June 17, 2022

An architect's guide to achieving a work/life balance - Clare Nash - BS080

An architect's guide to achieving a work/life balance - Clare Nash - BS080
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Stitcher podcast player badge
RSS Feed podcast player badge

Today I'm joined by Clare Nash who describes herself as an "Architect creating dream eco-homes, barn conversions plus environmental and community focused housing schemes"
Today we are talking about how to find a work/life balance.

Design Your Life Book - https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Clare-Nash/Design-your-life--An-architects-guide-to-achieving-a-worklife-balance/26380240

Bursting with tips, ideas and how-tos on all aspects of designing a working life that suits you and your business, this book explains in clear and accessible language how to avoid the common pitfalls of long hours and low pay. It explores how to juggle work with family commitments, how to set your own career path and design priorities, and how to instil a flexible working culture within a busy lifestyle.

About Clare Nash Architecture:

Clare Nash Architecture Ltd is a 5 person architecture practice based in Brackley in rural South Northamptonshire on the Oxfordshire border. Specialising in energy efficient rural design and project management, particularly eco-refurbishment and new build, CNA's design focus takes inspiration from the vernacular.

Focusing on people, site, climate, location, context, sustainable and beautiful materials to produce buildings that sit well in their surroundings and suit the people who reside in them. This means CNA is involved from the initial concept design, through to planning and building control and continuing right through to working with builders to final completion. CNA's level of involvement is tailor made to each project depending upon an individual client's requirement whilst always ensuring close collaboration with each client in every project.

They are a small team and operate a flexible working model which means they do not work from an office but do have regular design meetings. This a superb business model for both financial and time efficiency reasons. Working remotely also gives us a degree of flexibility as our different working locations keep us inspired and feeling fresh to approach projects with renewed focus and lots of ideas.

Podcast Episode Links:

Connect with me:
IG - @jeffreythenaturalbuilder
Twitter - @JNaturalBuilder
Facebook - Jeffreythenaturalbuilder
LinkedIn - Jeffreythenaturalbuilder

Support the show

Jeffrey Hart  0:00  
Welcome to building sustainability podcast with me your host Jeffrey Hart, aka Jeffrey, the natural builder every fortnight. Join me as I talk to designers, builders, makers, dreamers and doers. Exploring the wide world of sustainability in the built environment by talking to wonderful people who are doing excellent things. Hello, and welcome to episode 80. This episode is part of two episodes, where we're talking to architect Claire Nash. Both this Episode and Episode 81. were recorded in the same session and focus on the two books that Claire has written. This first episode is about her book, an architect's guide to achieving a work life balance. And episode 81 is focused around her book contemporary vernacular design, how British housing can rediscover its soul. Quickly before this episode, I just want to take a quick moment to say a huge thank you to Elizabeth Roman, and Shannon Berry, both of whom are signed up as building sustainability superheroes on our Patreon site. They've both pledged at the five pound level, which means I will be sending them a hand carved wooden spoon, hand carved by me, this little batch at the moment is I'm carving some birch, which actually came from a tree that was just behind my house, one of its kind of larger limbs had to be taken down. So yeah, it's a very, very connected to my house and the place I am. So hopefully, that's a nice thing to receive. I also want to say a big thank you to Elena, who has upgraded to the same five pound level. So thank you to all three wonderful people, you really do help this podcast exist. Okay, I haven't got too much to say my brain is somewhat mushy at the moment. I do just want to say that there is a slightly clunky swap when we start talking a little bit too far down the road of talking about the contemporary vernacular design book. And there's a little swerve as we pull it back into this book, if you're disappointed by that then just listened to Episode 81. All right, that's it. I'm back at the end. Enjoy Glenn Nash.

Clare Nash  2:40  
Okay, so I'm Claire Nash and I ran clannish architecture, which is an eco architecture firm. There's nine of us now, I've also written a couple of books, contemporary vernacular design, how British housing can rediscover it sold is one and the other one is design your life and architects go to work life balance.

Jeffrey Hart  2:59  
And where are you based Oxford shear.

Clare Nash  3:00  
I mean, I myself are based on the border of Northampton shear Oxfordshire, but I have a team all over Oxfordshire. Did I read that you're

Jeffrey Hart  3:08  
an all female practice?

Clare Nash  3:10  
We're not all female. The I think the first edition of the book says that, but that was quickly changed to a misprint where majority female but by Ha, yeah, there's two blokes and seven women. Okay. And then at one point, we were all female. It wasn't totally wrong. It's just it's changed.

Jeffrey Hart  3:29  
Okay. And was was that in any way? Sort of by design?

