have designed the signs and come up with a county-wide design approach. It may seem like a pretty straightforward service, however, we have learned that it is filled with challenges. Along our tour, we spot this awesome room name, and I wish I could keep it for myself.

9.02.15-9amOur first activity of the morning is a meeting with ThermoFisher Scientific to discuss how to make the best use of an open area of their office space. We have worked with Thermo Fisher over the last two years, and it makes today’s meeting comfortable. I make a mental note to be grateful to enjoy not only time spent with my coworkers, but clients also.

9.02.15-10amThad and I decided to visit Morrison Millwork and learn more about the windows they offer. We’re still deciding which line to go with on our Beaucatcher house. I think about how my nerves and feeling like I should be back at work would have made this outing completely unpleasant. Now that I own the business, time is more malleable.

9.02.15-1pmI haven’t yet had lunch, a welcome break of ‘life’ when I was not the owner. Instead, I opt to be introverted and take some time looking at spreadsheets that we’ve tweaked and tuned in the last 3 years. It’s a budget spreadsheet, but also helps us forecast our expected workload and income. I actually do find this to be a “fun” activity.

9.02.15-730pmWe just left work and decided to take an evening hike/walk at the Biltmore. What incredible luck we have to live so close to America’s largest home that happens to be connected to 8,000 acres. I find it very easy to imagine myself walking in my own back yard.  Along this walk, Thad and I discuss the highly anticipated construction phasing of our own house, and how we plan to complete the current workload in our office over the next two weeks.  After this hike, we took a quick drive up and saw that our house has footings!

9.03.15-2pmThe morning was pretty busy with a bit of research to ensure we had ADA compliance on a floor plan layout. I just had lunch with a colleague to discuss the future of AIA Asheville. Not only did I get to dine at my favorite downtown spot, I now have a giant tasty chai tea. Chai coupled with my headphones are exactly what I need for an afternoon of Revit.

Thursday, September 3, 5:30pm

I failed to get a photo! The day ended with an impromptu happy hour with 3 lovely ladies, also architects and aspiring architects. Together, we have formed the unofficial larger group aptly named “Designing Women” for AIA Asheville. This group might be the best metaphor for my design-oriented work life balance. Our conversation seamlessly flow between the passion and struggle for good design and preferred Spotify playlists.

Forcing myself to take note, literally photograph and caption, of my activities has been great. I am not the first architect or business owner to say that the job takes long hours. It’s a taxing career path my partners and I have chosen. However, small daily freedoms and decisions give me unquestioning faith that this is what I want to be doing. My work life balance is probably better called Lork Wife because it’s all mixed in there together, and I’m more than ok with that.

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a theme and a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is Work/Life. To read how others interpreted the theme please click the links below…

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch) | Work Life

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson) | Work | Life – Different Letters, Same Word

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch) | Work / Life : Life / Work

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM) | Work/Life…What an Architect Does

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols) | The One Secret to Work – Life Balance

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)  | work | life :: dance

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect) | Living an Integrated Life as a Small Firm Architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC) | #ArchiTalks: Work/life…attempts

Collier Ward – Thousand Story Studio (@collier1960) | Work/Life

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect) | what makes you giggle? #architalks

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect) | Turning Work Off

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome) | Work/Life — A Merger

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project (@miss32percent) | Work Life Fit: A New Focus for Blurred Lines

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel) | Work Life

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA) | Architalks: Imbalanced and uninterrupted

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar) | ArchiTalks #12: Balance is a Verb.

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX) | I Just Can’t Do This Anymore

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC) | An Architect’s House

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA) | Brady Ernst – Family Man Since 08/01/2015

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz) | Father, Husband, Architect – typically in that order

Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1) | On Work: Life Balance – Cattywampus is as Good as it Gets

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w) | midnight in the garden of [life] and [work]

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge) | Work = 1/3 Life

Daniel Beck – The Architect’s Checklist (@archchecklist) | Work Life Balance: Architecture and Babies – 5 Hints for Expecting Parents

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept) | Work is Life

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent) | studio / life

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)  | Work / Life

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