Be remarkable, not productive.

March 18, 2011 by Jared Goralnick

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

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

We all know what “good enough” is—it’s passable and professional, and while it won’t win awards, it won’t draw criticism.  We’re always capable of “good enough.”

But for a few things, we’re rockstar good.  Maybe you can design landing pages, maybe it’s funny replies to support questions, or maybe it’s writing 10 page blog posts that land you on Hacker News.  Whatever it is, there are some areas where you can  do things that will pull people in and delight.

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.

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13 Responses to “Be remarkable, not productive.”

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  1. AliaAlmidfa (Alia Almidfa)

    Reading: Be remarkable, not productive.


  1. Chris

    Nice sentiment, in theory. How does one live this way in an environment where “done is better than perfect.” Getting less done because you are a perfectionist is debilitating.

    As a chronic perfectionist, learning when something is good enough has been one of, if not the, most difficult yet most important skills to learn and cultivate. For me, it took the understanding that you are not defined by every single thing you do or make, but by the average of those accomplishments.

    It is vital to know when to use less time/effort so that you can have enough time to be a “rockstar” on another more important endeavor.

  2. Patrick

    Great reminder Jared. Your words of wisdom are timely as usual. Thanks!

  3. Jared Goralnick


    Perfect and remarkable are very different things. So, on the table we have DONE, PERFECT, and REMARKABLE. Done is quantitative, and perfect and remarkable are qualitative. But perfect is not merely done well. Perfect is often overboard and unnecessary, making something that’s already done turn into OVERdone.

    I’m suggesting that all kinds of things don’t need to be done, and similarly, they don’t need to be done perfectly if they are completed.

    However, there are SOME things that are remarkable, that make an impact, that benefit from the extra meter of work and turn into a mile of results.

    For instance, I haven’t written much lately. And what I have written has been shorter. What I’ve realized is I happen to be REALLY good at longer posts that do all sorts of reviews and comparisons–whether or not they’re my favorite thing to write, I know I can give people a lot of value, and I know I can get a lot of value form it. Some of my writing checks a box, other things push the needle. One is a task, the other is an accomplishment.

    As I go through my day there are decisions I make that are the difference between pretty good and very good. I usually err on pretty good. But then there are some things with leverage, where the difference is between pretty good and fucking amazing. Perfect isn’t fucking amazing, it’s just really right–very very good, perhaps.

    Remarkable is not finishing, it’s drawing a new finish line.

    Don’t be a perfectionist. Be remarkable!


  4. Marquita Herald

    Nice article – good point. I (also) struggled with the whole gotta do everything perfect mind set. Forced myself to let go of a lot of that after falling into overwhelming trying to get my blog up and running. Then suddenly realized that while I was managing to get the “tasks” done – articles, posts, forums, blah, blah… my writing had suffered in the process and, more importantly, I was having no fun what so ever. I’m now working hard at finding a better balance and maybe I’ll even manage to create something remarkable along the way. Thanks!

  5. Jared Goralnick

    Thanks, Marquita! I hope you do create (another ; ) something remarkable…and please do share it when you do!

  6. eve

    Is this really true though… I still have to pay my bills and do what my boss tells me to do at work.

  7. Scott

    While I realize this is an old post, I just saw it and feel compelled to jump in with a counter-point:

    If everyone is busy being remarkable, who’s checking to make sure nobody left the stove on?

    Being remarkable doesn’t have to be an all-day task, nor does consistent, disciplined execution constitute an unremarkable achievement. Sometimes the checklist actually is the road to rockstardom.

  8. LPN at work

    Made it here on how to contact bloggers…but found this oddly inspiring. Now…how to get contact bloggers off my to-do and being remarkable on it. Thanks for the 180 today ;)

  9. Jared Goralnick

    Really glad to hear this helped. If you’re looking for being remarkable, here’s at least my take for getting started on the critical path.

  10. cute penguin

    It is hard to be remarkable, I find, at work because there is always so much to do. I hear what you are saying about doing less and being remarkable about what you do do, but it is hard to put it in to practice when the to-do’s keep piling up.

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