Sunday, August 15, 2021


The Trial (1962, dir. Orson Welles)

These are the thoughts of someone who never switches off.

Work has been pressured lately, making me less creative. My approach to the growing piles of work has always been head first, and even as I can realistically only do so much, I am resigned to feeling like I am running out of time. With priorities chopping and changing, planning your day is an aspiration, not an expectation – you find yourself asking for help more than you feel you should.

Taking your work home is worse. I recently had a literal nightmare about facing the prospect of creating dummy files on our company database for new recruits to train on the following week – having that nightmare helped finish the job. Dipping back into work after you are meant to have finished, to tidy both your to-do list and your mind for next time, is too easy if you have the ability to access work from home.


While the phrase “work-life balance” appeared in the 1970s and 80s, its basis as a concept can be traced back to Lillian Moller Gilbreth, a psychologist and engineer who ran an early form of a management consultancy firm with her husband Frank Bunker Gilbreth. Lillian Gilbreth herself is credited for improvements to work buildings and homes like the pedal bin, wall-mounted light switches placed at the entrance of a room, and for pioneering the now-standard layout for kitchens, including the optimal height for work surfaces and appliances, down to the shelves inside refrigerator doors. In short, your work and your home must fit around you because of the work of the Gilbreths.

Gilbreth Inc. was involved in completing time-and-motion studies, but their methods were geared more towards a human approach to solving problems, rather than just how quickly a job can be completed regardless of the psychological cost to the worker, as characterised by earlier time studies by Frederick Winslow Taylor. The Gilbreths’ innovations in redesigning machinery and environments to improve efficiency and reduce worker fatigue formed the basis of ergonomics, although their focus on finding the single best way to complete any given tasks is at odds with the more holistic approach taken by quality management today. 


But the Gilbreths achieved a work-life balance by mixing them together. They also intentionally had a very large family, as detailed “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Belles on Their Toes,” two books written by their children, later becoming films, that detailed how their parenting style acted as a test bed for their work.


What I have to remember is that your job is not the same as your career, unless your profession matches up with it exactly. The only thing stopping me from describing my profession as being a writer is myself. What I would like to be my job should not be treated as a hobby in the meantime.

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