Deliberate Rest

A blog about getting more done by working less

Category: REST (page 1 of 21)

Clockwise and the challenge of taming meetings in favor of focused time

For my next book, Shorter: How The 4-Day Week Can Save the World (not the exact title necessarily), I talked a lot to companies about how they fit 5 days’ work into 4. All of them talk about getting meetings under control: making them shorter, corralling them into particular parts of the day (and never letting them escape), and making sure that the minimum viable number of people are there.

One of my favorite clocks— a screen with a video of someone painting the minute hands, then wiping them off, then painting the next minute, on and on.

So I was interested to read about a new company / product, Clockwise, that is “using machine learning to make the calendars we already have work better.“ The basic idea is to use Clockwise to consolidate meeting times, so rather than have meetings scattered throughout everyone’s day, people can compress them into particular blocks of time, leaving them more “focus time”— that is, time to work uninterrupted on other tasks. As one of the investors explains,

Clockwise can figure out which meetings are movable (like weekly 1–1s) and which aren’t (like staff meetings), and can rework your weekly calendar to give you back time to think & time to work.

I’m not sure why some kinds of meetings aren’t movable (maybe they are only if everyone involved is using the product?), but it’s certainly an interesting approach. I would note a couple things, though.

The Corpus Clock

First, most of the people I’ve interviewed talk both about improving meeting discipline— making them shorter, requiring agendas, etc.— and changing norms around interrupting other people. Focused time doesn’t just spring up like a jac-in-the-box; you have to make sure that people respect each other’s need for focus, and that you see your own good behavior as essential to the solution. (As traffic engineers say, you’re not in traffic, you are traffic; all that frustrated honking at everyone else who’s clogging up the roads while you’re rightfully trying to get somewhere obscures the fact that you’re part of the problem. Likewise, recognizing that everyone’s attention and time are valuable, and acting accordingly, is really important.)

If companies have shorter meetings, but the culture of the office says that it’s okay for people to interrupt each other a lot, you’re not going to get much improvement. You need to do both.

Scenes from Tokyo

Second, while the animation shows meetings all migrating to the morning to reserve focus time in the afternoons, this runs counter to what everyone I’ve interviewed shoots for. All the companies that have migrated to 4-day weeks or 6-hour days reserve the mornings for focus time, and leave meetings until the afternoon (unless you’re in sales, and even then you try to get better control over your time). This is a small point, but given how many studies indicate that we’re more capable of focusing hard in the mornings, it might be good for people to have to override “afternoon meetings” as the default.

Finally, the other thing everyone does is make meetings a lot shorter. There’s no facility for this yet, but it would be an obvious thing to try to figure out how the system can learn enough about different types of meetings to suggest meetings lengths, rather than just default to 1 hour (which has become a default for reasons no one remembers any longer).

Anyway, it’s promising to see a company take this approach, and it’ll be interesting to see how it evolves.

Is this the solution to overwork? [Narrator: It was not the solution.]

A while ago I saw this in article asking “How Can We Curb ‘Death by Overwork’?“:

North is referring to “T-FREND,” a first-of-its-kind drone currently in development by the Japanese security firm Taisei. Come October, T-FREND will hover over after-hours workers blasting “Auld Lang Syne,” commonly played when stores are closing in Japan, to force them to leave. “Great attention has been paid to overworking in Japan,” says Taisei’s Norihiro Kato, who confirms T-FREND is being created to tackle the problem.

This will not solve the problem.

“the key to his fantastic work… was that he was phenomenally boring”

Sophie Beck’s essay on Joan Miró gets at something important:

I came to believe that the key to his fantastic work, to the sheer volume of work—he kept working without pause from age nineteen to ninety—was that he was phenomenally boring.

Miró didn’t do the sorts of things I can sensationalize—he just dug in and worked after a sensible breakfast like an accountant sitting down to his ledger. I stopped, aware that everything I had to say of Miró had boiled down to the subject of ordinary toil.

According to his friend and biographer Jacques Dupin, Miró’s routine and life were “utterly free of disorder or excess…. Nothing is left to chance, not even in his daily habits: there is a time to take a walk, a time to read, there is a time to be with his family and there is a time to work.”

There’s boring, and there’s boring with a purpose. Miró was the second.

Turns out the German word for management consultant is “Managementberater”

I learned this courtesy of a new article, “Pausen auf der Arbeit: Wie Abschalten die Produktivität erhöht” that talks about Rest and other books.

I think “management berater” is a great description of what we do!

The Wellcome Trust thinks about four-day weeks

The Guardian, which really owns the beat on the shorter workweeks trend, reports that the Wellcome Trust “is considering moving all of its 800 head office staff to a four-day week in a bid to boost productivity and improve work-life balance.”

A trial of the new working week at the £26bn London-based science research foundation could start as soon as this autumn, giving workers Fridays off to do whatever they want with no reduction in pay. Some parts of the organisation already operate a no-emails policy in the evenings or at weekends, but this would mark a more dramatic change….

