Work vs Sleep: Getting Stuff Done

Jason Fried, co-founder of 37signals and co-author of Rework, found that when people wanted to get stuff done, their answer was rarely the office but instead someplace where they wouldn’t encounter externally imposed distractions.

What’s perhaps most insightful about Fried’s 2010 TEDxMidwest talk is his comparison of work to sleep when thinking about why stretches of uninterrupted time are important. This sleep comparison is applicable to your productivity no matter what work situation you’re in — whether you’re studying for school, writing a novel, working at a small start-up, for a large company, or for yourself.

“[S]leep and work are phase-based, or stage-based, events. So sleep is about sleep phases, or stages … There’s five of them, and in order to get to the really deep ones, the really meaningful ones, you have to go through the early ones. And if you’re interrupted while you’re going through the early ones … you don’t just pick up where you left off… .

You’ve got to go through these phases and stuff, and if you’re interrupted, you don’t sleep well… . Why do we expect people to work well if they’re being interrupted all day at the office? … .

Giving someone for hours of interrupted time is the best gift you can give anybody at work.”