It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work Summary

It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work Summary and Review | Jason Fried and David Hansson

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Many of the problems we face at work stem from our outdated understanding of productivity and the cult of overwork. It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work challenges conventional wisdom. In this book, you’ll learn about the benefits of taking breaks, setting boundaries, and limiting distractions. The authors also suggest ways to create a more relaxed and sustainable work environment. They filled the book with practical advice and real-life examples that you can use to improve your work life. 

You’ll discover the importance of having a clear mission, creating a positive company culture, and leading by example. The authors also share their own experiences running a successful business and how they’ve maintained a healthy work-life balance.

By the end of the book, you’ll have a new perspective on what it means to be productive and will be inspired to create a work environment that works for you, rather than against you. 

About Jason Fried and David Heinemeier

Jason Fried is the founder and CEO of Basecamp, a well-known project management application. He is also the author of several books, including Rework and Remote: Office Not Required.

Heinemeier Hansson is the founder and CTO of Basecamp, and is one of the leading developers of the Ruby on Rails web application framework.  

The two entrepreneurs have been the driving force behind Basecamp for the past 16 years, transforming the company from a small Chicago-based startup to a global leader in project management software. They centered their philosophy of work and productivity on the idea of having an open and transparent work environment, focusing on realistic goals and achieving a healthy work/life balance. 

StoryShot #1: Your Company Is a Product

For many, the workplace has become a stressful environment, one that is full of long days and little productivity. But it doesn’t have to be like this. T To combat the craziness and create an atmosphere of lasting tranquility, you need to think about your company as a product.

Ask yourself the questions that any good product manager should ask himself:

  • Is it complex for employees to use, or is it straightforward?
  • Is it fast or slow?
  • Are there areas that need improvement or bugs that need fixing?
    Strive to make your company as good as you would a product. That way, you can pinpoint areas in which you can make changes and bring serenity.

Not only that, but organizations often share this same trait as software, in that it can crash because of faulty design or oversight. Therefore, it’s so important to remain curious and continue to search for creative ways to improve the culture of your workplace.

Don’t be discouraged if you find room for improvement – it’s perfectly normal. Identifying areas that need work is the first step to creating a more balanced and peaceful business environment. When you do, it pays off. Your employees, your colleagues, and your customers will all thank you for it.

It will not be easy, but it’s a step in the right direction for any organization. When you look for opportunities to get better, you’ll know that you’re making progress.

Careless about your competitors and their businesses, keep doing what you do best and don’t bother about the numbers. You can conquer the market without having to resort to hiring experts and watching your opponent’s every move.

StoryShot #2: Curb Your Ambition

Do you really need to outsmart your competitors? Do you really have to stay one step ahead of them to succeed? Or can you simply focus on doing great work and providing excellent services to your customers? That’s the beauty of not setting goals. You free your mind from pursuing unrealistic numbers and instead, you can focus on what really matters. Become more effective, make your products and services more useful, and make customers and employees happy.

Our Goal: no Goals

As David Hansson and Jason Fried put it, “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 achieved or abandoned.” So, why not just forget about setting goals and instead focus on doing great work? That way, you can attract more customers, keep your existing ones satisfied, and watch your business grow. It’s that simple. 

Storyshot #3: Comfy’s Cool

To get your work done, reclaim your time and have your company protecting it. Get rid of interruptions by eliminating long status update meetings and replacing them with an efficient system that allows people to check in on their own time. This will give you bigger chunks of uninterrupted time to focus on important tasks.

Take the dread out of deadlines and presentations by setting strict expectations for project scope and encouraging team members to take the time to consider new ideas. Allow the person meeting the deadline the power to shrink ‌the project if necessary. Instead of presenting ideas face-to-face, upload them to a software where people can read them privately and take the time to consider and give feedback.

Take calculated risks rather than letting stress and doubt keep you from making a change. Consider potential risks and how to mitigate them. Don’t be overly cautious and get stuck in a state of paralysis. Make the change and let the market decide the outcome.

StoryShot #4: I’ll Get Back to You Whenever

Do you ever feel overwhelmed and stressed out by the processes surrounding producing good work? Take the anxiety out of meeting deadlines by setting a policy where ‌a project can never get bigger once you start it. This way, you won’t have to worry about having too much to do with too little time allocated. 

When introducing new ideas, don’t do it in a face-to-face meeting. Ask your colleagues to read your concept privately and take time to truly reflect on it before giving any feedback. This way, everyone will take as much time to consider your idea as you did to present it.

