I’m getting my email to zero right now (a bit late in the day), and came across a great example of how productivity is not just about getting as many things done as quickly as you can, but generating ideas and even taking some potential rabbit trails.
So, here’s how I work. I’m going through my messages one by one, determining the next actions and what responses are needed to each. One of these emails is yesterday’s blog post by Seth Godin on a new marketing class he is offering at Skillshare.
So, what’s the next action on that email? Just read it, decide I don’t have time for the class, and move on? That would be the efficiency model of productivity, which I reject.
Instead, with this email I sat back and asked myself some questions and observations like these:
- What does Seth’s blog post here teach us about how we should craft and present ideas in general? Godin is clearly a master at this. A blog post from him announcing a new course he is offering is not just an opportunity to decide whether to take the course or not; it’s an opportunity to learn about communication.
- So in that vein, I notice that he talks about the course “changing the way you think about marketing.” Is that way of speaking just a way to get attention? Talk about change, so people will listen? Godin is a person of integrity; he speaks what he believes, rather than making things up just to get a response. Further, in my experience (confirmed more and more every day), things absolutely do need to be changed. This is actually the task of leadership: changing things. We live in a fallen world. So much is indeed sub-par and not helping people. To talk in terms of change is not just a way to “market” an idea. Things really do need to be changed. So I make a mental note that here is yet more confirmation that it is right to talk in terms of changing things, and that it is helpful to do so (the way Godin crafted his post certainly got me thinking in a constructive way).
- Godin links the wrong words in his post! You should never say “click here.” The words you link need to be information carrying. That is both more helpful and more effective. So, Godin is great, but not perfect (I’m sure he also has reasons for breaking this rule — but he’s wrong!).
So, though I am not going to enroll in his course, the value of this email from Godin’s blog is far beyond the fact that it notified me about the course. It helped build my thinking, and gave me an opportunity to think about how I do things and how I craft ideas.
That is a huge impact, and an impact that cannot be measured by the response rate to the actual post. That shows how productivity is about much more than tangible outcomes; intangibles (affecting how people think) are just as important — and, in fact, something that actually will result in tangible outcomes and great effectiveness down the road.
And this process also shows how productivity methods, like getting your email to zero every day, are not about rigid structure and just getting things off your list. Rather, they provide a framework in which exploration can happen. If we think of productivity as just getting things checked off our lists faster, we will miss the most important and enriching moments of life.