Deliberate Rest

Designing rest for a busy world

Tag: 4-day workweek

Talking about REST and SHORTER at Silicon Foundry, December 4

I’ll be talking about REST and SHORTER at Silicon Foundry in San Francisco on December 4.

Let's talk about distraction

The talk will range cross my last three books, THE DISTRACTION ADDICTION, REST, and SHORTER, laying out my argument for the importance of deliberate rest, explaining how we can develop practices that create more time for focused work, and how companies are redesigning their workdays to build more time for focus– and reduce their working hours at the same time.

Speaking at Somnex

You can pre-register here, but space is limited!

The slow but essential work of transcribing interviews

Doing interviews with my new recorder, and taking pictures of sites I’m visiting with my trusty Fuji XE-1.
Interviewing Stuart Ralston, owner and head chef at Aizle, Edinburgh

The last several days I’ve been working through the hours of interviews I conducted on the road, editing reviewing and editing transcripts, and sending them out to people for review and editing and approval.

This has been work I’ve done my entire scholarly and professional career. When I was researching my senior thesis, on electrical engineering at MIT between the world wars, I spent many nights sitting in my summer rental on the edge of the MIT campus, listening to interviews on a cassette tape, transcribing them on a typewriter (a couple of the interviews are in the MIT archives). This is what I did instead of hanging out.

It’s slow work, but it’s essential. Reviewing the transcripts let me get reacquainted with conversations, identify those parts that I’ll later want to quote, and look at the overall structure of the conversation to see if there are themes that people bring up that I hadn’t noticed before.

Of course, they’re all answering questions that I ask, but it’s also important to listen for the things that people bring up on their own. Given how much of my work relies on interviews, this is a step I can never afford to ignore.

Fortunately, I recently stumbled on a new transcription service called Otter.ai (I believe they’re located somewhere here in Silicon Valley).

Scenes from Shoreditch

Otter is pretty good at identifying specific words (though it does make systematic errors, particularly when it’s dealing with Scottish or English accents), but it struggles with sentences, and paragraphs are hopeless. But I don’t think these are flaws in the program; rather, it reveals is how people hardly speak in sentences, and almost never speak in complete paragraphs. I have to decide where one thought ends and another begins, and make a decision about whether to start a new sentence, or create a new paragraph. That’s all editorial judgment on my part; rarely is it something signaled by the transcript itself.

The good news is, the interviews are as detailed as I remember, I managed to get good recordings of all but one (damn 2 GB card), and so it’s all worth that’s worthwhile, and will go a long way to letting me finish what feels more and more like my most important book yet.

Rest with Alex Pang, Episode 2: Annie Tevelin and SkinOwl’s 24-Hour Week

More Los Angeles.

This week on my podcast I talk to Annie Tevelin, founder and head of SkinOwl, a Los Angeles-based cosmetics company that works a 24-hour week. SkinOwl makes vegan cosmetics (apparently the Geranium Beauty Drops are quite popular), and Annie started the company after working as a market up artist in Hollywood for Lancôme and studying cosmetic chemistry at UCLA.

When she founded SkinOwl, Annie didn’t want a company that expected the kinds of crazy hours that are typical in Hollywood, and she’s created a workplace in which people are able to quickly fill orders, deal with customers, handle thousand-item B2B orders (the products are available on five continents), all in a four-day week. And those are 6-hour days, not 10-hour days.

This was an especially fun interview, and quite enlightening for me: not only did I learn a few things about working shorter hours, I also learned a little about cosmetics, a world that to be honest was a black box before now. An exquisitely designed, tasteful black box, protected by a friendly yet intimidating sales person.

To fight climate change, institute a four-day workweek

Scenes from Kauai

Just in time for Columbus Day, Alex Williams, coauthor of Inventing the Future, has a piece in Quartz explaining how we could fight climate change by shifting to a four-day workweek:

Imagine if, rather than a few times a year, we had a three-day weekend every week. This isn’t just a nice idea. Beyond the possibilities for leisure, three-day weekends might also be one of the easiest steps we could take to radically reduce our environmental impact—and future-proof our economy….

With a four-day week, huge amounts of commuting to and from work could be avoided, and electricity used running an office could be saved. At a point when we need to massively cut back our carbon outputs, instituting a three-day weekend could be the simplest and most elegant way to make our economy more environmentally friendly.

There are a couple older studies (Williams cites a 2006 study comparing American and European energy usage, and a 2009 study that models the environmental footprint of working hours) that suggest a pretty clear correlation between reductions in working hours and energy consumption– not to mention the benefits that come from spending less time stuck in traffic, having more time for leisure, etc. And this 2009 article by Ewan Kingston points out the long history of work-time reduction schemes in labor and their connection to environmental concerns. So this is an idea with a long pedigree.

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