Staying motivated can be difficult for anyone, whether its designers, artists or architects. Instead of giving up half-way, we suggest some tips and methods on staying motivated to make sure your work is always great. The journey to becoming an architect is long and difficult, and often while you are at university, you will have moments where you question your life decisions as a whole. This can throw you off slightly, but if you keep your cool and do what is neccessary, you’ll be fine.
Imagine this scenario: mid-way through the year, while you’re balancing 2 or 3 projects, keeping up with criticism and feedback you are also trying to design a space you think is great. But it’s just not working. You feel like you’re running behind and maybe it’s best to give up. You’re not able to manage your time, or keep up with your social life. Motivation seems like an impossible theory. Plus, the ‘motivational quotes’ board on Pinterest isn’t really doing it for you.
This kind of ‘scenario’ is exactly what happens at this point in the year. You may be lucky enough to have submitted some projects already but its drained your energy and motivation by this point. We’ve all felt that way somewhere along the line and it may not be the last time, but we are here to help you find ways to keep motivated and make the most of your time at university.
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Our first tip:
Step back from your work, breathe, and go outside. Do something that is not architecture related and makes you happy. The best thing you need sometimes is to take a step back and take a break. This helps you take a look at the bigger picture and it doesn’t neccessarily need to be for designing spaces, it can also be for essays or model making.
If this means leaving the building to go get a coffee, do it. Take your tired friends with you too. Often, we regret afterwards some of the choices we made, or the time we wasted when it could have been put to good use. Trying to utilise every second might just push you in the opposite direction and as a result, you won’t have good quality work, if any. Sitting at the desk for hours on end and not getting anything done is pointless. So go take a break, watch a YouTube video or call a friend.
Then, ease back into your work. You might be thinking that this is a waste of time, but you will be wasting a lot more time stressing out and feeling sorry for yourself. Taking out those few minutes to look over your work will help you gauge the situation better.
You can even consider taking a break for a day or two. At this point the deadline is most likely not important enough to lose your sanity over. Reviews and crits can also make us feel this way and the only way to overcome this is to let your thoughts go astray. If you have multiple projects going on at one time, mentally switch one off (reasonably, not until the day before the deadline) and don’t think about it for a few days. This way, you open yourself up to dedicating more time to a project you’re stuck on and when you go back to the other one, you’ll have a set of fresh eyes.
We know to some architecture students it may sound stupid and impossible because we have the notion in our heads that we need to be pulling all-nighters and drinking inexplicable amounts of coffee till we drain ourselves. But this doesn’t have to be the case. As long as you have that tiny bit of motivation, whether it’s to finish that last section, to submit your work by a deadline or even to finish your degree as a whole, you’ll make sure you try your best to get it done.
Trust Your Instincts
Believe it or not but when your deadline approaches, your natural instincts will kick in. You won’t even have the free mindset to think about anything but the work you are doing at that moment in time. You will look back at that period and think “How did I even do that?”. Architecture is a unique and tiring degree, but only designers like ourselves really appreciate the hard work and creativity. Being able to get inspired often comes naturally to us, but there are most definitely times where it’s not the case.
Often times you will find that you make a list of goals to accomplish, with a set timetable but by the end of the day you find that you have only completed 2 out of 5 tasks. And then you either panic or feel down and useless. Sound familiar? Well stop.
It’s a lot easier to control these thoughts once you are conscious of them. It is really important that you start with realistic tasks so you don’t end up in that situation in the first place but if you do end up there. Do not give up. Take a look at what you need to get done, re-prioritise (if you need to), and think about how long each task can possibly take and make a new list. Set up your work before you go to bed so that when you’re up you are all ready to go.
Of course, this depends on how you work, which we’ll be discussing shortly. But something you need to ask yourself is why you’re in this position. Why are you doing the degree you’re doing. Because if there isn’t any passion behind it, it might not make sense. Our recent guest author Dimitra suggested that you should find out what you’re really passionate about. We all prefer doing the tasks that we enjoy first, so if you’re having a tough time, start with those but don’t forget about the ones you don’t like doing.
Check out Dimitra’s article HERE.
Trust your instincts telling you that it’s not worth prioritsing smaller tasks that the examiner won’t even be marking you on. Writing lists is key, even if you don’t end up finishing them, it gives a structure to every task you do and you get an idea of how far along you are in a project.
Create Your Ideal Workspace
The studio environment is something you’ll read a lot about but it’s not for everyone and you will notice that certain students only come in for tutorials. That’s not to say they are bad students, they just don’t feel comfortable there and that’s fine. Try changing your space up and see if it helps you become more motivated.
