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Welcome to At Least One TED Every Day: Day 1.
Why can’t people get work done at work?
If you were to ask someone, “where do you really want to go when you’re looking to get something done?” You would see that most people don’t say the office, they say a place (coffee shop, their porch, etc), a moving object (train, plane, etc) or time (early in the morning, late in the evening).
[Josh Thought: The pattern is isolation. We are able to get deep work done when we are isolated from interruptions and able to think deeply about a problem. At home, we are isolated from people randomly peppering us with questions. On a plane, we typically don’t have access to the Internet, so we are left to think with what we have in front of us.]
As much as we would like to think that offices are a productive environment to get great work done, usually, the opposite is true.
In an office, a working day is more like a series of ‘working moments’.
The office creates an environment of continuous interruption, which prevents creatives from going deep into their work. The two biggest culprits are what Jason calls M & Ms: managers and meetings.
[Josh Thought: There’s a new M in town nowadays and that’s Messengers. Having Slack running while you’re trying to get something done is impossible]
The differences between working at home and working at the office are the type of interruptions. Sure, at home there is the chance that someone would turn on the TV, go for a walk or fuss around on the Internet, but these types of interruptions are voluntary.
Voluntary interruptions equate more to ‘smoke breaks’ a few decades ago, versus goofing off when you should be working.
Interruptions at the office are usually involuntary, where a manager pulls you aside to ask what you’re doing, a co-worker asking you a question or an hour-long meeting that could have probably have been done in 5 minutes.
A great analogy for work is sleep. Sleep isn’t a binary event (sleeping, not sleeping), It happens in stages. ‘We don’t go to sleep. We go towards sleep.’ There are 5 stages of sleep and we have to go through each stage to get into a deeper, more restful stage. If we’re interrupted for whatever reason, we phase out and have to start over. Sleep also ebbs and flows. We have waves of deep sleep and light sleep. Work happens the same way. Having 15 minutes to think about a problem before you are interrupted isn’t enough time to get into deeper stages of work.
To help combat this problem, Jason suggests a couple of things:
- Pick a day or even an afternoon where everyone in the office is required to be silent.
- And if you are in a position to do so, cancel your meetings altogether.
Books by Jason:
- Rework: Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson
- Remote: Office Not Required: Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson
- It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work: Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson
- Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application: Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson, Matthew Linderman