 Don’t let producing good work give you added stress. Make it as calm and peaceful as possible.

StoryShot #5: Your Company Is Not Your Family

As a leader, it’s essential that you set the right tone in your company. Don’t buy into the false notion that your business is a family. It’s just a group of people who work together. Don’t let them be fooled into believing that sacrificing their own needs for the sake of the company is the way to go – it’s not. 

Make sure your employees understand that your company helps them achieve their personal goals, and in return, they help your company to achieve its goals. This way, everybody wins.

Rather than portraying your business as a family, call it a business that helps families. Encourage your employees to have dinner with their children and give them ample time off for vacations. Make your workplace fulfilling so that your employees can end their workday feeling happy.

StoryShot #6: Defend Your Time

Do you often find yourself stuck in the office late, struggling to complete tasks? That’s because a lot of companies fail to protect what is most precious and vulnerable – their employees’ time and attention. Instead, they allow pointless meetings, chat rooms and grandiose projects to derail their workers’ focus. 

To get more done without having to stay late, you need to defend your time. Start by recognizing that one hour is really one hour and should be uninterrupted. Protect your time from distractions and multitasking, which leave your hours looking like “uneven chopped pieces of meat.” As David Hansson and Jason Fried said, “It’s no wonder people are coming up short and are working longer hours, late nights, and weekends to make it up. Where else can they find the uninterrupted time? It’s sad to think that some people crave a commute because it’s the only time during the day they have to themselves.” 

If you want to be productive and reach your goals without having to stay late, take ownership of your time and protect it from any disruptions. Make sure that all of your actions are taking the company closer to their targets, which will ultimately lead to greater success and satisfaction for everyone.

StoryShot #7: 8 Is Enough, 40 Is Plenty

Extend your workday by regaining your lost time. Many employers today expect their employees to work beyond the traditional 8-hour workday, but why does eight hours in the office feel so much shorter than eight hours on an intercontinental flight? It’s likely because the rush of the modern workplace presents us with a myriad of intrusions, with messages, chats, meetings, and supervisors visiting our desks. These distractions have become the norm, making it feel as though it has cut our day short and that it’s acceptable to work overtime. 

However, with a little thought, you can recover your lost time by eliminating these intrusions and taking control of your workday. Start by being mindful of your time, take regular breaks, and use tools to avoid distractions. 

With proper planning and discipline, you can make the most of the 8-hour workday and feel more accomplished in the end.

StoryShot #8: FOMO! JOMO!

FOMO (fear of missing out) is so 2018, and it’s time to embrace the JOMO (joy of missing out). This way of thinking can help open the door to better work. When it comes to group chat, you should always ask yourself, do I need to bother someone? Don’t expect an immediate response and give your team the authority to work first, and respond to chat messages second. 

If someone doesn’t respond, it’s likely because they’re doing their job. The potential to hear a “ding!” at any time can lead to more stress, and Fried and Hansson compare it to “being in an all-day meeting with no agenda.”

 It’s important to take the time to think about whether you really need to interrupt someone, or if you can wait to respond until they’re done with their work. Embrace the JOMO to help ensure that your team can get good work done.

StoryShot #9: Feed Your Culture

Are you ready to truly listen to what your employees have to say? It sounds like a daunting task, but if you want to be successful in leading a team or company, it’s essential. Don’t just passively tell your employees that your door is always open for them. Take the initiative and actively reach out to them. Ask difficult questions that allow them to open up to you and trust you. Inquire about their workload, their communication processes, and their fears; probe them to share what they have worked on and what they have yet to say.

 It’ll also help to give them an opportunity to discuss things that nobody else dares to talk about. Understand that it may take more than one conversation for them to build up that trust and open up to you, but don’t be discouraged. By having the right approach, they will eventually come around. Your success as a leader rests on how willing you are to ask difficult questions.

StoryShot #10: The Wrong Time for Real Time

Create realistic deadlines that employees can actually meet because they help people stay focused on the task at hand, while also allowing them to work at a sustainable pace. 

Employees should be given as much control over their own schedule as possible, and should have the freedom to take a break whenever they need one. Team leads should have a policy of rewriting any unrealistically tight deadlines, and should create a timeline that allows for “breathing room for problem-solving and unexpected roadblocks.” 

The authors caution against the tendency to establish overly long deadlines, as this can make it difficult to complete tasks in a timely manner.

