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A book by two bloggers is wise but concise

REWORK
BY JASON FRIED AND DAVID
HEINEMEIER HANSSON
Vermillion Books, £10.99

THIS is perhaps just the sort of book you would expect from internet entrepreneurs famous for a blog (called 37 Signals); rather than convoluted arguments, re-heated out-of-context quotations from Machiavelli or Nietzsche and endless, bulletpointed arguments, it’s a collection of short, sharp and thought-provoking micro-essays, mostly around the length of one widely-spaced page.

Some entries are more useful to those who, like the writers, work in small entrepreneurial businesses, but much of it is equally interesting to those in a corporate environment. For example, we’re told that workaholism is useless. “You don’t get more done, you just work more”. Workaholics “try to make up for intellectual laziness with brute force”. They end up tired, and they make other people feel guilty and drain morale.

Also, those who work in big teams can profit from remembering that making time to work on your own without interruption is necessary: interruptions are deadly.

The chapter on meetings is illustrated with a skull and crossbones; “meetings are toxic”, we’re told. A one-hour meeting with 10 people takes up 10 hours of work time, more if they have to travel there. Some of the solutions – to set a timer and end the meeting when it goes – might not work for everybody, but short, sharp meetings are clearly a good idea. Thinking about why we do what we do is behind this book, and that’s a valuable lesson.

It can be a bit hit and miss, and some of the slogans sound clichéd. “Hire managers of one” could have come from any management book from the past 20 years, but then they go and say something like “hire the best writer”. The idea is that “clear writing is a sign of clear thinking”. So much is done via email and instant messaging these days that people who can write are priceless. Rework will take an hour to read. It might be the best hour you spend this week.