The blog ofJonathan Pepin

Notes from It Doesn'T Have To Be Crazy At Work [raw]


Raw Kindle notes for It Doesn't Have To Be Crazy At Work by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson

Your company is a product.

A company is like software. It has to be usable, it has to be useful. And it probably also has bugs, places where the company crashes because of bad organizational design or cultural oversights.

You’re not very likely to find that key insight or breakthrough idea north of the 14th hour in the day. Creativity, progress, and impact do not yield to brute force.

Mark Twain nailed it: “Comparison is the death of joy.” We’re with Mark.

We don’t compare. What others do has no bearing on what we’re able to do, what we want to do, or what we choose to do. There’s no chase at Basecamp, no rabbit to pursue. Just a deep satisfaction with doing our very best work as measured by our happiness and our customers’ purchases.

The wisdom of setting business goals—always striving for bigger and better—is so established that it seems like the only thing left to debate is whether the goals are ambitious enough.

Do we want to make things better? All the time. But do we want to maximize “better” through constantly chasing goals? No thanks.

That’s why we don’t have goals at Basecamp. We didn’t when we started, and now, nearly 20 years later, we still don’t. We simply do the best work we can on a daily basis.

Goals are fake. Nearly all of them are artificial targets set for the sake of setting targets. These made-up numbers then function as a source of unnecessary stress until they’re either achieved or abandoned.

If you stop thinking that you must change the world, you lift a tremendous burden off yourself and the people around you. There’s no longer this convenient excuse for why it has to be all work all the time.

Set out to do good work. Set out to be fair in your dealings with customers, employees, and reality. Leave a lasting impression with the people you touch and worry less (or not at all!) about changing the world.

We don’t do grand plans at Basecamp—not for the company, not for the product. There’s no five-year plan. No three-year plan. No one-year plan. Nada. We didn’t start the business with a plan, and we don’t run the business by a plan. For nearly 20 years, we’ve been figuring it out as we go, a few weeks at a time.

A fractured hour isn’t really an hour—it’s a mess of minutes. It’s really hard to get anything meaningful done with such crummy input. A quality hour is 1 × 60, not 4 × 15. A quality day is at least 4 × 60, not 4 × 15 × 4.

Being productive is about occupying your time—filling your schedule to the brim and getting as much done as you can. Being effective is about finding more of your time unoccupied and open for other things besides work.

Yes, it’s perfectly okay to have nothing to do.

Almost everything can wait. And almost everything should.

And if someone doesn’t get back to you quickly, it’s not because they’re ignoring you—it’s probably because they’re working.

You can’t credibly promote the virtues of reasonable hours, plentiful rest, and a healthy lifestyle to employees if you’re doing the opposite as the boss. When the top dog puts in mad hours, the rest of the pack is bound to follow along. It doesn’t matter what you say, it matters what you do.

It’s not worth trading sleep for a few extra hours at the office. Not only will it make you exhausted, it’ll literally make you stupid. The science is clear on this: Continued sleep deprivation batters your IQ and saps your creativity. You may be too tired to notice, but the people you work with will.

The whole purpose of a vacation is to get away. To not only be somewhere else entirely, but to think about something else entirely. Work should not be on your mind. Period.

Most deadlines aren’t so much deadlines as dreadlines. Unrealistic dates mired by ever-expanding project requirements. More work piles on but the timeline remains the same. That’s not work, that’s hell.

A deadline with a flexible scope invites pushback, compromises, and tradeoffs—all ingredients in healthy, calm projects. It’s when you try to fix both scope and time that you have a recipe for dread, overwork, and exhaustion.

When you get a bunch of people in a room under the assumption that consensus is the only way out again, you’re in for a war of attrition. Whoever can keep arguing the longest stands the best chance of winning. That’s just silly.

Someone in charge has to make the final call, even if others would prefer a different decision. Good decisions don’t so much need consensus as they need commitment.

You just can’t bring your A game to every situation. Knowing when to embrace Good Enough is what gives you the opportunity to be truly excellent when you need to be.

Saying no is the only way to claw back time.

Nearly all product work at Basecamp is done by teams of three people. It’s our magic number. A team of three is usually composed of two programmers and one designer. And if it’s not three, it’s one or two rather than four or five. We don’t throw more people at problems, we chop problems down until they can be carried across the finish line by teams of three.

As you grow, you hire people. With people come personalities. With personalities come office politics and a hundred other challenges of human nature.

A business is a collection of choices. Every day is a new chance to make a new choice, a different choice.

You always have the choice to change yourself and your expectations. Change the way you interact with people. Change the way you communicate. Start protecting your own time.

A calm company is a choice. Make it yours.