ReWork Wisdom

I recently re-read ReWork, the great little business book from the guys at 37signals/Basecamp.

I originally read the book a few years ago after it was initially released. As I read it again last week, the words just jumped off the page at me. For some reason, so much of it resonated with me in a powerful way.

I underlined and dog-eared a number of pages and thought I'd share here the parts that struck a cord with me.

p.19 Planning is guessing
Unless you’re a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy. There are just too many factors that are out of your hands: market conditions, competitors, customers, the economy, etc. Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control.

p.26 Workaholism
Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.

p.31 Make a dent in the universe
You want customers to say, “This makes my life better.” You want to feel that if you stopped doing what you do, people would notice. You should feel an urgency about this too. You don’t have forever. This is your life’s work. Do you want to build just another me-too product or do you want to shake things up? What you do is your legacy. Don’t sit around and wait for someone else to make the change you want to see.

p.38 Start making something
Until you actually start making something, your brilliant idea is just that, an idea. And everyone’s got one of those.

p.43 Draw a line in the sand
If no one’s upset by what you’re saying, you’re probably not pushing hard enough. (And you’re probably boring, too.)

p.70 Build half a product, not a half-assed product
Cut your ambition in half. You’re better off with a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole.

p.104 Interruption is the enemy of productivity
Interruption is not collaboration, it’s just interruption. And when you’re interrupted, you’re not getting work done.

p.106 Interruption is the enemy of productivity
Your day is under siege by interruptions. It’s on you to fight back.

p.108 Meetings are toxic
Set a timer. Invite as few people as possible. Always have a clear agenda. Begin with a specific problem. End with a solution and make someone responsible for implementing it.

p.112 Good enough is fine
Problems can usually be solved with simple, mundane solutions. That means there’s no glamorous work. You don’t get to show off your amazing skills. You just build something that gets the job done and then move on. This approach may not earn you oohs and aahs, but it let’s you get on with it.

p.124 Your estimates suck
Estimates that stretch weeks, months and even years into the future are fantasies. The truth is you just don’t know what’s going to happen that far in advance.

p.139 Decommoditize your product
Pour yourself into your product and everything around your product too: how you sell it, how you support it, how you explain it, and how you deliver it. Competitors can never copy the you in your product.

p.144 Underdo your competition
Do less than your competitors to beat them. Solve the simple problems and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to the competition.

p.193 Marketing is not a department
Marketing is something everyone in your company is doing 24/7/365.

p.201 Do it yourself
Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself first.

p.216 Forget about formal education
Too much time in academia can actually do you harm. Take writing for example. It’s no wonder so much business writing winds up dry, wordy and dripping with nonsense.

p.218 Everybody works
Delegators are dead weight for a small team. They clog the pipes for others by coming up with busywork. And when they run out of work to assign, they make up more—regardless of whether it needs to be done. Delegators love to pull people into meetings, too. In fact, meetings are a delegator’s best friend. That’s where he gets to seem important. Meanwhile, everyone else who attends is pulled away from getting real work done.

p.222 Hire great writers
If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. Being a good writer is about much more than writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate.

p.249 You don’t create a culture
You don’t create a culture. It happens. Culture is a by-product of consistent behavior.

p.251 Decisions are temporary
The decisions you make today don’t need to last forever. Its easy to shoot down good ideas, interesting policies, or worthwhile experiments by assuming that whatever you decide now needs to work for years on end. It’s just not so. If circumstances change, your decisions can change. Decisions are temporary.

p.260 Don’t scar on the first cut
Policies are organizational scar tissue. They are codified overreactions to decisions that are unlikely to happen again. They are collective punishment for the misdeeds of an individual.

p.263 Sound like you
Don’t use seven words when four will do.

p.266 Four-letter words
Easy is a word that’s used to describe other people’s jobs.

p.271 Inspiration is perishable
We all have ideas. Ideas are immortal. They last forever. What doesn’t last forever is inspiration. Inspiration is like fresh fruit or milk: it has an expiration date. Inspiration is a now thing. If it grabs you, grab it right back and put it to work.

If you've never read it, I highly recommend it. An added bonus is all the great little illustrations throughout the book.