37 signals has taught us a thing or 37

June 2, 2022
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Home 9 Uncategorized 9 37 signals has taught us a thing or 37

Our team is really into two things: building a company that works for us and the project management tool, Basecamp.

So when the Basecamp team (a team that regularly writes about the perils of overwork, the value of asynchronous schedules, and the power of doing things differently) put out a manifesto of sorts, recounting their core tenets as a business, we were pumped. (This is what we very-into-studying-work-culture nerds call a big moment.)

Basecamp (now, once again, branded as 37signals) has taught us a lot about how to approach work. As you might remember, here at Swell+Good, we cancel meetings. We don’t believe in work emergencies (and we don’t create them for others.) We set boundaries, we talk to our colleagues like humans, and we build schedules that work for our lives

Put simply, we define our own team culture. 

We get to decide.

And so do you. 

If you’re the boss—of a company, an organization, a team, heck, even a household, this is not just an option, it’s an imperative. 

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is decide how your team will work. The what will get filled in—it always does. The how, though, that’s a choice. And it’s largely up to you. 

If you’re not the boss, you might feel like this doesn’t apply to you—but I beg to differ. Sure, you might have more tasks placed upon you, but you still get to decide your own how. You might not get to opt out of meetings, but you can certainly push back to make your meetings more efficient. You might not get to define your own hours, but you can probably decide what you do when within your 8-5. 

We are not at the mercy of our jobs. We get to (and should!) define the processes that will make work (and, spoiler, life) better for us. 

Instead of links to outside articles, this week, we’re sharing five of the 37signals lessons that we can’t stop thinking about. We invite you to read the whole list, then send us a note with the ones that resonated for you. 

Better yet, what are the signals that drive your own company (or life or home) culture? If you were making your own list, what would you add to it? 

Ready, set, go. ​

#2: Work isn’t war. ⚔️

How you talk about yourself matters. So when all of your analogies are pulled from battle, every day is going to feel like a fight. Same goes for language that makes tasks feel huge or impossible or all-consuming. If you talk about them that way for long enough, they’ll live up to expectations.

#3: Small teams. 👫

“Small is often plenty.” Wow yes and amen. We think we need to do huge, sweeping things—but what if one tiny, effective thing is better? Do that. Save your brain. Save your effort. Save your human capital. Bigger isn’t always better

#8: 8/8/8. 😴

You need to sleep. You need to play. You need to have a life. So do great work. Make a difference. But don’t forgo your humanity in the process. When things are going off the rails, chances are good that you need to go to bed.

#11: Don’t emulate the office. 💻

You don’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done. If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that there are lots of ways to do the jobs in front of us. Turns out you don’t actually need to be in an office to collaborate. What if you rethought your other expectations, too? What would you delete/change/add?

#33: Planning is guessing. 📝

This one is tricky for us, but it resonates. We love plans. But the longer your time horizon, the less reliable your plans will be. Better to aim in the near term and actually hit your target, then repeat the process over and over. Frequent planning is better planning.

Allison Kooser

Allison is Chief Storyteller at Swell+Good, where she partners with amazing organizations to help them bring their stories to life. She is an avid traveler, an expert takeout orderer, and a big believer in curiosity and kindness. She tries to learn something new every day, and she reads, writes, and paddleboards more than the average human.
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