Recognize the difference between struggle and effort
As architects, we're no stranger to long hours. But there is a difference between the creative effort that flows from us and the stuff that feels way to much like work. Working in "the zone" can be incredibly energizing. Feeling oppressed by your to-do list is a depleting struggle. When we are in struggle mode, we feel that we have to burn the candle at both ends just to keep on top of things. If you are struggling, you are working hard, not smart and you should stop that right now.
Fun is inspirational
Sometimes your best idea for a project may come from observing a food vendor at a carnival. Not only does having fun provide us with restoration, it also gets our brains channeled in a different way- which is the very essence of creativity. Here's how it works: When you are noodling a design problem, you never really stop thinking about it, it lives in the back of your mind. When your thoughts stop flowing (struggle mode) and you try to force them, the brain gets locked into a nonproductive static loop. When you go do something else, your mind is free to play and suddenly you find yourself seeing parallels between the problem you are trying to solve and all kinds of (seemingly) incongruous things.
Put yourself on the schedule
Haven't had a haircut in months, got a knot of tension in your neck that you've been downing Advils like candy to work around? You are ignoring self care. Just as a building needs to be maintained, so does your body, mind and spirit. When we put ourselves last, we operate from a mindset of depletion. This restricts access to our creative flow, impacting the way we relate to our clients coworkers, even friends and family. Grumpy, energy-sapped you is not necessarily even going to want to attend that industry lunch, let alone be a networking superstar who walks away with a pocketful of business cards. Some of your best contacts can be those casual ones, like the woman you see each week at yoga, the manager of your salon, your dentist, the mother of your kid's play date. Seek out and frequent restorative care and activities of all stripes and take the time to invest in your relationships there.
Perhaps it was the experience of taking college courses that got us here. We so often feel that we have to choose between the things we would like to do and all the required activities of life. Chores (both at work and at home) are NOT a prerequisite to any other activity. When it comes to work/life balance it's not "either/or", but "both /and." I personally struggle a lot with this one. I find that it helps to plan to reward myself with at least one thing a day in order to keep my energy levels up and to try and take a break and switch gears whenever I catch myself getting stuck in the struggle.
Ditch the victim within
When you feel diminished and small, that telegraphs in your actions and interactions. Being expansive allows you to have a positive outlook, and channel your creativity. It also draws others to you like a magnet. That interaction with others in turn leads to more creativity. Walk away from Victimville, home of oppressive depleting tasks and unrecognized effort and choose to empower your efforts. Get the help you need to slog through the tasks that deplete or depress you, be selective in your commitments, seek out and ask for what contributes to your life and career goals. Are you doing the work of your draftsman? Ask yourself why you feel you need to do this: lack of trust in their work (fire or train them better), perfectionism on your part (done is better than perfect), or a way to avoid your own fears or hesitations on taking on creative challenges (take the leap). If you truly find yourself drawn to chores when faced with a big project or challenge, think about why you are subconsciously choosing to be a victim of busy work instead of giving yourself permission to shine. Then go do something fun instead of scheduling those fixtures.
Be outcome focused
In a perfect world, we'd all live with such clarity of purpose that every action we took would be advancing that purpose. In real life, we get distracted. It's a lot easier to put effort into an activity when we understand how completing it will contribute to achieving a long or short term goal. Staying result-focused helps us get through the tedious work, because we can see where it ends. It also helps us to trim the unnecessary activities we often take on because we assume we have to, but haven't fully thought through why. When you are outcome focused, you honor your own effort and the efforts of others.
Just like a building, our figurative paint can peel, our mental light bulbs need to be changed and our air needs to be circulated to keep from breeding mold spores. We can also find that upon closer inspection, we need a little remodel of our lives to keep on track with our higher purpose. Take on your life as your next project without fear of bold moves- making space is what you do.