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.
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.
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 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.)
December 25, 2018 / askpang / Comments Off on “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 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!
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.)
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.
Óbidos is a little medieval town, complete with big walls and a castle, and is a wonderfully intimate location for a literary festival.
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.
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.
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).
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.
The place is, as one of my colleagues put it, the world’s biggest Instagram backdrop, and is filled with amazing street art.
I think I could do a talk consisting of nothing but images of graffiti, posters, and signage from around Brick Lane Road.
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!