The core of the organisation’s work is processing and assessing grant applications for scientific research across biology, medicine, population health, the humanities and social science. That is the kind of predictable process that might be well suited to a shorter week, it believes.

The Trust isn’t well-known in America, but it’s “the world’s second-biggest research donor after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”

It’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out. On the outside, grantmaking doesn’t look like the most strenuous of jobs, but from what I’ve seen from friends who work at American philanthropies, the people who work there are very dedicated, really want to make world-changing moves (when you’re at the Gates and Wellcome level, at least), and have to both think really deeply and go to a lot of meetings; and when the founder is still alive and involved, that can put a lot of pressure on people to deliver results. This combination of a need for serious insight, to develop a vision of what the world’s problems are going to be years from now and to work with people who are coming up with solutions that’ll address those, to build consensus within the organization for this program line and that specific project– it’s a nontrivial exercise.

“I have learned not to feel guilty whenever I close the laptop”

Stem cell researcher Dr Cristina Lo Celso talks the Academy of Medical Sciences about her work, and rest. This bit in particular jumped out at me:

I have learned not to feel guilty whenever I close the laptop to watch a movie or try some new recipes. Usually the best ideas come during or after breaks, and things that take hours to work through when I am tired will likely be solved in minutes once I am rested.

I think for lots of us, learning to not feel guilty when you stop work will have a ring of familiarity to it.

Lo Celso also has a nice bit about “learning to experiment outside the lab,” by trying new things in one’s non-work life. I’m convinced that one of the things doing sports can do for knowledge workers is give them a degree of physical courage, or ability to handle stress and discomfort, that translates into greater capacity for intellectual courage and risk-taking. (John Ratey’s Spark is great on the cognitive benefits of exercise.)

“the first step to the investigation of the creative mind is the historical approach”

From the opening page of Rosamund E. M. Harding’s The Anatomy of Inspiration:

We venture to suggest, therefore, that the first step to the investigation of the creative mind is the historical approach…. Such historical research should be regarded as scientific and of psychological value and not merely read to pass amusingly an idle half-hour.

I’m definitely going to enjoy this!

Frans Johanssen on the Starbucks epiphany

DSCF2985

Frans Johansson, author of The Click Moment and The Medici Effect, on business travel and Howard Schultz’s discovery of coffee culture:

I’m planning a couple trips myself, and I’ve gotten into the habit to building in some extra time for this kind of exploration. I have some of my best ideas when I’m on the road, but it helps to be open to them!

「休みは仕事の戦略だ」: Talking about rest in Asahi Globe

The Asahi Globe, the Asahi Shinbun’s weekend magazine, has a special section on rest that features a profile of me, or at least a picture of me sleeping in the hammock in the backyard.

That sweater, incidentally, is one that I bought at the Happinez festival last year, and has become one of my favorites. It’s made from recycled jeans material, and is amazingly comfortable and great to write in, especially in the Bay Area. (As Jenna Maroney said on the 30 Rock, “Have fun always carrying a light sweater” when you move to the Bay Area.)

Hello from London, and the world of 4-day workweeks

Scenes from London

I’ve been terribly remiss in blogging, because I’ve been on the road since the end of September, appearing at a couple events and doing research for my next book, on how companies move to 4-day weeks without sacrificing productivity or profitability.

It’s been a spectacularly useful trip, if rather long. It started with several days at the FOLIO literary festival in Óbidos, Portugal.

Scenes around Óbidos.

Óbidos is a little medieval town, complete with big walls and a castle, and is a wonderfully intimate location for a literary festival.

Edinburgh

After that, it was up to Scotland, where I interviewed companies in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time there as I would have liked— I always love Edinburgh, and think I’d really like Glasgow if I got to know it.

From there, it was on to Copenhagen.

Scenes from Copenhagen

Copenhagen is another of my favorite cities, though it’s beauty is more domestic and functional than dramatic: it’s beautiful because everything is so well-designed and proportioned, not because it aims to knock you senseless.

By now, the trip is looking like the worst solution to the traveling salesman problem ever proposed!

Finally, it was back to London, with a brief overnight in Gloucester.

More from London

I did a ton of interviews with company heads and employees at companies that are now running 4-day weeks, mainly by figuring out ways to make their work more productive, so they’re working 30- or 32-hour weeks rather than 40 (or more).

Scenes from London

I also put in an appearance at the SOMNEX sleep tech show in Shoreditch, which is a neighborhood I’d never before visited, and which is really great.

Scenes from Shoreditch

The place is, as one of my colleagues put it, the world’s biggest Instagram backdrop, and is filled with amazing street art.

The future is hot

I think I could do a talk consisting of nothing but images of graffiti, posters, and signage from around Brick Lane Road.

Scenes from Shoreditch

It was a terrific trip, and I got a tremendous amount done (which I describe in detail to my newsletter readers). But after almost three weeks away from my family and dogs, I’m glad to be heading home!

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