Clare Nash  3:33  
No, not particularly. It just just, yeah, the, I suppose the way the practice operates, which is very flexible, and remote working. And there's lots of support. And I suppose because I'm a female leader that attracted other women, I would have men apply but majority women. So it ended up being the ones I chose for majority women also. And that that worked. It's it is a nice atmosphere. Yeah, it's, um, yeah, it's just, it's a really nice place to work.

Jeffrey Hart  4:06  
Well, I was sort of went down a little bit of a research rabbit hole and was looking at the gender balance in architecture, and was surprised to see that overall, it's something like 7030 male to female, but then under 30 It was almost an exact 5050 split.

Clare Nash  4:26  
Yeah, yeah. Well, it's been like that for a while and what tends to happen is people women drop off later on. Oh, of course. Yeah. So when they have children or before then even so they might do their degree, and then change their mind during work experience or they'll get past that bit and then change their mind in the second lot of work experience or or for for whatever reason. Well, I know quite a few reasons. Long hours culture, it is one. Definitely for parents. It's tricky. In post COVID were more open to flexible working. But before that there was definitely a real culture of you have to be in the office, you have to always be available for collaboration, or the next big idea. It just wasn't seen as viable to be running a remote working practice, like I do. Yeah. So there was there was lots of that, and it was competitive. And sometimes that's just gets you down after that. I don't think it's changed that much. I still think it's the same even with having had the younger 5050 For a long time now. I think it is getting better, but only very slowly.

Jeffrey Hart  5:36  
Yeah, yeah, yes. I well, I guess these things happen incrementally, don't they? No, no, all of a sudden?

Clare Nash  5:43  
Yeah. And I also think it's, you know, new generations coming in with new ideas that younger people are expecting to change jobs more frequently. And they're more demanding of work life balance, and you know, when people are retiring, who had the the opposite view about how working life should be so that's all changing, too.

Jeffrey Hart  6:02  
And do you think? Well, I mean, what we're going to talk about a lot is, is work life balance? Do you have it? Have you managed that? Yeah, cool. Work life balance?

Clare Nash  6:13  
I think I do. I wouldn't have said that thought every week of my, the past few years. It definitely comes and goes, but the majority, I would say would be yes, I have. And there are peak periods. I mean, sometimes you just have to, you know, like I've recently taken on quite three people. And that's taken quite a lot of effort, the onboarding and keeping things going, Project wise, so that there isn't, you know, a drop in activity, that kind of thing, that that takes a bit out of you. So about one or two months, I've felt like, Oh, this is actually quite a stressful period. But now I'm out of that, and things are way better. And work life balance is really good. So, yeah, and it's like, if, if you're really clear on your purpose, and why you're doing something, then it doesn't actually matter that much if you have short periods of stress, and overwhelm, and so on, because you know, it will pass and you know, the end result is really worth getting to. So I don't have any bother with that. But if it was all the time, and I couldn't see the end of it. And it wasn't allowing my purpose, then I'd have Yeah, it won't be the same,

Jeffrey Hart  7:26  
I think is one of those things. I've done stressful jobs, and you sort of don't realise it stressful, and then it's just building and building and building and suddenly it's your your entire life. And then there's usually some sort of breaking point, isn't there?

Clare Nash  7:40  
Yes. Yeah. For me, I that was illness. And it wasn't even a serious illness, it was just fatigue, really. But it worries me because I thought it could become chronic fatigue, if I let it continue. And I've always been a high energy person. And that disappeared. Totally. And also, I wasn't able to deliver the work quality that I wanted to. And it just came about from I did really well on blogging and lots of work came in. And then I stupidly took all of it. Because I had started in a recession and was like, Oh, this might not happen again. And then just couldn't do it or so I was forced into taking on my first member of staff, which I was worried about, because I thought I'm not necessarily going to be good at managing people. But um, but actually, that was that worked really well that without first she was a student, because I used to teach at Oxford Brookes where I still do occasionally. And I thought, well, this is a test. She was planning to go and work in Australia, and six months later. So I thought, Well, I'll try it out. And then if it doesn't work, it's only six months. But it worked. And so when she left, I replaced her with two new people. And that worked. And it was very much learning by doing. But yes, so I learned the hard way about work life balance and how important is because but essentially, if somebody termed it as once, if you run your own business, you are the golden goose. And if you're not well, then it can't produce any golden eggs.

Jeffrey Hart  9:20  
Yeah, yeah. lovely golden building eggs.

