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Why work doesn’t happen at work – and what managers can do about it

Know this feeling? You come to work, rush from one meeting to another, have a couple of calls – and the day is suddenly over. You were busy all day, but achieved absolutely nothing. Why? Because the way work is organized is just wrong! That’s what Jason Fried, the co-founder of 37signals, makers of Basecamp and other web-based collaboration tools, and co-author of “Rework“, is telling us in thisĀ  rather old but still very relevant TED talk.

Work is like sleep: When we wake up in the middle of the night, we can’t go back to normal sleep immediately. We need time. The same with work: after being distracted, we can’t get back to our task as usual, but rather need time to concentrate again. This is the problem with constant interruptions.

In short: If people are being asked where they are being productive, there’re typically three kinds of answers:

(1) In a particular room or space (kitchen or basement for example)

(2) On their way on a train or plane

(3) At a particular time like early in the morning or at night

Notice something? Office is not being mentioned as a place to be productive. There’re two reasons for that, Fried calls them “M&M” (managers & meetings). Managers have nothing better to do than to ask for constant updates on your work, meetings steal your time and lead to more meetings.

Fried offers three possible solutions:

(1) Let your team unplug for half a day once a week (no meetings, no communication, just let them concentrate on their work)

(2) Just cancel some meetings and never have them again

(3) Use more electronic communication like emails and messengers

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