Be Remarkably Productive

Jared Goralnick who keeps the wonderful Techno Theory blog always shares smart thinking. Recently he wrote a post on something I’ve been practicing for years but never put into words. The notion of being remarkable, not productive:

Don’t confuse your task list with a way to get ahead.  Doing one thing noteworthy will get you further than staying on the treadmill.

Go above and beyond and forget your to do’s.

It’s counter-intuitive but spot on. Getting your to do’s completed never changed a company or person. Instead, someone making a decision to go off protocol and take opportunity is the catalyst to change.

Whether you are the one creating your task list or not it’s always possible to be remarkable – especially right now in marketing, media and PR. No real excuses in a connected society, there is nothing stopping you but yourself.

I’m no longer a manager but in my days as one I would get excited when a team member found an opportunity to let their work shine and do something outside of their to do’s to benefit a client. In fact, for those who did this I always reinforced it to upper management and tried to get these people the recognition they deserved. Whereas some managers strangle it, I was attempting to reinforce deviant behavior by those who saw opportunity. They’re on the ground executing, initiative should always be taken. Sorry for the cliché but forgiveness, not permission should be the norm in marketing – we chose a field that is in flux, that’s part of the fun of it. Try things and iterate. Fail. Go even further and organize your team around failure.

The sad truth is that when there are 957 things to do, many of them pressing, it’s easy to do “good enough.”  After all, some of our best work takes a lot of attention to detail and a lot of time.  What we don’t realize is that 957 good enoughs is worth less than one above and beyond.

It’s okay to fall behind, and then to fall behind further.  It’s tempting to switch into maintenance mode, to get more things done at good enough.  But then you’re just on the treadmill.  You’re not getting anywhere.

Don’t get things done.  Put them off to work on something better.  Be remarkable.

I’m on board with this. But to those who might not be as willing to take the Jack Bauer approach and just do it: make your case to your team and propose it. A smart management team will always see a logical reason why, and if you are concerned you’ll get a “no” add data to back up your rationale. If they still say no, you’re probably with the wrong team.

I’d also like to tweak Jared’s notion just a bit. Instead of not being productive, what if we flip it and ask people to be remarkably productive? Productivity focused on the right things (whether on your to do list or not) is going to yield something amazing, especially if team members can stop overthinking and get into a flow experience. That’s productivity, and it’s a beautiful thing when your team is able to ship. I think productivity has a negative connotation due to being associated with factory work, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Be remarkably productive.

image credit: David Hilcher from Shutterstock