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It Doesnt Have To Be Crazy At Work

It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work Notes#

It’s Crazy at Work#

2 main reasons * The workday is sliced up into tiny pieces of physical and visual distractions * An unhealthy obsession with growth at any cost set high expectations and add to stress

It becomes hard for people to do work at work and are forced to use weekends and work longer .

Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honour, it is a mark of stupidity.

It’s not just organisations…individuals, contractors and solopreneurs are also burning themselves out.

With all the extra work people are putting in, the load doesn’t get heavier.

The answer is less waste of productive business hours, fewer distractions, less stress and anxiety.

Stress is pervasive and affects everyone and everything in an organisation and individuals live’s.

It’s time for companies to stop asking their employees to breathessly chase ever-higher, more artificial targets set by ego

It’s time to stop celebrating “Crazy at work”

What about the calm company? A company that isn’t fueled by Stress, ASAP, rushing, sprinting, all-nighters, constantly missed deadlines or never ensing projects.

No growth at-all-costs.

No false busyness.

No ego-driven goals.

No keeping up with the jones’.

Stressful moments should be the exception.

The modern workplace is sick, it is infested with chaos. Chaos should not be the natural state.

Calm is:

  • Protecting people’s time and attention
  • 40 hours or less a week
  • Reasonable expectations
  • Ample time off
  • Smaller
  • Visible horizon
  • Meeting as a last resort
  • Asynchronous first, real-time second
  • More independence, less inter-dependence
  • Sustainable practices
  • Profitability

Your Company is a Product#

You might provide services or build products, but the company is the provider of those things.

Your company should be your best product

You need to iterate and tweak this product. Not get stuck in policy mud.

Ask questions about the company:

  • Do people know how to use the company?
  • Is it simple, is it complex?
  • How fast is it?
  • Are there bugs?

The way you work is not set in stone, it needs to be improved upon.

One way is working on a project for 6 weeks and roaming on other stuff for 2 weeks, to stop being caught in the never-ending project.

There is a difference between growing a company and improving it

Curb your Ambition#

Bury the Hustle#

Hustlemania, the endless stream of pump-me-up quotes about working yourself to the bone.

Consistency is key, like laying brick after brick.

Grinding and burying yourself doesn’t necessarily mean progress and output is increased. It could be decreased, it could increase technical debt.

Happy Pacifists#

The business world is obsessed with fighting, winning, dominating and destroying.

Companies live in this zero-sum game world:

  • They don’t earn market share they conquer the market.
  • They don’t serve customers, they capture them.
  • They target customers
  • Hire headhunters
  • Make a killing

When you now think of yourself in a was scenario, of life or death it is easier to do immoral things. This is not love and war, this is business.

It is important to work for:

  • A business that covers costs and makes a profit
  • A business that has a _profit) that grows year on year

Lots of companies and people are driven by comparison

Instead of trying to dominate the market, give customers a better choice. They are free to choose the product that helps them the most.

Our Goal: No Goal#

No customer count goals no sales goal, no retention goal, no revenue goal.

It is not about squeezing every single drop out of a lemon and leaving no money on the table.

It is important to be interested in the right things:

  • Making products easier, faster and more useful
  • Making employees and customers happier
  • Iterating and improving
  • Increasing profits
  • Increasing revenue

Goals are fake

They are set for the sake of setting targets.

Goals are a source of stress, if they are achieved or not. They rarely actually matter as new goals will be made.

Doing great creative work is hard enough. So is building a sustainable business with happy employees. Why make it tougher on yourself?

Chasing goals also leads companies to compromise on their morals, honesty and integrity to reach those fake numbers. It could mean cooking the books.

Try cancelling you cellphone contract and realise how difficult they make this seemingly simple process. That is because their retention goals make it harder for you to exit.

Don’t Change the World#

Ambition hyperinflation. It’s simply not good enough to make a great product or provide a great service. You must create this BRAND NEW THING THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING.

Everyone wants to disrupt. If you label your work as disruption, you aren;t doing it right.

You don’t have to change thw world. Lets face it, it is hard to do.

Make it up as you Go#

There is no five-year, three-year or even 1 year plan.

Figure it out as you go.

Sticking to short term planning, lets you change your mind, which is a big relief.

You don’t know shit about 5 years ahead, so stop guessing and plan for small things in the near future.

Is your plan working? Do you need a small change in direction to better serve customers?

Comfy is Cool#

Constantly Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is the nonsense from corporate manifestos.

That unless you are uncomfortable you are not doing enough.

Great work can be done in your comfort zone, with due care and consistency.

It is not breaking out, but digging deeper where mastery is found.

