Jason Fried has an interesting observation: work doesn’t seem to get done at work.
Funny, right? That’s because you know he’s probably right.
Companies and non-profits have employees, and they expect good—hopefully great—work out of them. These companies want everyone to come together, so they buy or rent a building. They buy furniture, computers, and a refrigerator. Then they expect people to come in and do good, meaningful work.
But Fried asked, “Where do you want to go when you really want to get something done?”
1. A Place/Location/Room
The porch, the deck, the kitchen, the basement, coffee shop, library
2. Moving Object
Plane, train, car—the commute.
Really early in the morning, late at night, or the weekend.
…But they rarely ever say “the office.”
“People go to work, and they trade in a work day for work moments.”
You get 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there, and by the time the day is done you’ve gotten no real work done, despite being in the office, doing conference calls and going to meetings.
The solution, Friedman says is that, “People really need long stretches of time to get something done….To be in deep thought to solve a problem people need long stretches of uninterrupted time.”
Fried aligns work with sleep: both are phased based events. To get to “deep sleep” you first have to go through the early stages of sleep, but if interrupted in the early ones, you don’t pick up where you left off—you have to start again.
“Do we expect anyone to sleep well if they are interrupted all night? Why do we expect people to work well if they’re being interrupted all day in the office?”
Common interruptions at the office, according to Fried, are the “M&Ms,” managers and meetings. Fried specifically loathes meetings because they make people stop doing what they’re doing, even if they’re moving toward deep work.
“You would never see a spontaneous meeting called by employees…What are the chances that all ten people are ready to stop? What if they’re thinking about something important? What if they’re doing important work?”
Meetings often have too many people in the meeting, not doing work, and often lead to more meetings. Moreover, a one-hour meeting is not a one-hour meeting. A one-hour meeting with ten people is really a ten-hour meeting: ten hours of productivity.
Fried has three suggestions for how to make the office the first resort for work, instead of the last resort.
1. “No Talk Thursday” – Pick a Thursday, and for half a day, no one can talk to anyone. Uninterrupted time is more valuable than the latest software or any of the other things we typically think improve business.
2. Switch From Active Communication To Passive Communication – Instead of in-person meetings and check-ins, try e-mails and instant messages. Is this distracting? Yes, possibly, but you choose when to interact and when not to—you can’t do that when a manager knocks on your door.
3. Cancel Your Next Meeting – You may be surprised to see that if you cancel your next meeting, everything will be just fine. The problems that you thought you had to solve aren’t as weighty as you thought. Instead, opening someone’s day could create better work solutions.
Watch Jason Fried’s full TED Talk below: