15 Ways to Stay Motivated in Architecture Sch. (& Graduate)

If you were to chart the journey of a student in architecture school in the form of a graph, you would see peaks and valleys. From one architecture student to another, you typically find this pretty much a constant.

The only difference between them is how uplifting the good times are to the individual and how incredibly demotivating the bad times can be.

Depending on the structure of your architectural studies – a 3+2, 4+2, or a 5-year degree program – it could still be a long time to go, and you’ve got to turn this situation on its head.

The terrible patch you are going through could be the ceaseless line of assignments and projects with no end in sight, or round after round of nasty critique for your current design project with no light at the end of the tunnel in terms of a workable solution, or something else.

It would be best if you found the motivation to at least get to the end of the semester and live to fight another day.

These are the 15 ways that you can try to regain motivation so that architecture school can again be fun and fulfilling – just like how you felt when you got started:

how to stay motivated in architecture school

1. Do Not Work Alone

The tendency is to withdraw into isolation when facing motivation issues, and that is what you need to mindful of so that you don’t fall into the same trap.

Do the opposite instead!

Work together with fellow architecture students in the studio. The home may be more comfortable, but you need to be amongst people doing the same things as you when you are in a motivation crisis.

It is not just to feed off the general energy in the room where everybody is hard at work, but you also constantly get bite-sized critiques, which is often the case when there is an extra pair of eyes looking at your design.

It helps to keep your mind working rather than painting yourself into a corner feeling trapped and demotivated.

2. Get a Critique Partner

You may work together with a group of them, but try to single out one that is willing to become your critique partner and vice versa.

It may sound selfish, but you need to pick one that is not already in the same state of mind as you – that will be counterproductive.

Choose a fellow architect student who looks confident – confident when presenting and actively participating in classes and lectures; a great partner, so you feed off that ‘high’ and pull yourself out of the ‘low.’

The point is to get your mind working in the right direction again and have somebody who is not afraid to point out your mistakes and missteps.

3. Seek an Architect Mentor

If you have interned in an architecture firm in the previous semester break, seek out the advice and words of wisdom of a practicing architect.

The architect would have been through the situation you are in and able to provide you a fresh perspective from which to look at the issues.

If it is not the principal architect that you are on good terms with, an architectural designer who has more recent architecture school experience will do just as well.

4. Find Your Best Time to Work

Every individual operates differently.

Identify the time of day that you perform your best in productivity and clarity of mind. Discover the conditions that you operate best in or the environment that is more conducive to bring the best out of yourself.

Work with yourself and maximize what works for you.

Work in blocks of time with mini breaks in between. Some students can go for long stretches and still operate at a high level, while others work better in short bursts without necessarily prolonging the breaks.

But if you find yourself easily distracted from the task at hand, you need to do the opposite.

Self-discipline is a new habit you need to consciously and continuously train yourself to adopt so you get things done in the shortest time possible.

5. Tackle One Problem at a Time

When you are in a motivation crisis, everything seems gloomy, and quite naturally, you’d feel overwhelmed. It could be perceived problems or real ones that you need to solve to move forward.

It will be challenging to navigate your way out when the mind’s cluttered with no clear target to focus on.

Break the massive chunk of a problem into smaller ones to easily separate and identify, prioritize and tackle, and file away once solved.

Tackling and solving one problem at a time puts you back into control as you lighten the load, and naturally, motivation will start to return.

6. Do Not Procrastinate

Procrastination is one of the biggest evils in the face of mountains of things that require action.

Delaying the start of a task and unnecessarily dragging out the process pile on the pressure that you could do without. When one uncompleted work after another keeps adding to the list, it is depressing and saps your motivation.

An architecture student’s life contains many exciting but potentially-distracting events. When faced with a choice of work vs. fun time, always choose the former first so you can relax later.

The consequences of procrastination are self-made. Changing the habit is the only real solution.

Giving yourself a head start often leads to sustained positive energy levels and better work quality. Consequently, the lack of motivation becomes less of an issue.

7. Stay Away from Social Media

Social media brings about one of the worst temptations in the digital world.

It is tempting to allow yourself that little break to check for incoming messages on your social media account. But once on it, you tell yourself that it probably does not hurt to visit your friends’ pages for exciting updates.

