Jason Fried

June 2, 2023


Companies love to protect.

They protect their brand with trademarks and lawsuits. They protect their data and trade secrets with rules, policies, and NDAs. They protect their money with budgets, CFOs, and investments.

They guard so many things, but all too often they fail to protect what’s both most vulnerable and precious: their employees’ time and attention.

Companies spend their employees’ time and attention as if there was an infinite supply of both. As if they cost nothing. Yet employees’ time and attention are among the scarcest resources we have.

At 37signals, we see it as our top job to protect our employees’ time and attention. 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.

For example, we don’t have status meetings. We all know these meetings — one person talks for a bit and shares some plans, then the next person does the same thing. They’re a waste of time. Why? While it seems efficient to get everyone together at the same time, it isn’t. It’s costly, too. Eight people in a room for an hour doesn’t cost one hour; it costs eight hours.

Instead, we ask people to write updates daily or weekly on Basecamp for others to read when they have a free moment. This saves dozens of hours a week and affords people larger blocks of uninterrupted time. Meetings tend to break time into “before” and “after.” Get rid of those meetings and people suddenly have a good stretch of time to immerse themselves in their work.

Time and attention are best spent in large bills, if you will, not spare coins and small change. Enough to buy those big chunks of time to do that wonderful, thorough job you’re expected to do. When you don’t get that, you have to scrounge for focused time, forced to squeeze project work in between all the other nonessential, yet mandated, things you’re expected to do every day.

It’s no wonder people are coming up short and are working longer hours, late nights, and weekends to make it through. Where else can they find the uninterrupted time? It’s sad to think that some people crave a commute because it’s the only time during the day they have to themselves.

So, fine, be a protectionist, but remember to protect what matters most.


Via our book It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work


About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.