Therbligs and the Science Fiction Writer

37 MinutesWe at Channel 37 are often asked, “How much work is involved in writing Science Fiction?” Well, frankly, we’ve never really thought about it. It just something we do.

But in order to answer our adoring public, we’ve decided to hire a consulting firm to see what all is involved. The consulting firm provided a pair of efficiency experts (like the “Bobs” from Office Space) and here are the results.

To properly interpret the data, one must have an understanding of “Therbligs.” The Therblig is a measure of work (Some may remember from Management classes) that was developed by Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth (Therblig is the backward spelling of their last name). The Therblig is defined as one unit of work. The traditional Therblig chart may be found here.

Obviously, this chart cannot properly refer to writers, so the consulting company (name withheld for privacy sake, but a subsidiary of Recalcitrant Laboratories, Inc. one of our sponsors) came up with a custom chart. Each operation counts as one unit of work or Therblig.

Symbol Unit of Work
F Find
S Search
T Take
TK Think
PO Program Operation
R Read
RE Respond
E Edit
TR Transport
O Observe

The parameters are these; the writer is facing a 5pm (1700) deadline with a start time at 10am (1000). Here are the results:

1000: Start computer (PO) [1 Therblig unit]

1003: Get a cup of coffee (S, F, and T) [3 TC]

1007: Start word processing program (PO) [1 TU]

1010: Typing begins (TK, PO) [2TU]

1025: Read writing (R, TK) [2TU]

1029: Delete all (PO) [1TU]

1030: Thinking of new idea (TK) [1TU]

1032: Thinking of Cute Eastern European girl at coffee shop (TK) [1TU]

1034: Thinking that Eastern European girl’s name could inspire a story, if not a novel (TK) [1TU]

1036: Deciding to get coffee (TK) [1TU]

1038: Leaving house to obtain coffee (TR) [1TU]

1040: Returning home to get keys to car (TR) [1TU]

1041: Looking for and finding car keys (S, F, T) [3TU]

1047: Drive to coffee shop (TR) [1TU]

1049: Not seeing cute Eastern European girl, but seeing her mother (coffee shop owner) who reminds writer of every female KGB agent in every James Bond movie over the rank of Major (O), [1TU]

1053: Ordering a “Grand Siberia” to avoid glare from KGB Colonel coffee lady, which is essentially whirled milk with nutmeg, cinnamon, and Tabasco sauce (RE), [1TU]

1055; Retuning home, pouring concoction down sink due to writer’s aversion to milk (T. RE) [2TU]

1102: Opening email and responding (PO, R, RE) [3TU]

1117: Playing solitaire (PO, TK) [2TU]

1134: Read other bloggers looking for ideas (PO, R) [2TU]

1157: Thinking of lunch (TK) [1TU]

1159: Solitaire (PO, TK) [2TU]

1204: Searching for leftovers (S) [1TU]

1207: Finding Ravioli and frozen bagel (F) [1TU]

1209 Combining both (T, TK] [2TU]

1212: Having lunch while reading other blogger sand Twitter, looking for ideas (TK, PO, S) [3TU]

1235: Thinking lunch would have been better if bagel wasn’t Pumpernickel (TK) [1TU]

1242: Reading Email (PO, R, RE) [3TU]

1312: Turning on TV Guide channel to Search for Science Fiction Program looking for Ideas (S, O) [2TU]

1427: Waking up and running to computer (TR) [1TU]

1429: Checking email (PO, R, RE) [3TU]

1445: Checking Science Fiction bloggers looking for Ideas (PO, R, O) [3TU]

1452: Thinking of needing massive amounts of Caffeine (TK) [1TU]

1455: Thinking if Eastern European Coffee girl is home from school yet (TK) [1TU]

1457: Remember last trip to coffee shop resulted in $5.99 being poured down sink (O, TK) [2TU]

1502: Solitaire (TK, PO] [2TU]

1508: Noticing less than two hours till deadline (O, TK) [2TU]

1510: Solitaire (TK, PO) [2TU]

1515: Cursing the writer of the solitaire program, asserting that “they” should burn in hell until he wins an actual game (PO, TK, RE) [3TU]

1518: Deciding whether a quick painless death or a slow lingering one will be the result of missing deadline (TK, O) [2TU]

1520: Locking doors in case of ninja attack (TK, RE) [2TU]

1523: Looking at clock to decide on time left (O, TK) [2TU]

1525: Solitaire (PO, TK) [2TU]

1527: Wondering why writer agreed to write a stupid story for uncaring corporate, blood sucking entity in the first place (TK, RE) [2TU]

1529: Solitaire (PO, TK) [2TU]

1537: Check email (PO, R. RE, TK) [4TU]

1544: Blog Check (PO, TK, R) [3TU]

1552: Solitaire (PO, TK) [2TU]

1607: Remembering discarded idea from 20 years ago. (TK) [1TU]

1610: Furiously typing, trying to reach 1000 words (PO, TK) [2TU]

1652: Pushing F7 key (PO, TK) [2TU]

1654: Arguing with spell check function (PO, RE) [2TU]

1655: Looking for word on Google, convinced spell check is wrong. Cursing Bill Gates as the “anti-Christ” for allowing stupid function on worthless word processing programs (R, E, RE, O, PO, TK) [6TU]

1656: Finding the accursed spell check is correct, knowing Bill Gates has bribed Webster just to make writers think their going crazy (PO, TK, E, TK, R) [5TU]

1657: Saving story (PO, TK) [2TU]

1658: Emailing Story to editor with pleasantries about how if you ever need any thing else… (PO, RE, TK) [3TU]

1659: Observing time stamp on outgoing email 16:59:57. (O, PO) [2TU]

1700: Solitaire (PO, TK) [2TU]

Total number of Working operation (Therblig Units): 114.

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