22 Brilliant Tips from the Authors of Rework on How to Work Smarter

In order to work smarter rather than harder you’ll have to do things differently and use some techniques and tricks to simplify the process, eliminate the unnecessary, get things done faster and be more efficient.

ReWork: Change The Way You Work Forever is this brilliant business book with unusual but powerful advice by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of 37Signals.

They’ve basically gathered everything that worked and didn’t work for them in terms of business, productivity and personal excellence after being successful for 15 years. And with this book, they show us that what we think is right is actually wrong.

They deny stuff we’ve thought business can’t exist without, and thus make the work process simpler and our productivity better.

And here’s why they have every right to do it:

“We know because our company fails the real- world test in all kinds of ways. In the real world, you can’t have more than a dozen employees spread out in eight different cities on two continents.

In the real world, you can’t attract millions of customers without any salespeople or advertising. In the real world, you can’t reveal your formula for success to the rest of the world. But we’ve done all those things and prospered.

The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s a justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you.”

So if you want to work smarter and get results faster, you’ll need to forget what you already now and embrace the extraordinary advice that can be found in ReWork. Here’s some of it:

How to Work Smarter Not Harder

1. Ditch long-term business planning.

“Working without a plan may seem scary. But blindly following a plan that has no relationship with reality is even scarier.”

Let’s face it, the future is uncertain. And no matter how much time we spend now planning instead of doing, we can’t predict it.

So it’s much smarter to just take action and be prepared.

2. There’s always enough time if you spend it right.

Too often do we hear people use ‘having no time’ as an excuse. But most of the time it’s not true.

Truth is we make time for what’s important and truly matters to us. It’s all about prioritizing when it comes to working smarter. So ditch that excuse too.

3. No need for outside funding.

“We’re in a service economy now. Service businesses (e.g., consultants, software companies, wedding planners, graphic designers, and hundreds of others) don’t require much to get going. If you’re running a business like that, avoid outside funding.”

Don’t use the shortcut, it never works in your favor. This way you give up control and have to answer in front of other people.

Focus on making customers happy instead of satisfying investors. It’s distracting and time-consuming too. And that time and effort are better spent on your business idea.

4. Choose less.

Most companies want to scale from day one. And although they aren’t ready for that, the owners start hiring more people, taking up more projects, open new departments, get bigger offices, invest more money in promotional materials, etc.

All that isn’t necessary. It will be one day when you have the choice to improve the current business or grow it. But now is the time to simply get to work, and to work smarter by being frugal.

So choose less for all these. Be aware of the fact that you can easily go without them and save the money or invest it in something better.

Keep things simple by avoiding expenses and stop hiring more people and renting spaces.

5. Ignore the details.

They may be important according to the common business rules, but in reality, they only distract us from the actual work, which is the only thing we should be doing. Anything else comes after that.

So don’t spend too much time working on the details. In fact, leave them for later.

6. It’s the stuff you leave out that matters.

Focus more on excluding, rather than adding. Eliminate the unnecessary so that the rest is the essential, and focus on it only.

7. Let some problems be.

“When things aren’t working, the natural inclination is to throw more at the problem. More people, time, and money. All that ends up doing is making the problem bigger. The right way to go is the opposite direction: Cut back.”

Most problems aren’t that crucial, but when we pay our whole attention to them, they grow.

Obsessing about them is pointless. Sometimes they are due to outer factors and we should accept the fact that we can’t control everything.

Instead, it’s our job to get back to work and do our best to be concentrated and create more.

8. Launch sooner.

One of the main reasons why startups fail is because they put off launching in their desire to be perfect. However, the right time is now, any next moment is too late.

That’s why the minimum viable product exists and everyone’s doing that. Just create an initial version of your product and get it out there as soon as possible.

That’s the best way to let people use it for the first time and give you feedback so you can make the necessary changes. In time, you’ll add features and update anything that can be improved. But for now, just launch.

9. Stop using reports and documents.

“The business world is littered with dead documents that do nothing but waste people’s time. Reports no one reads, diagrams no one looks at, and specs that never resemble the finished product. These things take forever to make but only seconds to forget.”

In the new kind of business, we’re talking about, reports and documents aren’t necessary. They are just more excess stuff that requires precious time and efforts that are better spent elsewhere.

Don’t use them. Get real instead and explain a concept one time, but so that anyone can understand it, without making them read boring stuff and get a wrong idea.

10. Cut interruptions.

We only get real work done when we’re in the zone. It’s when we’re focused and don’t get interrupted for a longer period of time until we complete a task or a project.

But in reality, there are way too many interruptions in the workplace that prevent us from concentrating and being productive.

“Interruptions break your workday into a series of work moments. Forty-five minutes and then you have a call. Fifteen minutes and then you have lunch. An hour later, you have an afternoon meeting. Before you know it, it’s five o’clock, and you’ve only had a couple uninterrupted hours to get your work done. You can’t get meaningful things done when you’re constantly going start, stop, start, stop.”