Before you know it, another hour has passed, and that is another hour you have wasted which you could use to advance some meaningful work; it is progress that could otherwise have lightened the load and motivate you to keep your foot on the pedal.

Important things first, leisure can come later. That is how you keep motivation in check.

8. Change Your Mindset 180 Degrees

There are two modes that a person can adopt in pursuit of a goal – active or passive.

You can either allow the circumstances and the demands that others place on you to influence your actions.

Or, you could decide to take charge and decide for yourself how you intend to tackle them and what form of end-result you desire to achieve.

‘Attack’ your problem head-on. Don’t passively wait for it to dictate its terms on you.

It is a mental effort that only you can decide to work on consciously.

9. Set Target(s) to Look Forward To

To stay positive and maintain motivation, set a personal target that you can look forward to, a mark that pushes you to find solutions to your current dilemmas and predicaments.

Place a real target in front – looking forward to a long-awaited vacation, or meeting your loved ones when the semester breaks, or anything that works for you – and the body and mind will respond, much like setting your rainbow at the end of the storm.

Don’t be too quick to attribute the lack of motivation to the loss of love for architecture. You are only human – overwhelmed and overworked – it happens to the best of us.

10. Think Big Picture

Whenever you feel down, remind yourself why you chose architecture in the first place. Over time, the motivation turns hazy.

Recall and rediscover it.

The architectural study phase is not very long in the grand scheme of things; you are going to be working much longer than you will be studying. That is true for most people anyway.

Architecture school is merely a small part of your life and a start to a long career with a lot more things to still look forward to.

Learn to enjoy learning – and at times, struggling – in your architectural studies. Those times form fond memories for you to look back on and be thankful for how they made you who you are.

11. Leaf Through Architecture Journals (but not too long)

What if you lost motivation because you felt like you have run out of ideas, or maybe design isn’t your thing. Some reach as bad a situation as questioning their entire involvement in architecture.

Before pressing the panic button, recognize that architects and artists alike suffer from creative block.

The fact is there is no limit to creativity. It is a well that never runs dry, figuratively speaking.

You are simply in need of some inspiration to get going again.

Look through the work of your favorite architects – and the ones you were never a fan of – in books and architectural publications. Listen in on architecture podcasts and browse design websites for fresh ideas.

You never know where your next inspiration comes from.

Head straight to work as soon as you get an epiphany. You want to strike while the iron is hot. The risk of delay is that the creative juices stop flowing – funny how the creative mind works.

12. Focus on Yourself

It is inevitable to resort to peer comparison when you operate in a group.

Yes, to judge yourself against your peers is beneficial to your development as an architect. But it is also worth noting that concepts can be similar, but no two executions are alike.

There is no right or wrong in architectural design; only developed ideas and those that aren’t, although the context does matter a great deal.

Focus on yours and push your idea to its limits.

13. Stand Up for Your Work, Nobody Else Will

Treat your work like a baby; it is your brainchild. If you don’t defend it, don’t expect anybody else to.

Architecture is both art and science blended into a mix that makes architects the jack of all trades, master of none – except for architecture itself.

The artistic component of architecture makes it a subjective matter. How well you argue in support of an idea can determine the success or failure in the eyes of its audience.

Explore the limits of your concept, then be confident in articulating it and be firm in defending it. Nobody can say your piece of rock is of the wrong shape.

14. No Problems Stay Forever

Architecture students face obstacles that ebb and flow throughout the semesters and from one year to the next.

They come in various shapes and forms, usually one after another, and in multiples at times. That’s the nature of an architect’s life, and the need to overcome burnout becomes inevitable at some points.

An architect’s life in school is precisely for shaping architects into great problem solvers. It is hard to think of another field of study that is as multidisciplinary as architecture.

Take it on one at a time. The only problem is if you sit on it.

15. Take a Short Break

Every once in a while, take a break to recharge whenever you feel overwhelmed.

Don’t limit your interactions with your fellow architect friends to just studio and classes. Hang out with them. Plan the odd weekend adventure to a nearby town that you have not visited before.

Your journey as an architecture student only lasts a few years; be a great student, enjoy the journey, and make them count!

Rich life experiences as a student of the art will positively inform your growth and development as an architect.