If you are uncomfortable with something, usually that is a sign that you are telling yourself what you are doing is wrong.

Some consulting companies will sell your time for 3 times or more with what they are actually paying, that seems it would make the owners uncomfortable but they are used to the discomfort and hence show their lack of morals.

Defend your Time#

8’s Enough, 40’s Plenty#

40 hours a week is plenty time to do great work and get important stuff done.

No all-nighters, no weekends, no 80 hour weeks.

8 hours is a long time, it is a long flight. Why does it seem shorter in the office?

Because it is sliced up into many tiny bits. Most people only have a couple of hours to actually work. The rest of your day is stolen by meetings, conference calls and other distractions.

Working longer hours is not the answer, being more selective about what you do is the answer.


Companies love to protect.

They protect their brand, their emailswith disclaimers, NDA’s and lawyers. They protect their money with budgets, CFO’s and investments.

They protect everything except the most valuable thing: their employee’s time and attention. Companies spent it like there is an infinite supply.

No status meetings or standups.

It might seem efficient to get everyone on the same page. but it is a waste of time. It is costly.

Instead it is better to get people to write daily or weekly updates for others to read when they have time.

The Quality of an Hour#

A quality hour is 1 x 60. minutes.

It is hard to be effective with fractured hours, it takes time to switch tasks and be productive. It also adds to stress.

The context switching also clogs up the mind.

One thing at a time

Effective > Productive#

Productivity is for machines, not people.

Focusing on productivity makes people focus on busyness. Being busy does not mean value is being added. Filling your schedule.

Being effective means doing more with your time. Finding yourself with more free time.

Time for leisure, family and friends or for doing nothing.

It is perfectly ok to have nothing to do, or even better nothing worth doing

Don’t fill your day just for the sake of being productive.

The Outwork Myth#

You can’t outwork the world. There is always someone willing to work harder.

A great work ethic is not working whenever called upon, it is doing the stuff you said you were going to do, a fair day of work, respecting work, respecting co-workers, not creating unnecessary work for others. A good person.

Why do people make it then:

  • hey’re talented
  • lucky
  • know how to work with others
  • know how to sell an idea
  • know what moves people
  • can tell a story
  • know what details matter and those that don’t
  • can see the big and small picture
  • lots of other reasons

Working longer hours doesn’t mean better.

Work doesn’t Happen at work#

It happens in a quiet place. Companies spend alot of money on an office, but very little work gets done there.

Modern day offices are interruptions houses. Merely walking in the door lets you become the target of anyone elses conversation.

The major issues is the wandering manager asking people how things are going, ringing phones and my personal worst the office DJ. Toxic by-products of the office.

You need an interruption free zone

Office Hours#

Experts are made to be available to any questions and queries from others. The people asking the questions needed something but the expert was working on something. So that is not a fair trade.

Office hours is time you make available to answer these questions.

This might seem inefficient and bureacratic.

But the calmer, long stretches of work available for experts makes it easier and more effective.

Calendar Tetris#

The shared work calendar is one of the most destructive things of modern times.

Getting on someone’s schedule should be tedious, you should have to meet face to face.

When someone takes your time it doesn’t cost them anything, but it costs you everything.

The Presence Prison#

You don’t need to broadcast your whereabouts or be at the office (butts-in seats requirement)

The only way to know if work is being done is by looking at actual work output, that is the boss’s job.

I’ll get back to you Whenever#

Ever get an email, then quickly a followup text or call. Now both people time is getting wasted.

The expectation is an immediate respone.

Almost everything can wait, and almost everything should

Be considerate, let other people work. They will respond when they are free.

FOMO … try JOMO#

The fear of missing out on some notification or news

There is the Joy of Missing out…JOMO.

People shouldn’t need to know in real time what is going on in the company.

Alot of minute details can be boiled down and summarised in a month.

Feed your Culture#

We are not Family#

Companies love to declare, “We are all family here”. But you’re not, you are simply co-workers. The product is not your “baby”, sure you respect and promote and develop it but wouldn’t take a bullet for it.

When CEO’s and directors talk about the big family bullshit they aren;t talking about how the company is going to protect you and love you nno matter what. They will throw you out like a used tissue. Their motive is sacrife from employees to the company.

Working late and skipping vacations…you are doing this for the family. Bullshit, you are doing it for a company, that could drop you anytime.

The company should be an ally of real families.

They’ll do as you Do#

When the top dog puts in mad hours, the rest of the pack is bound to follow along. It is even worse among organisaitonal levels.

This CCEO that wakes up at 4am etc. is not a hero.

If the only way to inspire the tropps is with a regimen of exhaustion, that is a problem.

