Jason Fried

July 25, 2021

It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work

“It’s crazy at work.”

How often have you heard that? Or said it yourself? Probably too often.

For many, “it’s crazy at work” has become their normal. But why's that?

At the root is an onslaught of physical and virtual real-time distractions slicing work days into a series of fleeting work moments.

Tie that together with a trend of over-collaboration, plus an unhealthy obsession with unprofitable growth at any cost, and you’ve got the building blocks for an anxious, crazy mess.

It’s no wonder people are working longer, earlier, later, on weekends, and whenever they have a spare moment. People can’t get work done at work anymore.

Work claws away at life. Life has become work’s leftovers. The doggy bag. The remnants. The scraps.

That’s just not OK. It’s unacceptable.

What’s worse is that long hours, excessive busyness, and lack of sleep have become a badge of honor for many people these days. Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honor, it’s a mark of stupidity. Companies that force their crew into this bargain are cooking up dumb at their employees’ expense.

And it’s not just about organizations — individuals, contractors, and solopreneurs are burning themselves out the very same way.

You’d think with all the hours people are putting in, and all the promises of tech’s flavor of the month, the load would be lessening. It’s not. It’s getting heavier.

But the thing is, there’s not more work to be done all of the sudden. The problem is there’s hardly any uninterrupted, dedicated time to do it.

Working more but getting less done? It doesn’t add up. But it does — it adds up to a majority of time wasted on things that don’t matter.

Many modern companies seem to be great at one thing: wasting. Wasting time, attention, money, energy.

Out of the 60, 70, 80 hours a week many are expected to pour into work, how many of those hours are really spent on the work itself? And how many are tossed away in meetings, lost to distraction, and withered away by inefficient business practices? The bulk.

The answer isn’t more hours, it’s less bullshit. Less waste, not more production. And far fewer things that induce distraction, always-on anxiety, and stress.

Stress is an infection passed down from organization to employee, from employee to employee, and then from employee to customer. And it’s becoming resistant to traditional treatments. The same old medicine is only making it worse.

And remember, stress can not be contained. It never stops at the edge of work. It always bleeds into life. It infects your relationships with your friends, your family, your kids.

The promises keep coming. More time management hacks. More ways to communicate. More information spread across separate platforms and disparate places. New demands to pay attention to more and more real-time conversations happening all the time at work. Faster and faster, for what? Panaceas left and right. Snake oil.

On-demand is for movies, TV shows, and podcasts, not for you. Your time isn’t an episode recalled when someone wants it at 10pm on a Saturday night, or every few minutes in the collection of conveyor belt chat room conversations you’re supposed to be following all day long.

If it’s constantly crazy at work, we have two words for you: Fuck that. And two more: Enough already.



Adapted from our latest mass-market book, "It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work." The Economist called it "funny, well-written and iconoclastic and by far the best thing on management published this year.”