Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jason Fried: Why Work Doesn't Happen At Work

A very thought-provoking TED talk by Jason Fried, co-founder of 37 Signals and co-author of Rework.

Fried explores why meaningful work often gets done at places and times (home, while traveling, on the weekends) that do not involve the office and the work week.

Meaningful work, like sleep, requires long periods without interruption, and the workday is "shredded" into small snippets of time because of numerous interruptions. Particularly interesting is the observation that when a stage of sleep is interrupted you have to start again, and consequently no one would expect a person to have a good night's sleep if woken up numerous times. Why do we expect anything different out of a work day that is a parade of interruptions?

Interruptions at work are special, because they typically aren't voluntary. "M&Ms" (Managers and Meetings), cannot be avoided. Moreover, meetings aren't work, and organizations do not fully value the lost time and productivity occasioned by meetings (e.g, a one-hour meeting with eight participants is an 8-hour meeting).

Fried offers three suggestions to make the office a better place to work: 1) establish periods of time where communications are forbidden ("No Talk Thursday"), to allow uninterrupted work to take place; 2) switch from active communication to passive communication (email, im, collaborative tools -- they are certainly distracting, but they can be turned off --unlike someone in your office), and 3) cancel the next meeting.

Good ideas about ways you make sure you Do The Work and overcome the Resistance, Quiet the Lizard Brain, and emphasize the Important, Not the Urgent.