Designing Your Work Life

I was introduced to Bill Burnett at work, where he gave a great talk on creativity. His book is on approaching work life as a design problem and follows on the footsteps of his first book “Designing Your Life”. The chapter that resonated with me the most was on defining the problem and the art of reframing. He talks about two types of problems where people get stuck:

    • Anchor Problems: These are when we pose one of the possible solutions as the problem itself. Example: “I want to go sailing every weekend, but I can’t afford a boat.” So the problem I need to solve is: “How do I buy a boat when I have no money?” Here, we’ve anchored to one of the possible solutions for sailing, which is to buy a boat, and we’ve flipped it into the problem we need to solve. However, a broader framing of the problem, “How can I go sailing regularly on a limited budget?” has many possible solutions: join a sailing club, share a boat with friends, volunteer to crew someone else’s boat etc.
    • Gravity Problems: These are inactionable problems that don’t have a solution. “I want to be a poet, but poets don’t make enough money to live on in our culture. How can I make a good living as a poet?” Bill argues that it’s a situation, a circumstance, a fact of life, and if it’s not actionable, it’s not a problem that can be solved. A reframing could be “How might I write poetry while making a living doing other things?” or “How can I learn to live on what I’d make working only ten hours a week so I can be an almost full-time poet?”

The chapter on money or meaning was also a good reminder on finding a good balance of different attributes for yourself. Overall, most of the book was low signal for me, but the handful of chapters that I mentioned were amazing and invaluable.

February 7, 2021



sarp centel

Sarp is a software developer. He writes about technology, books and software.
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