Workaholism is a contagious disease

The Trust Battery#

Ever had a scenario when every little thing a person does annoys someone or blows up. This is when the trust battery is dead.

You need to have good relationships between people at work. Its based on saying you will do the things you say you will do.

Don’t be the last to know#

When a boss says “My Door is always open”, it is a cop out. It puts the honus of speaking up on employees.

The only time this empty gesture serves its purpose is when shit has already hit the fan.

Why would an employee risk their career on the empty promise of an open door?

If a boss really wants to know, they should ask.

The higher you go in an organisation, the less you know how it is really like.

The Owner’s word weighs a Ton#

There’s no such thing as a casual suggestion when it comes to the boss.

“Are we doing enough on Instagram?” - becomes a top priority

People think that if the boss is looking over there, we should all be looking there.

The owner scattering people’s attention is a common cause of the question, “Why is everyone working so much and getting nothing done?”

Low Hanging Fruit can still be out of Reach#

“We’ve never had anyone in business development, so there must be a ton of low-hanging fruit she can get to with low effort”

Sometimes the further you are from the fruit, the lower it looks.

You assume picking it is easy because you have never done it before.

Declaring that an unfamiliar task will yield low-hanging fruit (or is easy) is almost always an admission that you have little insight about what you’re setting out to do

Any estimate of how much work it’ll take to do something you’ve never tried before is likely to be off by degrees of magnitude.

The worst is setting up new hires to fail.

The idea that you’ll instantly move needles because you’ve never tried to move them until now is, well, delusional

Respect the work you have never done before by not calling it a low hanging fruit

Remind yourself that other people’s jobs are not easy

Don’t cheat sleep#

Sleep is for the weak. You really only need about 4 or 5 hours. Great accomplishments require great sacrifice.

The people that brag about no sleep and marathons can’t point out any accomplishments.

Sleep deprived people aren’t just short of brains and creativity, their short on patience, short on understanding. They are assholes.

(On Managers) If they’re worn thin, their short fuse quickly becomes the baseline for the team. Even well-rested individuals can get caught up in a storm of nonsense if it’s started by their superior.

People that start on long hours…stay on long hours.

Sleep is good, it works on things you were working on during the day.

All nighters are red flags, not green lights.

Out of Whack#

Work life balance.

Life already starts at a disadvantage with 2 days to 5. But 5 is plenty to pay for the living part.

If you work 5 days, then weekends should be off limits.

If work can claim hours after 5:00pm, then life should be able to claim hours before 5:00pm.

Hire the Work, not the Resume#

Few things in business are more stressful than realising you hired the wrong person

The stress doesn’t end there because you either have to tolerate the bad fit or let them go.

Sometimes the person may be the right individual fit, but doesn’t fit the team.

Every person changes the dynamics.

What is important is who you are and what you can do, not your CV. You want people that others want to work with, not just someone they’d tolerate. You can’t help assholes, no matter how good they are.

Don’t take their word for it, take their work for it.

Ask them to do a real world, pragmatic task.

Not a blackboard or on the spot scenarios.

No arbitrary years of experience or degree requirements preventing people from getting hired.

Nobody Hits the Ground Running#

The skills and experience to gain traction is different one place to another.

If you are the “senior” person who gets work done by directing it, you won’t work out well. Everyone must work and leading work is better than calling for it.

These dangers are magnified when “senior” people at a large company move to a smaller company, or vice versa. You are better off finding people with the challenges at your company size.

Ignore the Talent War#

A superstar at one company can be a dud at another.

Talent is something that is nurtured and grown, ot plucked and plundered.

You need a good environment to nurture talent and grow it.

Hire for what people can become.

Don’t Negotiate Salaries#

To be paid fairly at most companies you don’t just have to be good at your job, you need to be an ace negotiator. Most people aren’t ace negotiators and end up getting short changed.

Everyone in the same role is paid the same

junior -> programmer -> senior -> lead -> principal

ONce a year review of market rates and Inflation to automatically give raises.

Where you live has nothing to do with the quality your work and it is the qaulity of your work that firms are paying for.

There shouldn’t be a penalty for working at a cheaper city.

Bonuses don’t make sense, they should be part of the standard salary because if they dip people think it is a demotion.

Stock options are also only for companies that want to sell (they are selling shares in the company) and market prices determine this.

Nobody should be forced to hop jobs to get a raise that matches their market value.

Hiring and training people is not only expensive, it is draining.

There’s fountain of happiness and effectiveness in working with a stable crew

Benefits Who?#

Heard about game console rooms, cereal snack bars, lunches, dinners and free beer on Fridays? It seems so generous but there is a catch, you can’t leave the office

They blur the lines between work and play (life) to a point where it is mostly work.

