It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

“It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work” by Jason Fried and David Hansson

My Notes



  1. treat your company like a product
  2. curve your ambition, don’t try to tackle too much
  3. “at all costs” leadership encourages burnout, don’t do this
  4. chasing goals and numbers opens you up to make compromises
  5. you are probably not changing the world, just focus on making your solution better
  6. plan for 6 weeks ahead, not 6 months (agile)
  7. being uncomfortable isn’t a virtue, when things are uncomfortable that is a time to dig deeper and understand
  8. defend your time!
  9. protect what matters most: your employees’ time and attention
  10. get full hours, not fractured ones
  11. effective > productive
  12. working endlessly isn’t a virtue; work efficiently and effectively
  13. work typically doesn’t happen at work
  14. keep office hours to avoid middle-of-the-day distractions
  15. meetings should be a last resort
  16. you shouldn’t have to broadcast your whereabouts
  17. “eventual responses” > “immediate responses”
  18. JOMO (joy of missing out) > FOMO (fear of missing out)
  19. describing your coworkers as family opens you up to abusing people’s time
  20. people follow the leader, be careful the habits/processes you demonstrate
  21. all relationships have a “trust battery” where each interaction is +/-1; relationships start at net 0
  22. as a leader, you need to be proactive about talking with employees and discovering any concerns/problems
  23. the owner’s word carries a ton of weight; be careful what you say
  24. respect the work you haven’t done before — it may not be as easy as you think
  25. don’t cheat sleep!
  26. hire based on work, don’t hire from resumes
  27. nobody hits the ground running
  28. ignore the “talent war”; grow and nurture the talent you have
  29. don’t negotiate salaries — it produces politics which are bad for everyone
  30. be careful with benefits that are more like bribes (ex: we’ll pay for dinner… encourages staying late and working more)
  31. open floor plans should be treated like libraries!
  32. get off the grid for a vacation; make sure employees take vacations (IMO: offer a generous amount of actual vacation days that must be used — avoid unlimited vacation which usually breeds anxiety)
  33. when someone leaves or is let go, give people the real facts, no euphemisms!
  34. constantly dissect and improve your processes
  35. if it isn’t banter or quick discussion, write up your thoughts
  36. once a deadline is set, projects can only shrink in size
  37. pitch ideas with well-typed documents that give people time to consider instead of reacting immediately
  38. don’t launch on Fridays
  39. unchecked behavior becomes normal behavior
  40. is the way you are working today the way you want to be working in a year? if not, then change it!
  41. remove dependencies between teams and products; you’re still moving in the same direction, but don’t create artificial blocks that slow things down
  42. “i disagree, but let’s commit”; consensus slows things down and often isn’t necessary
  43. MVP is okay
  44. after a brief period of exploration on a problem, make a decision and go!
  45. nothing or “no action” is an option that might be worth considering for certain problems
  46. it’s possible to over optimize and shave your resources/effort too thin (ex: 2 minute response times)
  47. unless you’ve done the best practice before, then telling others to use the best practice based on assumptions is a bad idea
  48. don’t say “whatever it takes”, instead ask “what will it take?”
  49. essentialism!
  50. teams of three are the best (ex: 2 programmers and a design)
  51. don’t pull people off of projects for the “new idea”; wait until the new idea bakes for a little while and current projects finish… then consider it
  52. if you say “no” now, then you can always say “yes” later; if you say “yes” now it is much harder to undo
  53. take calculated risks
  54. find creative ways to break the monotony of work as seasons/projects change
  55. keep costs in check, don’t go into the red
  56. selling to enterprise opens you up to brown nosing business practices and “priority customers” which ultimately hurts the product
  57. launch and learn
  58. don’t make business promises — they pile up like debt and accrue interest
  59. to be calm, you have to forget worrying about copycats, focus on making your product better
  60. you don’t have to force everyone to update to the newest version
  61. initially you play offense only, but once you grow your business, you have to play defense too
  62. if you take the “it’s not big deal” approach to a problem, then the customer or other person takes the “it’s the end of the world” approach
  63. aim for sustainability and profitability

Full Notes

Your Company is a Product

Curve Your Ambition

Happy Pacifists

Our Goal: No Goals

Don’t Change the World

“6-Week Plans, Not 6-Month”

Comfy School

Defend Your Time


“Get Full Hours, Not Fractured Ones”

“Effective > Productive”

The “Outwork” Myth

Work Doesn’t Happen at Work

Office Hours

“Meetings are a Last Resort”

The Presence Prism

I’ll Get Back to You Whenever

“JOMO (Joy of Missing Out)”

We’re CoWorkers, Not Family

They’ll Do As You Do

The Trust Battery

Don’t Be the Last to Know

The Owner’s Word Weighs a Ton

Low-Hanging Fruit Can Still Be Out-of-Reach

Don’t Cheat Sleep

Hire the Work, Not the Resume

Nobody Hits the Ground Running

Ignore the “Talent War”

Don’t Negotiate Your Salaries

Benefits Who?

Library Rules

No Vacations

Calm Goodbyes

Dissect Your Process

If It’s Not Banter or Quick Stuff, Then Write it Up


Don’t Be a Knee Jerk

Watch Out for 12-Day Weeks

The New Normal

Bad Habits Beat Good Intentions

Remove Dependencies

Commitment Not Consensus

Compromise on Quality

Narrow as You Go

Why Not Nothing?

It’s Enough

Worst Practices

Whatever It Takes

Have Less to Do

Three’s Company

Stick With It

Know “No”

Mind Your Business

Seasons Greetings

Calm is in the Black

Price to Lose

Launch and Learn

Promise Not to Promise


Change Control

Startups are Easy, Stay Ups are Hard

No Big Deal or The End of the World

The Good Ole Days