Create new rules (if you’re in charge). Work during your most productive time in the day, and relax after that even if it means combining a few breaks.

11. Forget about meetings.

According to the authors, meetings are the worst kind of interruptions.

Nothing really gets done there, only abstract ideas are discussed and no actions steps are summarized in the end.

They often have no goal or a set plan to follow, at least one person starts talking about something on the side each time, others get distracted by the meeting and need some time after that to find focus again.

So eliminate meetings. Or if you really must have them, stick to doing it as rarely as possible, inviting fewer people, having a clear agenda, beginning with a specific problem and ending with a solution.

12. Make smaller to-do lists.

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The authors of Rework say that long lists just don’t work.

We start feeling bad even when looking at them, the big picture seems terrifying and as a result, we procrastinate as much as we can. Even if each item on the list is easy, we consider not completing all a failure. And in order to prevent it, we don’t even start working on the first thing anytime soon.

Start making smaller lists.

If you follow the smart business advice above, your list is already shorter as we’re all about eliminating the unnecessary and choosing less over more.

13. No big decisions.

The same can be said about decisions. Big ones scare us, we can’t take them fast and often end up overanalyzing and making the wrong choice.

Instead, break big decisions down into smaller ones. Each won’t be that crucial, but you can be more decisive because of that. When combined, the final result will be more work done and less time wasted on thinking too much.

14. Don’t pay too much attention to the competition.

Keep in mind what they’re doing and how they’re doing it so that you can offer better services. But don’t dedicate more time than it’s necessary.

Some business owners tend to focus on the competitor’s product or brand more than they do on their own. Which means they aren’t working on improving their offer, but instead try to analyze that of the competitor.

That only brings stress and often disappointment.

It’s the same with comparing in daily life. You can spend hours every day analyzing what others are better at and what more they have. But you can also spend that time improving yourself and building stuff.

15. Say no more often.

Adding new features to a product may be a lifelong process. There’s always something that can be improved with the user experience, the website design, the communication with the staff, etc.

Also, opportunities come from everywhere and it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying yes to each hoping it will turn into the next big thing.

But do all that, and you’ll forget about what’s important. You’ll care too much about details that don’t really matter and will leave the work process behind.

Don’t let it happen.

“Start getting into the habit of saying no–even to many of your best ideas. Use the power of no to get your priorities straight. You rarely regret saying no. But you often wind up regretting saying yes.”

Related: Why ‘No’ is The Most Important Word You’ll Ever Say

16. Stop writing everything down.

According to the business philosophy of ReWork, there’s no need for spreadsheets, database or filing systems.

The only way to keep track of customers’ feedback is to listen to it, to see the tendencies and remember what they keep repeating over and over again. Because these are the things that really matter and which you need to work on.

Hearing them many times makes it easy to remember and make them your priority. That’s how you work smarter.

17. Be alright with your flaws.

A lot of things and people are already fake out there. Make a difference by being real.

Be yourself, admit your failures and be open to suggestions. Talk like you usually do, be friendly with your customers and discuss openly everything going on in your business.

“The business world is full of “professionals” who wear the uniform and try to seem perfect. In truth, they just come off as stiff and boring. No one can relate to people like that. Don’t be afraid to show your flaws. Imperfections are real and people respond to real.”

18. Everything is marketing.

write down everything

Forget about press releases and paying a lot of money for promotion. You’re already marketing your product and brand, so just improve what you’re saying and how you say it.

Marketing is:

  • everything you write on your website;
  • every time a customer uses your product;
  • every email you send;
  • every call you make;
  • everything you post on social media;
  • every time there’s a bug in your product;


If you do all these but more consciously, then you’ll be successful at doing marketing.

19. Do the job yourself first before you hire anyone else to do it.

Entrepreneurs understand the nature of work.

They know how everything needs to be done before they automate the process. Once they’ve done the job themselves, they can easily teach someone else to do it for them.

20. Forget about resumes.

If you want to work smarter, you should know that resumes don’t mean anything.

They are far from the truth and everyone can make one effortlessly. That’s why you shouldn’t hire based solely on that. In fact, you should totally ignore them.

Trusting your instincts is much better actually. Meet with the person, see how he communicates, read body language, see how confident he is and how he reacts to your questions.

And if you’re all about paper, then rely on writing a good application letter. It says much more about a person than the resume.

21. Get back to people right away.

Speed is important in business. Customer service is another key thing that separates average companies from successful ones.

So get back to people quickly whether it’s on the phone or via email.

22. The term entrepreneur is outdated.

According to the authors, people focus too much on the term these days, on trying to define it and to become the person that fits the description.

But it’s better to replace that with something that’s down-to-earth, like starters. Because that’s what entrepreneurs do – they start new businesses, create new opportunities, build new companies and develop new products.

They don’t need any degrees, experience or knowledge to do that.

We’ve seen plenty of people who’ve succeeded in the entrepreneurial world just by being passionate about what they do and working on it long enough without letting distractions get in the way.


That’s how you work smarter and get results in real life.