Getting Stuff Done

I don’t generally give much credence to management or lifestyle books which propone to provide the secrets to success; we are all defined by unique sets of circumstances and experiences which ultimately propel us down one avenue or another. What works for you is unlikely to work for me and visa versa – we are individuals, not robots.

I do however believe in taking note from those who have the integrity of purpose and imaginative vision to try to do things differently; whether it be for the sake of improving something or just pure experimentation. This is why I was intrigued to see that the founders of 37signals (Jason Fried and David Heinemeir Hansson), makers of Basecamp and other excellent web apps, had written a book called REWORK.

All of 37signal’s products are built on the premise of providing the core basics in a well-designed package that allows you to get stuff done and nothing more. It’s a philosophy which tends to divide groups into those who love its simplicity and those who get frustrated by their lack of features (often likely due to the fact that they don’t have complexity to hide incompetence behind anymore).

As you might imagine the book follows the same basic mantra: Keep it simple, stupid, but expands upon this by looking at the way it can be applied within a business environment. In keeping with their philosophy, it’s a quick easy read and I jotted down a few notes in an attempt to try to distil the key takeaways:

  1. Ignore “real world” constraints – they’re just an excuse for not trying
  2. Do things that matter to others by providing value that improves lives
  3. There’s always enough time if you spend it right – it all depends on how much you want it
  4. Always look for stuff to remove, simplify and streamline – curate, stick to the essentials
  5. Copycats follow instead of lead since they skip the process of understanding – be influenced, don’t steal
  6. Get into the habit of saying no by default to keep your priories straight – keep things simple
  7. Don’t  be afraid to show your flaws – nobody is perfect and people can relate to that – be genuine
  8. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking – you want people who make things easy to understand
  9. Change creates waves – resist the urge to panic or make knee-jerk responses, let things simmer
  10. Ideas are immortal, inspiration has an expiry date – don’t wait, do it now while you’re high on inspiration

In terms of applying this to real-world decision-making it’s useful to ask a number of questions each time you’re faced with requests to do something which falls outside your focus:

  • Why are you doing this?
  • What problems are you solving?
  • Is this actually useful?
  • Are you adding value?
  • Will this change behaviour?
  • Is there an easier way?
  • What could you be doing instead?
  • Is it really worth it?

I’d hesitate to guess that most people could probably cut out about 80% of the things they regularly do currently and end up getting a lot more done. Productivity, however, is only half of the story since no amount of it can make us happy or fulfilled. Doing interesting work and solving challenging problems in creative ways is just, if not more, important. The video below outlines 29 ways to stay creative:

To be honest I’ve written the above mainly as a reminder to myself since I’ve been dealing with an enormous workload of late and sometimes a reality check is in order. If you can spare a couple of hours then REWORK is well worth a read for anyone wanting to simply get stuff done.

David avatar

4 responses

  1. Productivity is a big problem in my company. People work from 9 to 21, even longer sometimes, virtually rot in the office, but very little is being done 🙁

    1. It’s a problem the world over unfortunately, especially in Asian countries – keep calm and carry on! (& maybe give them a copy of REWORK 😉

  2. Feeling sorry that I didn’t spend time on reading your blog after you left Shenzhen. Maybe it was because when you are here, it always remind me that I wanted to see any news things have been updated, hehehe. Surprisely, I found you wrote this article, because most of the articles in your blog are about traveling, politics, computer, hahahah. But I think this post is very nice, thank you for sharing me the book ” Rework”, and the books you shared with me before, espeically I really like ” Four hour work week”. I think after I got the things I need from this company ( You know it:p) , I will do some action, no matter good or bad, at least do something I am dreaming and do some thing different. Cheers D:)

    1. Hey – Hong Kong is only an hour away from SZ! Looking forward to hearing what you get up to next 🙂


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