Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Part 1. Progress
Here we continue to share the alternative summary of “Rework” with the extra time management tips. This review was written by Andrei Backlinau (who kindly allowed us to share it 🙂
Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is not a typical book with boring and trivial advice.The large audience of readers who have read the book, admits that Rework shows what you really need to get success in business. The main idea of the book is to stop talking and start working.
So let’s dive into details…
Preparation: the useful time management tips for everyone
Planning is guessing
Creating a plan allows you to feel that you can control everything that you actually cannot control. There are so many factors that you can’t control: market conditions, competitors, customers, economy, etc.
Plans allow the past control the future. Plans are incompatible with improvisation, but you should be able to improvise. Sometimes you need to say, “We will choose a new direction because it makes sense today.”
Setting deadlines in long-term plans is also a nonsense. You have all complete information when you are doing something, but not before you have started.
There is a probability that, after creating a 20+ pages plan, you will not use it and it will just refill your archive. Instead, try to decide what you are going to do this week, but not this year. Find out the most important task and do it.
It is quite normal if you act according to circumstances. The prospects of working without a plan seem to be fearful. However, the plan blind following (that has nothing in common with reality) should scare even more. But you can always use planning calendar and time management software to avoid fearful prospects.
Grow slowly and follow your feelings. If you hire employees beforehand, you can get many troubles.
What is Workaholism?
If someone works more than he needs, it does not mean that he does more. It only means that he really works more. This kind of working plan cannot be always helpful. Eventually, this person will be “burned out.”
Besides, workaholics are trying to solve their problems, dedicating more time to them. They compensate the intellectual work by brute force. It results in an inefficient solution.
Workaholics are not heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it. The real hero is already home because he/she figured out a faster way to get things done.
Be a starter!
Scratch your own itch
The easiest and most effective way to create a great product is to do what you like to do and use it. It will help you to solve the problems familiar to you and you will be able to figure out the value of your actions immediately.
You have to take hundreds of small decisions while creating a product. Solving any unfamiliar problem, you look like an alien in the dark. But solving a familiar problem, you see the light and know what decisions are right.
Creating what you need, you can quickly assess the quality of the product, without the need for outside help.
Start making something
An idea is nothing by itself. This idea does not any matter. Only your actions matter, but not what you thinking of or what you are talking about.
When a person is a newcomer in any field, all he/she needs to do is just start creating. The most important step is to start and then to learn how to manage time and stress.
No time is no excuse
Do not think that you need to leave your regular work in order to work on the product. Start working on your project in the evenings. Find out new time management strategies for managers. We are not talking about how to work 16 hours a day. At least a few hours a week will be enough to break the deadlock.
And when you do it, you will see whether your inspiration and interest real or are they only an intermediate stage.If expectations are not justified, you will continue to work on a regular basis without any risk to lose anything.
Outside money is Plan Z
Nowadays many companies do not need an expensive infrastructure. Regardless of what business you represent, involve as little outside money as possible. The idea of spending outside money is quite attractive, but doing this way you dig a pit:
- You lose control (you will have to answer to investors).
- “Cashing out” begins to trump building a quality business. Investors want their money back as soon as possible.
- Spending other people’s money is addictive (Spending other people’s money is easy, but they will eventually end. Then you run out and need to go back for more. And every time you go back, they take more of your company.
- You do not have any instruments to simulate an investor while you start your business.
- Customers move down the totem pole.
- Raising money is incredibly distracting.
You need less than you think
Do you really need ten people or will two or three do for now? Do you really need $500,000 or is $50,000 (or $5,000) enough for now? Do you really need six months or can you make something in two? Do you really need a big office or can you share office space (or work from home) for a while? Then do you need a whole IT-department or is it possible to work with outsourcing? Do you really need to buy advertising and hire a PR firm or are there other ways to get noticed?
Have you caught the idea?
Many companies are starting in a garage. They have small resources at the first stage, even no time management tools for work.
Start a business, not a startup
Any business stops to be a business without a clear understanding of how to become profitable. It is just a hobby.
The real business thinks about the profit from the first day of its existence. The real business does not hide serious problems with the excuse: “It’s all right, we are just a startup.”
The more massive the object, the more energy it required to change its direction
This is true for the world of business, as well as for the physical world.
The scale is growing because of:
- long-term contracts
- extra staff
- long-term solutions
- unnecessary meetings
- unclear procedures
- extra hardware, software and processes
- long-term development plans
- office policies
Avoid these things. Then it will be easy to change the direction.
Large companies spend months and years to change something. They arrange the endless meetings rather than to act.
Small companies can quickly change a business model and a product marketing policy. They can make mistakes and quickly correct them. They also can quickly change priorities and their worldviews.
“The lighter the boat, the easier it changes its route.”
Limited resources can make you deal with them smarter. Limits force you to make the product simple and user-friendly. Limiting yourself with frameworks, you do not allow yourself to create “hyped” products.
Build half a product, not a half-assed product
You can turn a bunch of great ideas into a crappy product real fast by trying to do them all at once. You just can’t do everything you want to do and do it well. You have limited time, resources, ability, and focus.