Clare Nash  9:23  
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So I'm kind of

Jeffrey Hart  9:27  
interested in that was the sort of story leading up to that. So I think I read somewhere that you were in larger practices. So yeah,

Clare Nash  9:37  
yeah. So I worked in a few different practices before and one abroad as well. And the longest one I stayed at was the bowtie. It did a wide range of works like schools, universities, prisons, footballers, wives sort of flats and you know, heritage stuff as well. It was really good experience building and had quite a good work life balance as well, they were quite good about non not long hours culture. And usually it was 5050 split, male female to whereas previous is offices I'd worked in, it just been me and the receptionist who is female. So that was nice. And to be honest, until I got there, I didn't really know, I didn't realise I was missing that because I was quite happy in my mostly male dominated environment. And then I went there, and I thought, Oh, this is nice, actually made me think about, you know, it's just nice to have a mixture. It's a nice atmosphere. Yeah. So that was that. And then I've done a research proposal at the end of my part two architecture qualification, where if I wrote a dissertation in three years after that I could get it would qualify as a master's. And I was really excited about it. And it would involve travelling abroad, but I couldn't really see how I was going to manage that when I had a job. And then the recession happened. And the practice I worked for wasn't really hit by the credit crunch, because we didn't do that many houses. But when Cameron cut public spending that hit all our public funded projects, so they did three rounds of redundancies, and then they said, we'd like to avoid a fourth round. So if anybody wants to take six months off, then this would be a good time to do it. So we don't have to make fourth rounds. So I thought, well, I've got my research that I really want to do. And here's a good opportunity to do it. And I knew I was taking the risk. But I just thought now or never. So I did that. And I went abroad, and I worked on organic farms, and did couchsurfing to kind of help with funding my way round. And some of that was really useful, because people I stayed with, like, I found that I did learn Spanish, but I found the Chilean dialect really hard, because they speak so fast as well. And I stayed with on the working on organic farms thing, there was a couple of architects were doing that. So they came and helped me translate, but also because they were interested themselves. So it was kind of, you know, a fun thing to do. So that that was really beneficial. I mean, lots of little things that happened along the way, like couchsurfing in China, there was a lady there who helped me translate interviews with a professor, and she helped me find some English students to help me with some more translating. And, yeah, it was just a really nice experience of people helping each other and learning languages. And also just finding out that people all over the world have exactly the same problems. And they all worry about their bills. They all matter and groan about their neighbours.

Jeffrey Hart  12:48  
The universals Yeah.

Clare Nash  12:50  
And that was really reassuring, and, of course, a big cultural differences as well, and seeing how those tied into architecture and how it expressed itself through people's homes. And but what I was mainly exploring was how vernacular technologies are inherently sustainable and how we could use those in modern sustainable building for homes.

Jeffrey Hart  13:13  
And this was your, what became your first book?

Clare Nash  13:17  
Yeah, yeah. So it was a research paper. And then I thought I was just going to sit on the shelf with the library, and only other master's students will read it and which seemed a bit of a shame. And I thought I could widen it as well, because I only had, I think three or four UK case studies. And then the rest were very international to Papua New Guinea, China, South America, and so on. And, um, I thought, there's a lot in Europe I could look at, as well as more UK ones. And then it would be more useful for practitioners in the UK and house builders and developers and so on. So yeah, I approached the Riba publishing about that. And they said, Yes, which really surprised me. Because so yeah, then I had to go and do it. Case studies and so on, but it was, again, it was really fun. Although also very daunting, I mean, knocking on somebody's door on a Friday evening, when you know, they just want a glass of wine really, and not not to talk to somebody on the doorstep and the first instinct is what you're selling me. Yeah, so I had to always start with Hello, I'm an architect like really fast.

Jeffrey Hart  14:23  
Hello hates bother you. Well, I am a little but

Clare Nash  14:26  
yeah, but that was the only way to get the direct feedback about how well the architects intentions or the housing associations intentions had had worked for the actual use of the people in the homes themselves.

Jeffrey Hart  14:39  
And then did you go back to your that the practice were you taking six months off or is that

Clare Nash  14:45  
yeah, so when I came back, they had given my projects to other people, which is fair enough. And then so I was easy to lose then and things weren't any better in 2011 the recession we're still going full pelt and then so yeah, I lost my job, but in a very Be friendly way. And I still kept in contact with everybody. And, and some of them tried to get me job interviews, which is very nice. So I felt well supported and not actually that scared, which is a bit weird. But yeah, but it did take me because it was the recession and you know, colleagues of mine was sending out 100 CVS and getting zero interviews. So I was even lucky to get job interviews, and I got to, and both times, it was me and somebody else, and they went with the other person in the end, and I thought, well, maybe something is trying to tell me something, and then maybe I should go freelance. And then I just happen to bump into somebody who had offered me freelance work in the past on a train. And I didn't want it then, because I was happy where it was, but I did want it now. Yeah. And then it was a good offer. Anyway, it just wasn't the right time. And before. So I worked with him for a bit and another architect as well, on a freelance basis. But I found, although the work was good, and working with him was great. And I found it quite isolating. And also hard to manage workload, because it would be like all or nothing. And there was, there wasn't so much, it wasn't very predictable. And I thought, This isn't very sustainable, long term. So I got a job as a dinner lady, more or less, I'd load up the van with the, the food from the tea room, and then take it to the school and deal it out and things. And that was really nice, because I was working with other people in the middle of the day. And then either side, I could focus on my business, which just started I mean, weirdly, the hurdle for me was paying for the insurance, because I know you have to keep it going for six years after the project's finished. And I was worried. Like, what if this doesn't work, and I'm still paying for that insurance. But in the end, I just thought now I've got give it a go. So I put postcards in local shops, and then work did start trickling in and and then I could do less and less dinner lady doing. Yeah. And I sort of replaced that isolation with going to networking events, where there'll be a business speaker, so I get to learn stuff, and also meet other business owners and things and share tips and stuff and read loads of books about how to run a business at the same time. And that net work, although that particular group has stopped, I still it's still really valuable to me. Yeah. And I've got other networks as well. So I just think it's so important to reach out to other people at those because it's such a lonely experience being a business owner. And there's so much you can learn from other people. Yeah, I'd really recommend that if anybody else is thinking about doing that.

Jeffrey Hart  17:38  
In in your architecture trading. Is there any part of that? Which is teaching you how to run a business?

Clare Nash  17:44  
Yeah, small bit, you do a module per? I don't know, per year, but not in the first year? Yeah. And I found it quite abstract. Because until you apply it to your own business, it doesn't really make sense. And a lot of the systems that they sort of advocated didn't really work for me anyway, when I actually got around to it, that I found knowledge and things from business books were better. And from other business owners to more people giving talks that that kind of thing, because they were more sort of, as I suppose the they're more specialists because it's about business. It isn't about, you know, architects trying to run businesses, but just business. So I found that more useful. And certain key books really changed everything like the E Myth, which is all about systems being the key to both profit and the longevity of the business and allowing you ball creative time and all that stuff that made a really big impression on me quite early. And and it meant that I could, I did develop systems from quite an early point. So when I took on my first member of staff, I, every question she asked me, I turned into an Evernote, which is what I was using at the time with sort of screenshots of how to do things and answers. And then I had a library of stuff so that when the next two came, they just could use that. And the questions were less and so each time it was building, building up all the systems and and then of course, my team develop their own systems, which are better than mine anyway. So it's just this constant sort of layering of more efficient operations that save you time. And I mean, you can make more money and have more creative time. And more time off.

Jeffrey Hart  19:30  
Yeah, the dream. Yeah. What does your your life look like in terms of your work life balance? So what does that what does having a good work life balance mean, in your world?

Clare Nash  19:42  
So I only work sort of 2530 hours a week. And yeah, so I'll always fit in some form of exercise every day. Doesn't have to be particularly intense, sometimes just a walk. But I find swimming is really good for my creative brain like I work really well. I better blocks after a swim and things like that. So I tend to see, rather than seeing it as time off, I see it as an investment because my brain works better afterwards.

Jeffrey Hart  20:11  
That's a good way of retraining your brain, isn't it? It is. Yeah,

Clare Nash  20:14  
it makes a big difference. So I call them creativity breaks rather than walk. Yeah. Yeah. Because it's true. It's taking it the, the number of times before I started thinking about it like that, I'd be sat at the computer going, Oh, no, I've got to get this out, go get this out. And then I forced myself to stop and go for a walk. And then I'll come back and realise it didn't have to do any of that. Anyway, there was a much quicker solution. And I saved myself buckets of time. And, yeah, so the opposite effect of what you'd think. But also, more family time. So I have a son who's four. And I really like seeing him in the morning and at tea time, and not having to come home. I mean, not not feeling like I'm stuck in traffic on the commute, when I want to be with him or that sort of thing. And definitely, when I, he was very tiny, I was able to run my business around looking after him. So that made life a lot easier. Is that because of the remote working? Yeah, it makes a huge difference. Because I can just be sat there breastfeeding, which he can't do in an office. And, you know, I could be sketching at same time, I can take him for walks when he'd fall asleep, and I'd have client phone calls and things. You can't do that when you're in an office and or if you have to have a commute. Yeah, so I think it only really works, that kind of thing. If you can work from home, some of the week at least, is there?

Jeffrey Hart  21:44  
Like Sorry, I'm sort of skipping back a bit. But is there like, the impression I get is there's a culture of, of working too much or too long hours in the sort of architecture world. And I, I certainly know from friends who are architects that that sort of instilled from the from the very beginning of the training.

Clare Nash  22:08  
Yeah, I, my, before I even started the course properly. I did interior architecture as a degree. And then I switched to architecture later that they caught. I said, Oh, I can't like on a Wednesday afternoon, like the rest of the university shuts down for sport. And I quite like to join in with something. I'm not sure what yet, maybe waterpolo. But, and he said all previous students have found that really hard, like they might have done it for a bit. And then they've had to give up because architecture is all encompassing, and people, people find it really hard to fit in anything else. And I thought crumbs that sounds awful. And I just and I couldn't necessarily fit in that Wednesday afternoon, because that clashed with other things. But I did consistently do sport all the way through. And I found it helped me the opposite of what that cost director it said. So I think sometimes it's it's a mindset thing. It's not, it doesn't have to be true, just because somebody says that I found it made me more efficient, and definitely more healthy, and gave me more energy and more ideas and all of which benefited the, the what I produced. And I got really good grades at the end. So you know, when when? Yeah, yeah. But yeah, it's still I think university because of the mental health issues. Universities are doing a lot. Now. You know, Brooks where I work stopped that did work. So sorry, stop the 24 hour card for students, because it's both to show that we don't want you coming in at three in the morning.

Jeffrey Hart  23:49  
As in like an access card. Yeah, right.

Clare Nash  23:53  
I don't I don't know how long that continued, or whether it worked. But that that was an intention to help reduce this idea. So I do think it's changing definitely. And universities really, they're not saying what that course director said to me anymore. They're saying the opposite. Like, I hear it all the time, go for a walk, for goodness sake. Go from your screen. And you know, and some of the students I used to teach, they were so super talented, and would almost have nervous breakdowns. One of them I was really worried about and it just gets into a very negative cycle where you end up working later and lighter and then seeing people less and less and having even less sleep. And so you're socially isolating yourself as well as being deeply unhealthy food and sleep and all the rest, no exercise, and it's just so bad for you. It's so important that interaction with other students. Remember when I used to share a house we used to all you know, watch rubbish Telly together and share meals and that stuff is so important you Yeah, yeah, it Yeah. So that that was that was worrying but he, you know, he came out of it and other students would come out of it and but it's worrying it had to get to that point.

Jeffrey Hart  25:09  
Yes. This all sounds very familiar to me. Yeah, I mean, I especially I've been self employed for for a long time. And it was only when I started working for I worked in a workshop for a year, making furniture. And I was blown away the idea that you could, if you weren't finished just before five o'clock, you just put your tools away and went home, and then you did the work in the morning. That was just a shocker to me. I didn't have to just slave away all the time. And yeah, that's why I think it's why you're, when I saw your book, I'd really wanted to talk to you. Because on just a personal level, I find that the work life balance thing, so difficult. And I think it was definitely instilled in that that sort of university time.

Clare Nash  26:04  
Yeah. Yeah, there's still, I don't know, maybe it's my also my time in when I lived in Germany, and they were a bit French in there. I mean, they don't have their big long lunches like the French do. But they're much more like this is when I work. And this is my play time, and they have much more focus on the separation. And all they did, then it might have changed. Now this was 2004. But yeah, and they have more bank holidays. And it was a real culture of just being focused on work when you're there. And then you can have all your playtime and people would just literally leave at five o'clock all the time, there was just wasn't in the long hours culture that you have in Britain, even within architecture. So that was also a wake up call. Because, you know, nobody thinks of the Germans having poor output. No, no. Yeah. So I just thought, there's something, something missing in Britain on that front, because it's not just the architecture world, it's it's other ones too. And also, I think some of it comes a bit from less than great business models, where you're relying on free overtime to make to make that fee work. And, you know, the the race to the bottom of fees is really a big problem in architecture. And I've managed to get around that by demonstrating value more clearly to clients, instead of assuming that they're going to understand what an architect does, I assume that they haven't got a clue. And, you know, it's taken me years to get to this point. And it's a constant tweaking and tweaking, because you don't always want to stay in the same place, you're sometimes trying to attract a different market. Yeah, but the aim is to show that you get what they need, and, and then how you're going to offer it to them, and make it super clear. And, and, and also niching. Because the more you niche, the more work you get, and the more people realise they're in the right place. And this is who they want to work with. And also, from our perspective on the inside, we get better and better at doing that thing. And really enjoy being better at doing that thing. It's an really nice feeling. And then that means we you know, with our business model, we can charge more because we are better at doing that thing. And the client understands that. Yeah, and then we don't need to, you know, nobody works unpaid overtime.

Jeffrey Hart  28:35  
Is there a concern about being pigeonholed?

