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Jul 11, 2019 21:51:52

It doesn't have to be crazy at work

by @jasonleow | 727 words | 411🔥 | 449💌

Jason Leow

Current day streak: 411🔥
Total posts: 449💌
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I took notes while reading It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. If you feel that there's something not quite right with the gruelling work ethic that everyone is now expected to put in, how everyday is fighting fires, and just plain crazy, then this is a worthwhile read. Not just for startup or tech folks, but a critique of how we work in general, whether corporate/startup, private/public/people. 

I love how it's accessible it reads, like a series of blog posts categorised by themes. As I go into a new season of work as an indie maker/entrepreneur, I want to apply the tips and principles mentioned...that it doesn't have to be crazy at work; that I can choose calm, not crazy.  

Sharing them here as reference for myself, and for anyone who might find it useful. This is not a book review, just raw notes lifted directly from the book, with some minor interpretations and categorisations of my own. This is part of my reading list for a new season


The problem

Instead of ❌ 80h weeks, packed schedules, super busy, endless meetings, overflowing inbox, unrealistic deadlines, can’t sleep, Sunday afternoon emails, no time to think, stuck at the office, all-nighters, chat’s blowing up, wouldn't it be great if we had ✅ 8h days, 40h weeks, plenty of time to myself, comfortably paced days, no weekend work, rarely a meeting, no rushing, realistic deadlines, no knee-jerk reactions, time to consider, a great night’s sleep, ample autonomy, work from anywhere.

The modern workplace is sick. Chaos and anxiety isn’t a prerequisite. Choose calm.

Your company is a product.

You tweak a product constantly, but companies tend to stay the same. A company is like software, it has to be usable and useful.


Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be epic. Bury the hustle.

War metaphors of killing competitors - it’s an imaginary contest, just make the best product you know.

It doesn’t have to change the world.

You have permission to make it up as you go.

No to no pain no gain. Being comfortable means being calm.


Every day your 8h work day is like flying direct from Chicago to London. It’s long, it’s enough.

Protect not just trademarks and IP, but people and their time.

Distractions: 1x60min is 1h of work. 4x15min is not 1h.

You can’t outwork the world. Effective > productivity.

Cultivate joy of missing out. JOMO, not FOMO!


We’re not family. The company will not protect you unconditionally, unlike a family. Their motive is more likely to elicit a one-sided sacrifice: yours.

Trust is a battery, it needs charging. When low, work conflict happens.

Low hanging fruit can still be out of reach. Don't assume and over-reach.

Don’t cheat sleep. Fuck the mission, if it causes dire personal sacrifices.

Typical corporate give-and-take is that life gives and work takes. Work-life balance is out of whack.

Benefits are often bribes to keep you in the office. Benefits should reward you outside of the office. No "fakecations" - vacations where you have to constantly check your inbox or jump on a call.

Open plan offices need library rules.


Real-time chat sometimes, asynchronous most of the time. If it’s important, slow down.

Realistic deadlines with flexible scope, instead of "dreadlines" with fixed time and ever-expanding scope.

Run by commitment, not consensus. Say, I disagree but <explain>, then let’s commit.

Calm requires getting comfortable with enough.

Best practices are often folklore. There’s often more than one answer.

Instead of “whatever it takes”, say “what will it take?” Questions bring options, decrees burn them.


Crazy’s in the red, calm’s in the black. Until you’re running a profitable business, you’re always almost out of business. Profit means time to think, space to explore, destiny in your control.

Get customers to buy the product they want today, instead of imaginary version in the future. Don’t promise them roadmaps.

People hate change forced on them. Let old customers keep whatever they have, and sell new customers the new thing.

Startups are easy, stayups are hard. Pace yourself, sustain.

From Jason Leow's collection:

  • 1

    @jasonleow Just finished reading it. Basecamp sounds like such a great comany to work for. It is refreshing after seeing the sea of companies just focused on profits at all costs.

    Valentino Urbano avatar Valentino Urbano | Jul 17, 2019 22:15:58
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      @valentino yes refreshing indeed. It's a really people-first company.

      Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Jul 18, 2019 22:28:18
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    This is totally aligned with what you've been pondering lately. The idea of zero-sum vs positive-sum. I think the more common reason people fall into hustle and workaholism is due to them choosing to compete and to invest into zero-sum features/products/ideologies.

    The folks at basecamp have always been into only figuring out where positive-sum contributions can be had, and doing those.

    Ryan Singer the other third of the basecamp trinity -- DHH-tech/JasonFried-brand&values-RyanSinger-product -- wrote this recently. I just began reading.


    Abe avatar Abe | Jul 16, 2019 16:27:40
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      @abrahamKim heh exactly! You're sensing the right pattern there. It's all towards a new season that I'm preparing for. The funny thing is, I heard about Basecamp all along, but only recently discovered their message about calm companies - not sure why?! I guess when the student is ready, the teacher (who's been standing in front all along) appears! Thanks for sharing about Ryan Singer - gonna follow him on Twitter now and check out Shape Up

      Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Jul 16, 2019 22:48:34
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      You and I are on similar pattern for our seasons. Good to see you from afar.

      Abe avatar Abe | Jul 17, 2019 01:51:19
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