Decrease your ambitions in a half. It is better to have a high-quality part of a product, but not a senseless whole thing.
Many things become better when they are cut.
Directors cut scenes to make a great movie. Musicians do not include great tracks into albums.
Start at the epicenter
There is the stuff you could do, the stuff you want to do, and the stuff you have to do. The stuff you have to do is where you should begin. Start at the epicenter.
For example, if you are opening a hot dog stand, you could worry about the condiments, the cart, the name, the decoration. But the first thing you should worry about is the hot dog. The hot dogs are the epicenter. Everything else is secondary. A hot dog stand isn’t a hot dog stand without the hot dogs. You can take away the onions, the relish, the mustard, etc.
Look for the epicenter and concentrate all the power to make it perfect. The rest of your product will depend on the foundation.
Ignore the details early on
Details make the difference. But getting infatuated with details too early leads to disagreement, meetings, and delays. You get lost in things that don’t really matter.
So ignore the details–for a while. Nail the basics first and worry about the specifics later.
When we start designing something, we sketch out ideas with a big, thick Sharpie marker, instead of a ballpoint pen. Why? Pen points are too fine. They have high-resolution. They encourage you to worry about things that you shouldn’t worry about yet, like perfecting the shading or whether to use a dotted or dashed line. You end up focusing on things that should still be out of focus.
Especially at first, you do not know what details are important. Getting started, you will feel what is missing. Then the time to deal with them will come.
Making the call is making progress
When you put off decisions, they pile up.
Whenever you can, swap “Let’s think about it” for “Let’s decide on it.” Commit to making decisions. Don’t wait for the perfect solution. Decide and move forward.
A solution is a progress. It is possible to evolve only if your solutions are made. Taking one decision after another, you get into a flow, creating a driving force (momentum) and strengthen a team spirit.
No matter how long you have planned. Therefore, there is no need to exacerbate the problem, delaying and analyzing it too long. Accept the challenge, make progress and implement something.
Throw less at the problem
Watch Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares as an example. The menus at failing restaurants offer too many dishes. The owners think making every dish under the sun will broaden the appeal of the restaurant. Instead, it makes for crappy food (and creates inventory headaches). That is why Ramsay’s first step is nearly always to trim the menu, usually from thirty-plus dishes to around ten.
Think about that.
Improving the current menu does not come first.
Tone is in your fingers
People in business extremely take care of the choice of tools, programs details, scaling issues, the office interior design, furniture and other trifles instead of what really matters.
But the key matter is how you are going to attract customers and make money.
Use whatever you’ve got already or can afford cheaply. Then go. It’s not the gear that matters.
When is your product or service finished? When should you put it out on market? When is it safe to let people have it?
Probably a lot sooner than you’re expected. Once your product does what it needs to do, get it out there.
Don’t hold everything else up because of a few leftovers. You can do them later. And doing them later may mean doing them better, too. If you had to launch your business in two weeks, what would you cut out?
This kind of question forces you to focus. You see that you can manage without a lot.
Put everything away. Everything that you do not need to run. Create the most important now and cut the rest. You will not need it on the first day.
When we launched Basecamp, we didn’t even have the ability to bill customers! Because the product billed in monthly cycles, we knew we had a thirty-day gap to figure it out. So we used the time before launch to solve more urgent problems that actually mattered on day one. Day 30 could wait.
Camper, a brand of shoes, opened a store in San Francisco before construction was even finished and called it a Walk in Progress. Customers could draw on the walls of the empty store. Camper displayed shoes on cheap plywood laid over dozens of shoe boxes. The most popular message written by customers on the walls: “Keep the store just the way it is.”
But do not confuse this approach with the savings on quality!
Illusions of agreement
If you need to explain something, try getting real with it. Do you need to describe the appearance of the product? Draw it. Do everything you can to remove layers of abstraction.
The main problem of abstractions (documents, reports) is that they create the illusion of understanding. Hundreds of people read the same, but each understands different things.
When the team at Alaska Airlines wanted to build a new Airport of the Future, they didn’t rely on blueprints and sketches. They got a warehouse and built mock-ups using cardboard boxes for podiums, kiosks, and belts. The team then built a small prototype in Anchorage to test systems with real passengers and employees. The design that resulted from this getting-real process has significantly reduced wait times and increased agent productivity.*
Get a chisel out and start making something real!
Reasons to quit
It’s easy to dive into work that you think should be done. It is much harder to stop and ask yourself: “What for?”
Why are you doing this?
Do you know the answers to these questions or just started working because someone offered to do it?
- What problem are you solving?
Sometimes you can solve imaginary problems.
- Is this actually useful?
Cool things eventually stop to be cool.
The useful things – never
- Are you adding value?
- It is true that your efforts make the product much more valuable to your customers?
A value is in a balance. Too much Ketchup can spoil your French fries for sure.
- Will this change behavior?
- Will your work affect something?
- Is there an easier way?
Often you can find easier ways to solve problems. But we think that they need a complicated solution.
- What could you be doing instead?
Prioritization is important for small companies/teams with limited resources.
- Is it really worth it?
Before you dive into something, determine the real value of this business.
