Architecture as a study or industry is known to be time-consuming and stressful. In fact, we warned about it on the very first day of architecture school. Architect as discipline and career is tough and it is common to hear someone from the industry say that if one pursues architecture, they will not particularly have a life outside of their work. 

As architects, we are tasked to juggle multiple responsibilities, from our work, expectations and daily stress. The talks of having a work-life balance whilst pursuing a career in architecture have always been hard to reach. Over time, we have accepted this culture as something normal, but it is not. 

Work-life balance

The meaning of having a work-life balance is the equilibrium between personal life and work life. It is the understanding of having a separate life bubble from one’s work. Given the normal 5-day work week and 2-day rest week, one may find it extremely hard to achieve a sense of equilibrium for their own leisure time and time in for work.

Architects: How to achieve work-life balance - Sheet1
The art of Balance ©Colton Sturgeon

Understand your limits and say no to work you cannot handle.

Get to know your limits and create boundaries to that. Set hard limits to how late you want to work and how many days late will you have at work. These hard limits should not be crossed. Ensuring this comes with saying no to work when you cannot handle it. If one is already swamped with work, say no to more work that you know you cannot finish by the deadline. Stop and slow down if you are overwhelmed. In short, bite only when you know you can chew.

Architects: How to achieve work-life balance - Sheet2
Stop before you hit your limit ©Kai Pilger

Draw a line and voice out.

Learn to negotiate with clients and bosses. Voice out when there is too much work as clients and bosses may not be aware that you have other work tasks that are of greater priority. Architects should learn to manage both the work that they have and the upcoming work that may come. 

One may consider asking about progressive work. This allows architects to manage their time better and voice out when they can’t take more work or meet deadlines. Voicing out early and timely makes sure architects do not get overwhelmed with work and gives a heads up to the one in-charged.

Architects: How to achieve work-life balance - Sheet3
Voice out ©Jason Rosewell

What is important?

Managing one’s time is as important as managing one’s task. Architects should question what is important and urgent and what is not as important or urgent. Arranging their tasks to the Eisenhower Matrix may be helpful. The Eisenhower Matrix divides a person’s work into 4 different categories: urgent and important, important but not urgent, not important, not urgent and urgent but not important. 

Putting this into context, let us take an architect who has been neglecting family time to complete urgent work with approaching deadlines. An architect that has been neglecting his loved ones would mean that his work is urgent but not as important as family time which would be under important and urgent. 

Eisenhower Matrix ©
Eisenhower Matrix ©

Life is short, prioritise your wellbeing. 

It is known that we are here on Earth for a very short time and it is important to live life to the fullest. Whatever we do on Earth should be enjoyable but working constantly may bring us away from this. This means to say that we should prioritise our wellbeing over work and that ensuring that one’s mental and physical health may, in the long run, make them better architects. 

Taking breaks when one feels the need to is important. It prevents burnout and, with breaks, it allows us to have space to fall more in love with our jobs. The better the quality of your life is the better we are at what we do at work. 

Ensure such breaks are limited to a time frame and that it should be consumed with media or technology. Rest from those too. Learning how to take breaks prevents one from purely slacking or procrastinating.  Like excessive working, a too long of a break can also be overwhelming.

Care about your wellbeing ©Carl Newton
Care about your wellbeing ©Carl Newton

All in all, it is a lot more important to do lesser things and do it well than do more things that are of subpar quality. Taking ownership in what is important to an architect and creating boundaries to ensure that he/she upholds such values pushes them to be better people with a better quality of life. 

With a better quality of life, architects too will be able to design and create higher quality spaces. Acquiring work-life balance is not simple but it is important to break away from the stereotypical thoughts of what an architect life is like. This problem would not be resolved tomorrow but with small, measured steps and with people that uphold the importance of having a work-life balance, architects’ relationship with work can be revolutionised and transformed for the better. Besides, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.


Currently an architecture student in National University of Singapore (NUS), she wishes to eventually live in a van, swims with whales and delve into different works of arts. An avid learner who strives to be of an all-rounded individual, she too is a lover of words, psychology, and human experiences.