Getting To The Work

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How often do you go about your work day and then realize that you have to get out of there to get the real work done?

It’s interesting, isn’t it? For the most part, many of us need to "get away" from our day-to-day work lives to get the real work done. It doesn’t make any sense, does it?

There is help (sort of).

Jason Fried has been looking at productivity and collaboration since before the creation of his very edgy and popular company, 37 Signals. He also recently co-authored the best-selling business book, Rework, with his partner at 37 Signals, David Heinemeier Hansson (who also created the powerful programming framework, Ruby On Rails). His TED Talk, Why work doesn’t happen at work, is both enlightening and heartbreaking. It shows us all this new and obvious path to productivity (the enlightening part) while highlighting the stupid things that many of us do (my hand is raised) to sabotage the great work (the heartbreaking part).

Take 15 minutes out of your constantly interrupted day to watch this…


  1. I used to work from my apartment in Redondo Beach. I was the Western US Sales Rep for a company that worked on heavy engineering projects like rockets and hydrogen vehicles for our clients. We had a sister company 1hr inland. While I put up with so many jokes about working by the beach, I would get more done in half a day there than my office at my sister company that I had to spend one day a week at. Whenever I was there I would have people talking to me incessantly. It annoyed the hell out of me. And while I know building cross Division relationships is a good thing for ones career, your productivity takes a beating.

  2. I have sent this TED talk to many people because it is so true – the ‘normal’ workplace is an incredibly inefficient place. It is particularly true for anyone who does work that requires thought and/or concentration because every momentary interruption leads to 20 minutes of lost time as you try to regain your train of thought . Unfortunately, most of us have compensated for that by working extra hours – from home or in the office – in order to get the environment we need to get things done.

  3. Lost count of the days I have sent myself an early morning email or two from home. A “priority to do list” so to speak. What I have really lost count of is the number of times I have not had a chance to get started on any them once I have reached the office.
    I open the emails often but constantly get interrupted by often mundane issues that staff would competently solve were I not there. About a year ago (with only modest success) I started asking people (the puzzled look on their faces is priceless) to email me their questions even when I am in the building just yards away. This was done with the hope of avoiding losing train of thought on these priority projects tens of times each day.
    I have Rework by Jason Fried on my desk in both hard cover and audio book on my desk. Mitch it’s high time I fired them up after listening to his TED talk, thanks.

  4. Hello Mitch,
    Yes the change of environment is very useful. To work away from work as given me my most productive work and enlightening ideas.
    *But let’s go further here, let’s enchange on ideas to be more productive… @ or away from the office.
    – I like to go to my country house 45 minutes from Montreal, Once there, I forward all calls to voice mail. (I get my voice message by email also!) No land line… But High speed Internet Access! Easier also to decline last minute offer for lunch or the ”hey I’m close by can I come to your office”…
    – I decide when I answer the phone, for me voice mail is bliss. After a few calls I will listen to them and I will return my calls when necessary all at once. So I keep focus.
    – Last one; every time I have the chance to take the subway (Metro) from Laval to Downtown Montreal for meetings or Networking event I do, I love it, I save time and parking aggravation. Last Tuesday going to Downtown Montreal I was able to go over 50 emails while listening to music!…
    Thanks for sharing that Ted talk!
    The Networker

  5. I love this guy, loved the book too. Actually thought out and articulated what we all already know to be true but are affraid to voice so as not to shake the status quo…

  6. Isn’t it incredible how “going to work” does not translate into productivity? When anything definitely has to get done, I seek an isolated location to implement, strategize, think, write, etc.. This does not come about with constant interruptions.

  7. Classic video. Thanks for sharing Mitch. Once worked at a company where we had meetings, and no one took minutes. The next week, we would have another meeting. Half the stuff discussed by the managers were items tabbed for, and discussed at, the previous meeting, and around and around we went in a time-waste. Best of all, there was no task list. Why? Because we never had time to finish one due to a company policy, which was: all meetings should finish 10 minutes before they ended for 1-hour sessions, and 5 minutes before they ended for 30-minute sessions. (Our president would be checking his Blackberry at 1:45 p.m., and was nervous for the next 5 mins. to ensure the policy was respected!) No joke. The conference room had to be cleared just in case another meeting was to start. So if tasks were not outlined, we had to wait until the next meeting. Needless to say, this was a waste of everyone’s time.

  8. Hello Mitch,
    I’m a wood deck and fence designer building for clients who want custom backyards in Montreal. My creations are definitely the result of uninterrupted time – I turn off my phone and the computer for about 4 hours for each design. My success is directly linked to this essential time alone while I’m capturing ideas and shaping them into future tangible things.
    Thanks for your great and always helpful content!

  9. Sometimes I feel that in large corporations there is more zeal and passion to hold conferences and meetings then in getting substantial and real work done.

  10. As a highly-trained professional, you have a problem. You soon discover that you are stranded on the TimeTrap Plateau. You trade away so much time for money that none of the best hours are left to really live life.

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