Try to ask yourself these questions. But do not make it a formality.
And do not be afraid of your conclusions. Sometimes to stop work means to make a right step. Do not waste time on a bad work.
Interruption is the enemy of productivity
Think about when you are doing the most of your work. If you are like the most of the people, the answer is – at night or early in the morning. This is the time when you have no one around.
These pats on the back seem harmless. But in fact, they are harmful to your productivity. When someone interrupts you, the work will not be done. A break crushes your working day. And you cannot manage things being in a regime “start – stop, start – stop”.
Remember: your day is under siege by interruptions. It’s on you to fight back.
Meetings are toxic
The worst interruptions of all are meetings. Here’s why:
- They’re usually about words and abstract concepts, not real things.
- They usually convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute.
- They drift off-subject easier than a Chicago cab in a snowstorm.
- They require thorough preparation that most people don’t have time for.
- They frequently have agendas so vague that nobody is really sure of the goal.
Do not stretch 7 minutes to 30.
Make your meetings productive and follow the simple rules:
- Set a timer. When it rings, the meeting is over.
- Invite as few people as possible.
- Always have a clear agenda.
- Begin with a specific problem.
- Meet at the site of the problem instead of a conference room. Point to real things
- and suggest real changes.
- End with a solution and make someone responsible for implementing it.
Good enough is fine
Find a judo solution, one that delivers maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Judo solutions are all about getting the most out of doing the least. Whenever you face an obstacle, look for a way to judo it.
Efficiency is much more important than the gloss or even quality. And remember, you can usually turn good enough into great later.
Momentum fuels motivation. It drives you
Carrying out one segment of work and moving forward to the next one, you create the energy of motion. Get a habit to make small victories. And, of course, celebrate them.
So ask yourself, “What can we do in two weeks?” Then do it.
Go to sleep
“They even brag about how tired they are”
Forgoing sleep is a bad idea. Look what you will get instead of a dream:
- lack of creativity
- Diminished morale
- bad decisions
Your estimates suck
We’re all terrible estimators. We think we can guess how long something will take when we really have no idea.
It means that planning the 6-months term for your project, you can be wrong. And it will not be 7 months, it will be a year.
A possible solution is to break large tasks into smaller subtasks. The smaller your problems, the easier to plan them.
Divide time intervals into small pieces. Instead of planning a project for 12 weeks, break it into 12-week projects.
Long lists aren’t done
Start making smaller to-do lists.
Long lists are guilt trips. The longer the list of unfinished items, the worse you feel about it. And at a certain point, you just stop looking at it because it makes you feel bad. Then you stress out and the whole thing turns into a big mess.
Divide your long list into many smaller ones. The List of 100 points to the ten lists with ten items in each.
“Try to separate tasks into smaller pieces until you will be able to fully understand them.”
Make tiny decisions
It’s difficult to make and change serious decisions. One day you will continue to believe that it is correct and will stop to be objective.
“The more steam you put into going in one direction, the harder it is to change course”.
Instead, take small decisions, step by step. Taking tiny solutions. It is impossible to make big mistakes. And it’s easier to change them.
Decommoditize your product
If you’re successful, people will try to copy what you do. It’s just a fact of life. But there’s a great way to protect yourself from copycats: Make you part of your product or service.
Zappos.com sells the same shoes as the 100 competitors. But it differs because of the quality of service (an obsession that Tony Hsieh, the director pursue in any service). As a result, Zappos does not sell just simple products. They are doing masterpieces.
Polyface (a huge agricultural company) takes care of environmental protection. In spite of the high prices, they feed cows with grass and do not use antibiotics. Buyers can come to the farm and see everything with their own eyes. And they love the company.
Competitors can never copy you in your product.
It seems that Tesla, Amazon, Facebook, Telegram are the same examples as described above.
Pick a fight
If you think a competitor sucks, say so. When you do that, you’ll find that others who agree with you will rally to your side. Being the anti- is a great way to differentiate yourself and attract followers.
A certain opponent allows telling customers great stories. To have a clear position means compare favorably.
“Taking a stand always stands out. People get stoked by conflict. They take sides. Passions are ignited.
And that’s a good way to get people to take notice”.
Underdo your competition
Conventional wisdom says that to beat your competitors, you need to one-up them.
This sort of one-upping, Cold War mentality is a dead end. When you get suckered into an arms race, you wind up in a never-ending battle that costs you massive amounts of money, time, and drive. And it forces you to constantly be on the defensive, too. Defensive companies can’t think ahead; they can only think behind. They don’t lead; they follow.
To win the competition, do less than they do. Solve simple tasks, and leave difficult and unpleasant for them. Make fewer steps. Try to underdo.
The bicycle world provides a great example. For years, major bicycle brands focused on the latest in high tech equipment: mountain bikes with suspension and ultra strong disc brakes, or lightweight titanium road bikes with carbon-fiber everything.
And it was assumed that bikes should have multiple gears: three, ten, or twenty-one.
Who cares what they are doing?
It is not necessary to give so much time to competitors. Because worries start to be obsessions. This leads to stress and anxiety. Such thoughts are the poor soil for new sprouts.
Do you want to know more?