Clare Nash  28:38  
Yeah, yeah, definitely. And that can happen is like within practice, it happened to a colleague of mine, he was really good at feasibility studies and ended up just doing that. And even though he was older than me, he had very little site experience, whereas I was much younger and running three jobs on site simultaneously. So we swapped. And if you have an open minded sort of practice, they'll let you do that, because it's all about growth, personal growth, and they want to retain good quality staff and that kind of thing. So within practice, there is that that worry, but also, I get that from business owners as well. They want to demonstrate that they can do everything. And then they don't want to nail themselves down to one thing, because they're worried about something really exciting going in a different direction. But actually, if you're the potential client, and I mean, we do this when we go on to Google ourselves, we're looking for a very specific thing. And if we go into a website that offers maybe that but also six other things, we're like, well, we quite in the right place, I'm not sure. But if it if we get arrive on the website that has the thing that we want, and it makes sense. And it's saying that you know what we want and how we want to get there and that kind of thing, then they know they're in the right place, and that's 90% of your marketing or your sales conversion done. And already, then all you have to, you know, they're already fairly convinced. And all you have to do is turn up and represent that, which is easy if you've written it yourself anyway, and even flow people who share those values and want to do that same stuff. So this,

Jeffrey Hart  30:15  
this sort of comes from a personal place. Both I've got two older brothers, and both of them from very early teenage years, knew exactly what they wanted to do. And they went and did it. And then I came along. And so well, I like making things and didn't have any more sort of idea than that. And so for me to find my niche has involved a lot of kind of bouncing around and trying things and yeah, realising what doesn't work to actually find what does work. Have you got any sort of tips on on how to how to sort of zone in on your your niche in a bit more, more sort of structured way? I guess?

Clare Nash  30:55  
Yeah. I mean, I did purpose meandering as well. You know, I worked on all those different projects at that previous practice, and really enjoyed it. And it is hard to find that thing. But I think I still use this now. Because I'm going off in slightly different directions now. But it's the thing that makes you really excited. If there's something even if you don't yet quite know what it's going to become. Just keep nurturing it and exploring it and writing about it or, you know, some people don't like writing. So whatever it is that you do to explore that further, then you'll find it. And a lot of the things I've done have been just about, oh, God, I'm so excited about that. And I just keep going to events about that, and reading about that in. And then eventually I go Ah, right, this is the thing in because something else comes up and it connects. And then it makes sense. But I mean, I arrived at Bank conversion sim, just because I'm a farmer's daughter. I love being outside, in fields, I understand old farm buildings and how they should be. And it really tied in with my research that I've done about rural vernacular and how, how buildings fit in the countryside. And there's a useful diagram as well called iki guy, which is a Japanese word, which I've forgotten what it means. But you basically have a three circles, and it's like, what you love, what people will pay you for and what you're good at. And the thing in the middle is the gold.

Jeffrey Hart  32:36  
Right? Oh, nice. Yeah. It's,

Clare Nash  32:39  
it's, it's a that's quite helpful to sort of streamline your thinking if, if you're struggling a bit, and sometimes it's like, smack in your face, like I've gone into garden design more recently. That came up with the iki. Guy, but I ignored it. Because I wasn't ready at that point. But yeah, so sometimes it's not the right time. Not, you know, for whatever reason, but it, it is right. It does cut Yeah. And now I'm really enjoying doing that. So,

Jeffrey Hart  33:14  
so So what about other other tips for kind of systems and efficiencies, I know you wrote about routine.

Clare Nash  33:23  
So I think when you're working from home, it can be quite difficult to get into routine. Well, everybody knows this now post COVID. So I had to develop my own sort of commute, write things like that. And some business coaches call it priming the brain ready for work. And, you know, I do fight with myself sometimes when I get overcome. So I find that, you know, your brain fills up your to do list or start panicking about things. I get anxious about stuff that really doesn't matter. Part of it is just waking up. But it's also because I'm working by myself. And I do think some of that is mitigated by that initial sort of coffee, water cooler chat that you have in an office to override that I do a combination of things or just choose one of them, which is go for a walk to a cheerful podcast, nothing too serious, it has to be cheerful. And I have tried meditation and just listen to the birds and stuff. And I do do that then in short bursts. But I find my mind fills too easily with my to do list and it's just a pain. So the cheerful podcast overrides that. And that really helps. And I also do a thing from Julia Cameron's book, the artists way, which is the morning pages, which Tim Ferriss talks about doing as well. So it depends. I don't I don't do both very often. I used to do one or the other, but both seem to help get my brain in the right way. mode, and then and then I can just crack on.

Jeffrey Hart  35:03  
So that's your sort of morning morning routine. And then I mean, one of the guests the luxuries of, of working from home is that it doesn't have to be the morning it can be elsewhere in the day, you find works for you,

Clare Nash  35:18  
I'm sort of a middle of the road person, really your mornings are more productive, I have a bit of a dip in lunch, post lunch, or around lunch and, and then I pick up again, late afternoon, sort of three o'clock onwards. So yeah, that's, you know, since having a four year old Tea Time is nicely in that extra productive time. So that that's just, you know, had to go for a bit. But I did find that a useful little bit of time beforehand. So I often do things like prep up the slow cooker in the morning, or at lunchtime. So I have a bit more of that extra productive time. Before tea. Yeah, whereas people who work with me, they're more evening people, or they're more early birds. So that's the nice thing about flexible working. So we tend to just, or convene in the middle of the day, at some point on Slack, the overlap bit. Yeah. Yeah. You know, it does mean that, you know, I have a colleague who works in the evening, because it suits her around the small children, which means that her questions come overnight, which I don't look at, because I turn on my notifications off. I'm very strict about that. And, but then I'll respond the next day, and then she'll, she'll have that for the next thing. But there's a bit in the middle of the day when when there's direct conversation going on, which works also. So it, we just make it work between us. But it's important. It's really important to me, I said, you know, all my colleagues turn the notifications off. Yeah, at the time, they're not working, because otherwise it's just ping, ping, ping all the time, isn't it? You can't focus on anything. And it links into your, your playtime or your home time?

Jeffrey Hart  37:02  
Yes, yeah, I definitely feel that I could be better at turning off notifications. Because yeah, if I get a notification, it takes me out of my my free time. But also, it quite often won't get dealt with it, I sort of categorise it in my head as done, because it's coming in an off time. And if I just left it, or never knew about it until I was next, next working, I'd be able to do it there. And then

Clare Nash  37:31  
yeah, I've had some really painful weekends, when I've looked at accidentally, with Craig looked at my email on a Saturday morning, and as you know, because clients have more time at the weekend, so they will often email you at the weekend or evenings. And you know, and then that's really my whole weekend, because I'm thinking about that problem, whatever it is, and I can't actually do anything about it really, until Monday, because the engineers are closed or something, you know, the builder, whatever isn't available. So it's just total pointless angst. And it's taken me a while, I suppose past couple of years, I've been really good at not doing that. And my life is way better. Just the stress is it's so horrible. Yeah. And, you know, the problems still get solved. In the same amount of time. Nothing changes on that front. It's just my stress is like, less than half.

Jeffrey Hart  38:29  
Yeah. Which, which means that when you do come to solve it, you're, you're better anyway.

Clare Nash  38:34  
Yeah. Yeah. But it is it is a discipline, not to check your emails. And, and part of that, I suppose. Part of that has helped with having things to do with my son on like, on Saturday morning, take him swimming and things like that. So but but even before that, I'd be like, No, I'm going to the allotment. I'm, I'm going for a run, and I'm going out with friends. It's good actually to do things with other people, because then you can't be distracted by your emails. Because it's just really, if you're looking at your phone, and you're with your friends, so you don't do it.

Jeffrey Hart  39:08  
You have like sort of accountability to being there with them.

Clare Nash  39:12  
Yeah, yeah. So I found things like that help. A business coach, I work with them also said like, imagine the things you could be doing. If you weren't solving that annoying problem at the wrong time. Anyway, I call the you know, the lovely things. And that's a real motivator to Yeah, rather than moving away from it's like moving towards

Jeffrey Hart  39:34  
Yes. So that's a good example of setting boundaries, sort of boundaries between work and, and life. Are there any other tips you've gotten that?

Clare Nash  39:46  
I'd say also, it's about training clients not to expect things at the wrong time. If you answer their emails at weekends or in the evenings, they'll go all close around at that time, they will keep doing that. So yeah, you just have to and actually now in our welcome pack, when we say to clients where it says in it, we don't work at weekends and evenings. Even though I know some of my team do work in evenings, that doesn't mean, it's expected. It's, you know, it's up to them to set to set that. So, um, they Yeah, they wouldn't normally do client interaction, it would be literally just getting on with the thing when their kids are asleep, that kind of thing. So yeah, and that works really well. And people respect that they, they want you to have a good life, I don't expect you to be on the demand all the time. And that's never caused me any problems. It's yeah, it's just setting your own boundaries and having the confidence to stick to it as well, which is also I suppose, with everything really, it's the, it's knowing what the benefit is, by doing that this is the massive benefit that I'm gonna get. And then that's very motivating.

Jeffrey Hart  41:00  
Yeah, yes. Positive reinforcement, I think, yeah, nice. There's, there's a chapter in your book, I think, titled, is it the mistakes, mistake aid or

Clare Nash  41:13  
laziness mistakes?

Jeffrey Hart  41:16  
Is there a good example in there that we can talk about?

