Review: It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Lessons from Basecamp about the sustainability of current work habits and organisational cultures.

My nearest and dearest will tell you that the books on my shelves are as pristine as the day they were bought. They’re all too afraid to borrow books from me in case they do as little as scuff the cover or bend a corner. I treat my books with care and respect. And of course, I never write in them.

That last fact was true until I got a copy of It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. As soon as I started reading it, I had to get up, grab a pencil and start underlining.

Ask yourself: when was the last time you had three or even four completely uninterrupted hours to yourself and your work?

In this book you will find different approaches to solving some of the common challenges we face at work. Key themes include:

  • protecting time and attention
  • setting reasonable goals and expectations
  • making considered decisions

Work being crazy is the norm. But how long can this go on without causing lasting damage? Fried and Heinemeier Hansson provide a refreshing take on creating a work culture that is sustainable Рfor both individuals and the company.

Calm is about sustainable practices that can run for the long-term.

At Basecamp they recognise that chasing bigger/better/faster/stronger leads to burnout. That time is precious and needs to be spent wisely. That there is a choice between crazy and calm. I’d like to see their manifesto for a calm company displayed in offices everywhere as a reminder that there is another way.

How to run a calm company


Since reading this book I’ve been ruminating on a couple of questions:

  • What can we do as individuals to challenge the ways things are done in our teams and organisations?
  • How can we, as freelancers or companies of one, make sure things don’t get crazy in our work environments?
  • How can we apply these principles not just to work, but to how we live?

This last question is my focus right now. I’m exploring the concept of sustainability and how it relates to individuals. More on that soon.

Featured image by Oli Dale on Unsplash