May 17, 2020

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work: How to design the chaos out of your day

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About the Book 

Long hours, an excessive workload, and a lack of sleep have become a badge of honor for modern professionals. But it should be a mark of stupidity, the authors argue. Sadly, this isn’t just a problem for large organizations—individuals, contractors, and solopreneurs are burning themselves out the same way. The answer to better productivity isn’t more hours—it’s less waste and fewer things that induce distraction and persistent stress.

It’s time to stop celebrating Crazy, and start celebrating Calm, Fried and Hansson assert.


About the Authors

David Heinemeier Hansson is the cofounder of Basecamp and NYT bestselling coauthor of REWORK and REMOTE. He’s also the creator of the software toolkit Ruby on Rails, which has been used to launch and power Twitter, Shopify, GitHub, Airbnb, Square, and over a million other web applications. Originally from Denmark, he moved to Chicago in 2005, and now lives between the US and Spain with his wife and two sons. In his spare time, he enjoys 200-mph race cars in international competition, taking cliche pictures of sunsets and kids, and ranting far too much on Twitter.


Jason Fried is the co-founder and President of 37signals, a privately-held Chicago-based company committed to building the best web-based tools possible with the least number of features necessary.

37signals’ products include Basecamp, Highrise, Backpack, Campfire, Ta-da List, and Writeboard. 37signals also developed and open-sourced the Ruby on Rails programming framework. 37signals’ products do less than the competition — intentionally.

Jason believes there’s real value and beauty in the basics. Elegance, respect for people’s desire to simply get stuff done, and honest ease of use are the hallmarks of 37signals products.

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BIG IDEA 1 (4:55) – Re-think the basics.

The book challenges so many of the concepts that we assume are a given at work or running a business. The authors argue with goal setting (at Basecamp there is no revenue target, no retention goals or other meaningless targets).  The only goal they have is to do the best work everyday and make things better.

They also argue that there is no need to change the world with your business and they throw away the idea of comparing yourself to the competition. Just do your best work everyday to create great products for your customers. They say that the idea of comfort and calm is fine, and you can still do good and meaningful work without chaos – and probably even more so.  Oh and they make it VERY hard to hold a meeting – because meetings are generally terrible ways of getting things done.

Redesigning the way we work and get back to the basics. All of these human-made constructs of work can be redesigned.

BIG IDEA 2 (8:46) – Protect what matters.

David and Jason say that what matters most is the time and attention of employees. The time that employees spend at work has to be quality time – not a ‘mess of minutes’ as people find cracks of time between meetings and other interruptions to try and do their work.

According to them, dedication to asynchronous communication protects the time and attention of employees. Everyone has to have a good night sleep, no pulling all nighters, and they are not stealing people’s weekends. They also apply the library rules in their offices – it’s quiet, because distraction spreads like a virus; once one person has it, everyone becomes infected.  

BIG IDEA 3 (11:56) – Forget family like cultures.

Family like cultures often excuse bad behaviour and are used to excuse power plays, weekend stealing (because you’re doing it for ‘the family’), rudeness and ineffective decision making by consensus. We shouldn’t need to pretend to be family to show respect, care and to do the right thing.

Any leader, especially the owners, must be conscious of their role modeling.  Everyone is looking at the leader and looking for social cues to see what’s accepted and what’s not.  Fundamentally, bad habits beat good intentions.  Bad habits are hard to break and can quickly stay as the new normal – from allowing chaos to creep in, bringing bad habits from previous companies or engaging in something suboptimal in your interactions with others.


Find out more about the book here:
Find out more about Basecamp here:

Music By: Autumn Wind Song by Yehezkel Raz

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