A benefit of less, or no meetings is having enough “alone time” to let creativity flow and accomplish more without interruption. 37signals also prefers co-worker interaction to be the exception rather than the rule. Fried explains, “The conventional wisdom is to be together all the time. I think it is poisonous. Having too much of anything is bad for you. It’s better to appreciate the interaction you do have. We’ve made ‘away time’ the norm, and ‘together time’ the exception, so it’s something that people look forward to. — Jason Fried (37 Signals)
I’ve been obsessed with Jason’s approach to management and business design for quite some time now, and I’m not sure if it’s because it’s innovative, challenges the status quo, or if it’s just self-affirming for what I envision to be a really awesome and productive environment.
Just last week I discussed tactics for improving meetings stating that I often find meetings to be disruptive. Creative people need significant windows of time in order to process thoughts, develop strategy, code, write, etc. Task-hopping, meetings, and perhaps now togetherness (?) can be detrimental to those windows.
Sure it’s great to be able to turn around and ask a co-worker a quick question, but what if it comes at the expense of the co-workers concentration. Does she lose 10-15 minutes out of her day thinking about the thought she just lost? Getting back on task?
If you sent them an e-mail (or used task management software, Google Wave, etc.) they could answer on their own time, at their convenience, but then does that cost you valuable time on your own project?
I don’t know the answer. Collaboration can be invaluable and it’s certainly necessary, but how does that collaboration manifest itself in your workplace? If you only get together 3 times a week for an hour do people come more prepared with pressing questions and maximize that designated time?
Maybe what Jason is saying resonates with me only because I’m one of those people who needs time to process and work through things. I’m easily distracted, and can have a tendency to task hop. If I’m in the zone I don’t want to be interrupted.
But would it hurt my feelings if I wanted to bounce and idea off someone and they were too busy? Would I trust employees and/or co-workers to determine for themselves the importance of their questions/interruptions/distractions?
Maybe the answer is infinitely more complicated. Maybe a leader knows their subordinates well enough (an employee their co-workers well enough) that they know you can always ask Theo a question because he’s quick on his feet and can easily re-immerse himself. But don’t bother Cynthia because she really values her alone time in 2-hour spurts. If you send her something, she’ll answer during a break.
I certainly don’t know the answer so I’m looking forward to learning from you in the ensuing conversation in the comments.
Is alone time important? Is togetherness potentially poisonous? What kind of worker are you? What’s your ideal working environment for optimal productivity?
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