On the other hand, there are some students who treat the studios as their second home. Literally. And like we say, everyone is different. But it is important determine your workspace including the people around you. Get rid of anything that distracts you and bring in whatever helps you focus. If there are other students chatting away, you might be tempted to join in or you might be annoyed by the noise. In any case, the environment might not work for you.
Why is this effective? Because you need a set space to work in where you can focus on the tasks in front of you without wasting time. It makes the whole process much more easier and efficient. For some people, a change of workspace can also help, especially if you’re low on motivation.
For example, the team at :scale prefer to work outside of the studio but each in different ways. Raeesah can’t focus in silence and notices that she works effectively watching dark documentaries. Sana focuses alone and runs through movies she has already seen. But as the deadline draws close and Sana is ‘in the zone’ she switches to silence; whereas Raeesah switches to political podcasts.
Essentially you need to figure out what are distractions and what are some of the things that support you. If you like snacking, keep some easy to eat food near you so you’re not constantly going and getting food from the kitchen. Your workspace doesn’t just mean the environement around you, it can also refer to the apps and tabs open on your phone or computer. It might be a good idea to mute notifications and keep your phone away from you.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
This can be very, very difficult. You’re in an environment where you pretty much know what everyone else around you is doing and how their projects are going. But it is so important that you do not give in to comparing yourself or trying to get your work to the same place. It’s fine to give yourself some inspiration licence.
Everyone has a different style and opinion and no one is the same. If you see work that you like, it does not mean your work is bad. Don’t immediately devalue your work. Instead, take a look at different styles of work and think of it as an observation. Observe and learn to apply what you like and start tweaking it and see if it fits your style. The best way to make progress is to learn to adapt and observe without making comparisons.
Plus, if you spend time over-analysing other people’s work and trying to imitate it, you might end up wasting time and as we’ve already discussed, time is key. The best thing to do might be to develop your own style based off other works or your own ideas.
Change Your Approach
If something is taking a long time to do, then, there is most likely, another way to do it or a faster way to do it. Look online and see what different methods of working there are. There is no right or wrong way, just different ways, and everyone has a different way of working. Some methods work faster for different people and that’s alright. You just need to find your method.
Implementing a timed plan or proper structure may work best for some people. You can do this easily by sitting down every morning and planning your work for the day. Make sure you include breaks and meals and be realistic about what you want to achieve. Then, you can use a timer on your phone to keep track of the time for every hour lets say. After the time is over, you can evaluate whether you need to carry on or prioritise the next task. Let us know if you want to see an article on time management in the comments below.
Changing your style of work is also something that can help motivate you. Often, doing a task can be long and tedious so changing it up can be exciting and you learn something new on the way. Although, if you’re nearing a deadline, it is best to stick to what you know best, just because you don’t want things to mess up at this time. Just keep it together.
Find Your Passion
This may sound cheesy but, you need to take a step back and remember, why are you doing this? what do you like to do? You can’t do this course without having a passion for it… well you can, you just won’t enjoy it. Look back through your old work, listen to music you like and just think back to what brought you here and why you are doing this. Architecture students are known to be enthusiastic about their subject, not just for the grades.
We find scrolling through Pinterest or watching a video about a different style of architecture can be useful but for creators like us, the smallest things can imply us. Use your surroundings, the time you take out on a break or even by taking a quick nap!
However, during the course of the year it is easy to go crazy and at some point you’ll notice everyone is so hell bent on grades and praise, that they often lose themselves on the way. You change your style, to meet the ‘requirements’ or maybe someone makes a comment that makes you re-evaluate, or even your tutors might say something that throws you off track and eventually you find yourself with work that might be considered good, but you aren’t satisfied with it. Then, even worse, your work quality goes down and that’s the last thing you want.
So many architecture students change their style thinking that there is a ‘right’ way of working and a lot of the time it backfires because it shows in your work that you are not enjoying it. Trust in your work, obviously take crticism positively but don’t try to completely change your way of thinking, because the comments aren’t trying to suppress you, they’re to help you get better.
Overall, we hope even one of our points made an impact somehow. Changing things up or enforcing a structure isn’t difficult. By staying motivated, you’re not only increasing your creativity but also improving your work.
Have a look at our article about Ways to Gain Inspiration Online and tell us in the comments what you do to stay motivated. Remember to follow us on Instagram too! @to.scale