I REread ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37 Signals recently and it was REfreshing to RElearn these great ideas (see what I did there? I kill myself with cleverness). A lot of the book is common sense, but the kind that isn’t so common. It tests assumptions made by corporations. An example: profitability is more important than growth. One of my favorite people, Tim Ferriss, featured them on his blog when the book first came out.
ReWork is an ancient text by Internet Age standards but it hold up well.
These are my notes from the book:
[Numbers signify page number.]
19 – Don’t put too much emphasis on making plans. You will uncover tons of information while working on your project that will alter your plans. [Seth Godin, who endorses this book, said in Linchpin that you should have a total blueprint before beginning a project to reduce thrashing. The point here is that when new information comes up that alters the plan, don’t feel bad about straying from the path.]
20 – Plan for the week, not the year. Circumstances are much easier to predict tomorrow than they are in a month.
23 – Profitability is the goal, not growth.
36 – “Scratch your own itch.” Or, solve your own problems. This is a great way to come up with ideas. Also, when you are solving your own problems then you know how well you are doing.
38 – Actions are the only things that matter – ideas and plans without actions are useless.
43 – “A strong stand attracts super fans.” If you (or your product) don’t have a strong belief in something then you are screwed. If you aren’t pissing anyone off then it is unlikely that you are creating strong connections with those that would be your best fans.
56 – Start a business – not a startup. The goal is profit. Know how you will become profitable from the start.
72 – Make the most basic element of your product the best it can be.
77 – Decisions are progress. So say “let’s decide on it” instead of “let’s think about it.”
83 – Your product/service should not be full of features. Offer the basic features with higher quality.
85 – Focus on things that stay constant. Like peoples’ desires. Focus on ease of use, speed, things people will want in ten years as much as they do now.
87 – The gear doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you can do with it. Don’t be obsessed with getting the perfect tools, work with what you got.
90 – Always sell the byproduct. Rework is the byproduct of 37 Signal’s blog. If you are spending time becoming an expert at something, you should be writing about it. If you are doing something kickass (an epic bike ride, training program, or music tour) you should be documenting it.
97 – Create something real ASAP. No matter how well you describe something it is always open to interpretation. Create some kind of physical representation of what you are talking about.
105 – Long stretches of alone time with no interruptions are the most productive periods.
112 – Solve problems the easiest way possible, not the most impressive way.
115 – “Momentum fuels motivation.” So go for the quick wins. You can’t do great work if you’re not motivated.
119 – Don’t feel obligated to finish a product if it is taking too much time.
125 – You can estimate the cost of a big project better by breaking it into smaller projects (one week).
128 – When prioritizing a list, the most important thing goes at the top. There cannot be multiple most important items.
130 – Make tiny decisions instead of big ones. Try to pair down big decisions into smaller ones that are effectively temporary. If decisions are too big then you will blindly stick with one side. Emotion and ego will get in the way of reason.
141 – Don’t be afraid to step on competitors’ toes. Making fun of them is a good way to differentiate yourself. People are passionate when you start a conflict by taking a stand.
145 – Have LESS features than the competition but do them BETTER.
“If I’d listened to my customers, I’d have given them a faster horse.” – Henry Ford
154 – Say “no” by default. This will force you to set priorities straight, keep you focused on things you care about, and keep your product something YOU love.
157 – Companies should stay true to a type of customer, not a customer with constantly changing needs. ie: 37 Signals does not scale software for companies that grow out of theirs. If you bend over backward for a great one customer, one day they’ll leave you there.
159 – Don’t act on great ideas right away. Write them down and see if they’re still great in a couple of days.
162 – Underpromise and overdeliver.
167 – Don’t try to get attention before you’re ready for it. Use your time in obscurity to test new things and develop your skills/product.
171 – Build an audience so when you are ready for attention, it is there. If you have a dedicated group of people when you are ready to launch a product, it’s chance of success is much better than if you launched with nobody caring about you. Blog, tweet, make videos, entertain and educate people.
173 – Educating people is more effective and cheaper than advertising. If you want to sell people something, teach them about it.
176 – Share everything you know. This is the best way to gain an audience.
179 – Turn your job into a reality show. Teach people about your job. What’s interesting about your work? Make people feel VIP and let them behind the scenes of your job. People are curious and anything can be interesting when presented correctly.
193 – Whenever anyone does anything related to your product it is marketing. This means that every aspect of your company must be great. If your site is ugly or hard to navigate, if your employee is a dick, or if your product breaks in a month, someone’s view of your company will be affected.
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain
215 – Test assumptions. Most shit they teach is school is wrong. People say this all the time but then go along with what is shoved down their throats anyway. Some dumb things they teach: the longer a document is, the more it matters; stiff, formal tone is better than being conversational; using big words is impressive; you need to write a certain number of words or pages to make a point; the format matters as much (or more) than the content of what you write.
245 – When you tweak your product, allow a cool-down period before you act on angry comments. Facebook is a prime example of this; there are always people furious at major changes at first but then learn to love them.
251 – Don’t make up problems. Most of the bad shit you think will happen never does. Don’t worry about planning everything out, take things as they come.
– Choices you make are almost always temporary.
253 – Work environments that show respect, autonomy, and responsibility unlock a lot of potential. Environments like this allow employees to be creative humans instead of miserable robots.
263 – Everything is top priority until you actually have to prioritize.
271 – If you’re inspired to do something then do it quick because inspiration expires quick.
100-102 – Good Questions to ask yourself about the work you’re doing.
Why are you doing this? What is this for? Who benefits? What’s the motivation behind it?
What problem are you solving? Make sure there is a real problem being solved. Are you making things easier or better for yourself or your customers?
Is this actually useful? A lot of people spend time working on something totally useless. Enthusiasm and usefulness are often confused.
Are you adding value? Is what you are doing actually making the product more useful/usable?
Will this change behavior? Don’t add shit to a product that won’t change the way customers use it.
Is there an easier way? There is almost always an easier way to fix a problem than the way we first select.
Would could you be doing instead? If A is taking a long time, then B and C are fucked. Set priorities
Is it really worth it? Determine the value of what you’re doing before you take the plunge. Before you stay up all night to finish a project or have a meeting or drive 3 hours.