These are things at companies that work 60 hour weeks, not 40 hour weeks.

Benefits need to actually benefit employees, which will in turn allow for better well-rested employees.

Library Rules#

Whoever rebranded the open-plan office with it’s noise, lack of privacy, interruptions deserves a medal from assholes everywhere.

Open plan offices suck at providing calm environments that are quiet, private and at peace. An environment professionals need.

It is even worse when you mix sales and service people on the phones who need to be with people requiring long periods of quiet.

You not only destroy productivity, you’re forementing resentment (dissapointment, anger and fear).

You don’t need private offices just enforce rules: Library rules.

No Fakecations#

A vacation should feel like you don’t work anymore.

Employer’s aren’t entitled to anyone’s nights, weekends or vacations. That is life time.

Calm Goodbyes#

A dismissal or leaving is something that opens up a vacuum for speculation. If you want to avoid that just be honest with eveyone about what happens.

Dissect your Process#

The wrong time for realtime#

Real time chat has become a thing for the whole organisation. There are times and places but critical decisions shouldn’t really be dome there as some people won’t be there.

Real time chat can be cool and fun but there should be a line drawn as to what is done online.

A good rule: Real-time sometimes, synchronous most of the time

Important topics need time and traction.

An important discussion needs a home, like jotting down notes in a meeting.


Unrealistic dates for ever-expaning project deadlines

You prevent calm work from being done with an unrealistic deadline.

At Basecamp, deadlines do not move, they are fixed and fair.

What is variable is the scope of work, but only on the downside. Seperate the must-haves from the nice-to-haves.

The team working on the task makes the decisions, not the CTO or CEO. The team yields the scope hammer.

Small projects ballon into massive projects and it is important to stop, cut and move on.

Instead of estimates, the team uses budgets. Humans are bad at estimating especially something they have not done before. There is a 6 week budget to get this done.

Constraints are liberating for a team.

Don’t be a Knee-jerk#

When pitching a new idea, there is an interruption or at the end a reaction.

People have put a lot of time into their presentation but the people in the room don’t absorb and think it over. They just react, a knee-jerk reaction. That is no way to treat a new fragile idea.

So as Basecamp, the idea is made into a short document posted on basecamp. We present out of person. We want a natural considered reaction.

No one can interrupt.

Watch our for 12-day weeks#

Releasing on Friday is the cause of this. First you rushed the work for a sloppy Friday release. Second Mondays don’t come after Fridays, so if something goes wrong you are working the weekend. Third you don’t get a chance to recharge if you work the weekend.

The busy monday is the best time to release because if there is an issue it is more likely to be caught.

There is always a bit of stress before a big deploy same as a musician or comedian when going on stage, but it remains calm not a frenzied stressed out deploy.

The New Normal#

Sme behaviour you don’t love, but tolerate. It starts as an outlier but then someone follows suit. If no one corrects the course it becomes the culture, the new normal.

A single snarky comment unchecked lets loose a forest of snarky comments. Behaviour unchecked becomes behaviour sanctioned.

Unwinding the new normal requires much more effort than preventing the new normal in the first place.

Culture is what culture does

Bad Habits beats Good Intentions#

Micromanagers tend to stay micromanagers

Workaholics tend to stay workaholics

Hustlers tend to stay hustlers

It is a choice.

If we started hiring a bunch of people we didn’t need that, we would have continued hiring a bunch of people we didn’t need today

If we forced everyone to come to work at an office, we’d still be forcing people to come today

Make calm become the habit

“Later” is where excuses live, you need to change now.

“All nighters” are temporary until we’ve figured this out… Make the change now.


The ballet of teams delivering to other teams in perfect harmony is a ballet best skipped.

Teams need to be independent.

They should fit together, not stick together.

This huge coordination is a waste of time and a disabler for teams and individuals.

When it is ready, ship it.

Don’t tie knots, cut them.

Commitment not concensus#

A jury works well in the court room but not in business.

In business you make multiple major decisions every month. The cost of a concensus on a decision is far too much.

The person who can keep arguing the longest ends up winning, not the person who is most correct.

The only sustainable method in business is to have these decisions made by individuals.

Someone in charge needs to make the final call.

Trying to convince a stakeholder can be like pulling teeth (especially with clients) instead someone else needs to make the decision and receive commitment.

You can disagree and commit, as Bezos says

Compromise on quality#

Release features that aren’t good enough for everybody but will be just fine for plenty.

Knowing when to embrace good enough gives you the opportunity to be excellent when you need to be.

Perfection is the disease, put okay work out their that you are proud of.

Put effort into what really matters.

The challenge lies in what should be great and what can just be okay.

Worry less, accept more.

Narrow as you go#