Clare Nash  41:19  
I think this is a very common business owner one anyway, I think, which is, at the beginning, you do have to do everything yourself, because you'd have to. And it's good to do that. Because you need to know how everything works before you start delegating. Otherwise, you won't be able to spot when things aren't, you know, things aren't working as well as they should, and that sort of thing. But, but there's, there's a line between doing it all and doing way too much. And you can't, it's impossible to be good at all of the things. And the less you do the better really. But in the early stages, there isn't enough cash for that, because you're just setting up and stuff. But so the one of my biggest mistakes was, when I had my son, I'd previously built the website and maintained it and done everything. And then of course, when my son came, I was very focused on making sure architectural clients were still happy. And my team was still supported. But I neglected the website bit. And so I didn't notice two quite crucial things, which meant that the website got very, very slow. And our inquiries just dropped off a cliff. And so then I had to put my staff on reduced hours, some of them and we discussed it all between us. And so the people who really needed the work kept the work, but other people had other projects, like either study or research or other things that that worked. I mean, I was fortunate also it was around study deadline time. So actually all a couple of students that are employed really didn't want to be working anyway. So but and but I felt absolutely dreadful, because you know, I'm, I'm responsible for paying them. And but it was just two months. And I really built the website over a period of time, not literally in those two months, I went out networking, and because that's more instant, and rewrote offers so that it was more attractive, and got the cash flow moving faster. Yeah, rebuilt the website. So it worked better. But I was like, This can't happen again. So now I have a website person. Because I quite enjoy website design and building and I love writing the stuff and having the flexibility to just be able to go, oh, I want to write a blog and just plunk it up and then done. And I was worried someone would take that away from me. But actually, that's not true. That you know, it. It varies on who you work with, I think but it's very easy to find a web designer who will let you have quite a lot of control still, but we'll do all of the maintenance and ensure it stays really good and add all of their expertise, which of course I didn't have. I'm not a trained website. I'm an architect. Yeah, so that was a big mistake. But you know, in the end, it worked out. And I did develop really brilliant cash flow systems. Because I had to

Jeffrey Hart  44:22  
Okay, well, I'm conscious of the time is there some is there. Anything you want to say more about work life balance?

Clare Nash  44:30  
I think I think we've worked life balances. It's never perfect all the time. That's what, that's what I've learned. And not to beat yourself up about that. I mean, sometimes you just slip off the waggon a bit and get into some unhealthy practices. The point is, if you've got the tools to bring yourself out of it quickly, then it's it you do it less far less and and life is better as a result. But it's always a learning thing. You know, it's never that'd be perfect. But I feel like it's it's a nice place to be at the moment.

Jeffrey Hart  45:04  
Oh, that's, that's very pleasing to hear. Yeah, well, I know, I know so many people running businesses that are just overworked and underpaid and under-appreciated. Yeah. Nice to know that it can be done.

Clare Nash  45:18  
Yep, it definitely can be done.

Jeffrey Hart  45:33  
Excellent, thank you, Claire. Really, really nice to hear about the ways that we can just get better at being business people. I'm not an architect. But I have taken so much from that, especially around the boundaries. I am terrible for looking at my phone all the time. And I always see those emails come in. And they're always putting me on edge and stopping me from relaxing. And they just got to stop, haven't they? Well, tomorrow is going to be a new chapter in my life. As always, check out the show notes. There are a few links to Claire's work, Claire's books, and also a couple of the books that are mentioned, the E Myth. And the artists way. I don't know if you could hear I tried to edit them all out. But my stomach was growling through that. Hopefully, I managed to edit them all out. But if you did hear one, apologies. I also nearly edited out a moment when I I started to say I should I replaced it with could, which is a thing. I don't think I've talked about this, maybe I have. But it's the thing I tried to do to be nice to myself. The idea being that if I say I should have done that, it takes out any of the choice. And there's only one answer, and that that's the right answer. But actually, if you say I could have done that, you're opening up all the possibilities and just being a lot a lot friendlier to yourself, accepting that there's many possibilities and many, many ways to do a thing. So I left that in, maybe in the hope that you might do the same and be nice to yourself. Because poor, I'm really needing to be nice to myself at the moment. I had a little rant at the end of one of the last episodes and it made one listeners cry. So I'm definitely not going to do that again. Instead, I'm just going to end by saying I hope you enjoyed this episode. Roll straight on to Episode 81. And you get more of the wonderful Claire Nash, this time talking about contemporary vernacular design, how British housing can rediscover its soul or see you there


Clare NashProfile Photo

Clare Nash


We are architects, helping people create: Inspiring Places, Smarter Spaces, Happier Faces
We believe in creating a better world. A world where the environment and people are looked after, supported and cared for, in equal measure.

Places where neighbourliness replaces loneliness, where you notice trees before cars, places where you feel safe and happy.

Within those places, we create homes that allow you to appreciate the beauty in everyday life. Where you feel well, alive, optimistic and happy.

If you are the kind of person who appreciates beauty in every day life, who cares about the environment and the people living in it – then we can create a home or a place for you.

This could be anything from an extension to a dream home to a small housing development.

Specialties: Architectural Design, Sustainable Design, Rural Design, Barn Conversions, Eco Design, Eco Self-Build, Listed Farmhouse alterations, Residential, Heritage, Conservation, Housing, Vernacular, Energy-efficient Design