We burn out our students, and design firms often burn out their employees. There is an unrealistic expectation of the number of hours that need to be spent in the studio. I came across this article in the Guardian recently that goes into and debunks the myth.
There is a physical toll that impedes your mental ability when you don’t get sufficient sleep and exercise. Sleep is critical to humans. There are a small minority of people that can survive on much less sleep than the rest of us, but for most of us a minimum of 7 hours, and preferably that full 8 hours. Exercise is also shown to help the mind function correctly, and releases endorphins that help to elevate your mood, and actually gives you more stamina. And finally, eating correctly. This means a balanced meal, not sugar from the vending machine. Caffeine has a half life in the body of 4 to 6 hours, meaning that 8-12 hours after you drink that coffee, you’ve still got 25% of the caffeine still in your body. All-night work seldom yields progress equal to the number of hours.
Plan ahead. My teacher, Robert Mangurian, would ask what the final presentation was going to look like at the start of the project. I know what you are thinking: How can I know what my presentation is going to look like when I don’t know what my project is? Well, you do know what your project is. Typically, you have a site, you know the scale of the building, you know the scale of the drawings you are asked to produce. Do the busy work while you are developing concept. Set up your sheets for your final presentation. Think about the renderings you will be doing. As the concept develops, you’ll be able to apply it to your base sheets without having to create the entirety. And the busy work is something to do while you are still investigating concept. The work must progress, and typically it progresses by steady application.
Look, there is no doubt that any profession will make time demands to complete things on time, and any profession will require additional work to make that happen. Sh!t happens. You discover late that significant changes need to be made; you came up with a better idea; someone gets sick and you are short a team member; the list goes on. But if you (or your manager) are regularly requiring long hours, then you didn’t manage your project well. These should be exceptions, not the rule.
You need to learn to work smart, not just hard.