KEY TAKEAWAY: We all want to be responsible for the success of our brand or product but it’s almost impossible to get any work done in most organizations. There are two primary reasons: (1) The workday is being sliced into tiny, fleeting work moments by an onslaught of physical and virtual distractions. And (2) an unhealthy obsession with growth at any cost sets towering, unrealistic expectations that stress people out.
It’s hard to get real work done in the office today. Chances are you’re working more hours but you’re getting less done even though you answer emails at night and while on vacation. Out of the 60, 70, or 80 hours a week many people are expected to pour into work, how many of those hours are really spent on the work itself?
Today’s working in marketing environment
How many hours are tossed away in meetings, lost to distraction, and withered away by inefficient business practices? Lost productivity results in stress and that stress is passed from organization to employee, from employee to employee, and then from employee to customer.
The modern workplace is sick. Chaos should not be the natural state at work. Anxiety isn’t a prerequisite for progress. Sitting in meetings all day isn’t required for success. These are all perversions of work —side effects of broken models and follow-the-lemming-off-the-cliff worst practices.
Stop thinking that you need to changes the world
If you stop thinking that you must change the world, you lift a tremendous burden off yourself and the people around you. The idea that you have to constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone is the kind of supposedly self-evident nonsense you’ll often find in corporate manifestos.
Instead, set out to do good work. Set out to be fair in your dealings with customers, employees, and reality. Leave a lasting impression with the people you touch and worry less (or not at all!) about changing the world. Chances are, you won’t, and if you do, it’s not going to be because you said you would.
Productivity is for machines, not for people.
When was the last time you had three or even four completely uninterrupted hours to yourself and your work?
If you can’t fit everything you want to do within 40 hours per week, you need to get better at picking what to do, not work longer hours. Most of what we think we have to do, we don’t have to do at all. It’s a choice, and often it’s a poor one.
You can’t expect people to do great work if they don’t have a full day’s attention to devote to it. Partial attention is barely attention at all.
Being productive is about occupying your time—filling your schedule to the brim and getting as much done as you can. Being effective is about finding more of your time unoccupied and open for other things besides work. Time for leisure, time for family and friends. Or time for doing absolutely nothing.
A great work ethic
A great work ethic isn’t about working whenever you’re called upon. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do, putting in a fair day’s work, respecting the work, respecting the customer, respecting co-workers, not wasting time, not creating unnecessary work for other people, and not being a bottleneck. Work ethic is about being a fundamentally good person that others can count on and enjoy working with.
Then there is the “open office”
Companies pour gobs of money into buying or renting an office and filling it with desks, chairs, and computers. Then they arrange it all so that nobody can actually get anything done there. Modern-day offices have become interruption factories.
Open-plan offices suck at providing an environment for calm, creative work done by professionals who need peace, quiet, privacy, and space to think and do their best.
The major distractions at work aren’t from the outside, they’re from the inside.
The wandering manager constantly asking people how things are going, the meeting that accomplishes little but morphs into another meeting next week, the cramped quarters into which people are crammed like sardines, the ringing phones of the sales department, or the loud lunchroom down the hall from your desk. These are the toxic by-products of offices these days.
Technology has made it worse
Technology has made the problem worse, too. Now it’s not just the boss who wants to know where you are, it’s everyone else, too. With the proliferation of chat tools invading the workplace, more and more people are being asked to broadcast their real-time status all the time. They’re chained to the dot—green for available, red for away.
The expectation of an immediate response is an unreasonable expectation. Yet with more and more real-time communication tools creeping into daily work— especially instant-messaging tools and group chat—the expectation of an immediate response has become the new normal.
The “we are a big family” lie
Companies love to declare “We’re all family here.” No, you’re not. We’re people who work together to make a product. And we’re proud of it. That’s enough.
The best companies aren’t families. They’re supporters of families. Allies of families. They’re there to provide healthy, fulfilling work environments so that when workers shut their laptops at a reasonable hour, they’re the best husbands, wives, parents, siblings, and children they can be.
The people who brag about trading sleep for endless slogs and midnight marathons are usually the ones who can’t point to actual accomplishments.
At most companies, work-life balance is a sham. Not because there shouldn’t be a balance, but because work always seems to end up putting its fat finger on the scale. Life just lifts. That’s not balance.
It’s pretty basic. If you work Monday to Friday, weekends should be off-limits for work. This is what Millennials want and why they are job hopping. They realize that there is a life outside of the office and answering an email while you’re on the beach, on vacation, is not what they signed up for.
The marketing hustle
I got drawn into the marketing hustle too. It was a time when we lived, breathed and died by IRI sales numbers and it was a contest to see who could stay in the office longer past 5PM.
Then I came to my senses. Since I like to get up early I went to work at 7 AM when it was quiet to get real work done and left the office at 3 so I could ride my bicycle and take care of my dad in a nursing home. I never missed a deadline and stayed when meetings were scheduled late but I worked to live, not live to work.
When we went on vacation we went to a resort that had no internet access in rooms and on the weekend I put away my work smartphone.
Too many people are coming out of school and being asked to wear themselves out with work. You can easily get addicted to “the game” of seeing who can answer emails late at night to show managers that you’re working but in the end, it’s all a hustle. The sooner you recognize this the happier you will be.
In this timely manifesto, the authors of the New York Times bestseller Rework broadly reject the prevailing notion that long hours, aggressive hustle, and “whatever it takes” are required to run a successful business today.