StoryShot #11: Say Goodbye to Unnecessary Meetings

Making it difficult to schedule meetings is a great way to ensure that your team has more time in their day for actual work. According to Jason and David, Basecamp makes it difficult to schedule meetings on purpose, with no shared calendars, and criteria set in place before they even start. 

Think twice before inviting someone to a meeting, as they should only attend if they have a direct contribution. If need be, people can be invited into a meeting once it begins. 

Not only does this help to keep the meeting focused and save time, it also enables team members to spend more time out of meetings and more time on the job. 

If you don’t own most of your time, you are always going to feel robbed and stressed out. Making it difficult to schedule meetings is an effective way to help your team be more productive and ultimately more successful.

StoryShot #12: Risk without Putting Yourself at Risk

When it comes to risk, the key is all about balance. Take calculated risks, don’t take unmitigated risks, and take the time to mitigate any risk. For instance, when raising the price of a product, only charge new customers and keep existing customers at the same price plan. 

Don’t be too cautious about taking risks. Sometimes, it’s better to just take the plunge and make the change. Doing so can eliminate the stress and anxiety of weighing all the potential outcomes of the change. Trust market forces to resolve the uncertainty and take a risk. You never know what amazing rewards it can bring.

StoryShot #13: Startups Are Easy, Stayups Are Hard

Starting a business is not as easy as some people make it seem. People often say they’re “crushing it” and are so caught up in the excitement of it all that they don’t take the time to plan and prepare for long-term success. They get the product out there and then think that their work is done, but that’s where the hard part begins. 

There are many challenges to overcome, from hiring staff and managing salaries, to creating a budget, plus the added pressure of dealing with a variety of personalities and bureaucracy. But the biggest hurdle for most businesses isn’t the day-to-day running; it’s the lack of long-term planning. 

People can get so caught up in the rush of it all that they forget to create sustainable goals and practices. Goals don’t have to be complex, either. It could simply be to stay in business, serve customers well, and be a great place to work. Even though these types of goals can’t be easily quantified, they are the most important and have to be considered to ensure a business stays successful.

StoryShot #14: Launch and Learn

Focus on launching your product or service, and then learning from your mistakes in order to make improvements and eventually gain success. Take the time to properly plan and prepare for a successful launch and then allow for a grace period in order to discover where the product or service could be improved. Learn from failure, as this is the best way to gain understanding and knowledge. 

By launching quickly and efficiently, and then taking the time to make adjustments to get the product or service right, we can achieve success in the long run.

StoryShot #15: Promise Not to Promise

If you’re looking to start a business, Jason and David suggest you prioritize setting realistic expectations and promises for your venture. Don’t be tempted to over-promise and under-deliver, as this will only lead to disappointment and frustration. 

Instead, focus on the quality of the work that you produce and analytically set a timeline and commitments that can actually be met. Treat promises like you’d treat any other serious agreement. Take the time to understand what you’re promising, who you’re making it to, and how it fits into the bigger picture of what you’re trying to achieve. Think through every angle and consider what will happen if something goes wrong.

StoryShot #16: Avoid Driving Your Customers Crazy

As the captain of your own ship, it’s important that you make the right choices and avoid driving your customers crazy. Take the time to really listen to their complaints and take them seriously.

 Demonstrate that you hear their concern and pledge to do your best to correct it. This will prompt them to backtrack from their original outrage and assure you that it’s not that big of a problem after all. 

Remember that you don’t need to be in a leadership position to choose serenity. No matter what your role, you still have a locus of control. So take control of your communication style with customers, your interactions with colleagues and your time. Make the right choices and enhance your working environment with calm.

Final Summary and Review

When it comes to creating a productive and successful work environment, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson offer plenty of advice. Making your company a peaceful and productive environment requires that you think of it like a product: ask yourself questions about its complexity, speed, and areas that need improvement or bugs that need fixing. Strengthen its performance by focusing on doing great work and giving excellent services to customers. To get more done in a day, protect your time by eliminating distractions and multitasking, and be mindful of unrealistic deadlines. Say goodbye to unnecessary meetings and embrace the joy of missing out (JOMO). 

Take calculated risks without putting yourself in danger, and focus on launching and learning. Set realistic expectations and promises, and ensure that you don’t over-promise and under-deliver. Listen to customers and choose serenity as your communication style with them. All of these strategies will help you create a better work environment that is free of stress, allows for growth, and produces significant results.


We rate It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work 4/5. 

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