Simple Productivity Task of the Day: Write A Thank You Note

by Randy Murray on August 18, 2010

Here’s a simple tip that might just help you get out of a rut: write a thank you note.

When you are completely boxed in and not sure what to do next, you need to get away from that feeling that YOU can’t do anything at that moment. One way of breaking free of that feeling that is to shift your focus to what someone else has done for you. It only takes a few moments, but this change in your perspective will carry on for hours.

It shouldn’t be hard. You’re surrounded by people who go out of their way to help or support you. Just pick one and send them a brief but specific note recognizing what they’ve done for you. Don’t bother with the “Thanks for just being you!” Be very specific about an individual act. “Thank you for your call yesterday. You helped me _blank _  . . .”

You can send your note via email, even a tweet, but hand-writing and mailing a thank you note has a special magic. The process, the physicality of the act, the concentration on writing neatly, even addressing and mailing the envelope, will all help you shift your stuck focus away from yourself.  When you return to your work, you should be able to see more easily what can be done right then with the energy and interest you have.

In addition to the benefit of changing your focus, the habit of saying thank you and sending notes will have multiple other benefits, not the least of which is strengthening your ties to other people and making it more likely that they will assist you in the future. Most of us enjoy helping people who recognize and value that help.

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The Simple Productivity Task of the Day: Write A Thank You Note by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Hal Brown August 18, 2010 at 8:18 am

There is nothing more personal than an actual conversation with someone, or a real paper card for a birthday. I always get one from my insurance company and my wife.
When you care enough to send the very best…


2 Randy Murray August 18, 2010 at 8:20 am

When I managed a sales team in recent years and would hear them say things like “They won’t answer my emails!” I’d tell them, “Pick up the phone.” And I had special thank you cards printed up so they could send hand written notes to thank customers.

It really does make a difference.


3 Mari August 18, 2010 at 10:27 am

Personal interaction, especially via a hand-written note or letter, especially in this age of instant digital communication, has a marvelous way of making another person’s day. Emails and phone calls do have their place on the Thoughtful List, but the hand-written thank you maintains its unchallengeable #1 position. Your choice for today’s productivity task is also a good lesson for squelching the rampant self-centeredness in our society.


4 Randy Murray August 18, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Thank you, Mari.

A hand-written note is such a surprise today that it makes an oversized impression. Do it if only for its marketing benefit.


5 Eddie August 18, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Thank *you* for this reminder, Randy.

Sympathy, gratitude, and appreciation are things everyone wants to receive but few consistently give. The irony is that they pay back the giver many times over.

I consider Dale Carnegie to be the true master at this. While his book How to Win Friends and Influence People is more than 70 years old, it’s very appropriate for modern society.

I tried to relate Carnegie’s ideas to modern communication in a post at one of my blogs earlier this year, and I was taken back by the positive response it received.

Thanks again for this advice. You can’t hear it enough. It takes a lifetime of effort, but it’s worth it.


6 Randy Murray August 18, 2010 at 12:55 pm

You’re welcome.

Your post on Carnegie’s ideas is excellent and I recommend that other readers follow the link to read it.

And your advice on snarkiness and joking is very important. I’ve seen good friendships end and bitter rivalries flare up over the most innocent of comments - largely do to people, as you have noted, reading far too much into a poorly worded phrase or an attempt at humor. This is not a new phenomenon. The same things use to happen with letter writing and in newspapers, but only much more slowly.


7 SteveC September 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm

I can vouch for this from the other side as it were. I’d stepped in to help a mate out with a gig he couldn’t do. I had a really good time (and got paid!).
First thing the following morning, I got a really nice email from him, thanking me for helping out. Really made my day. More so as I’d had such a good time doing the helping!


8 Randy Murray September 7, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Thanks for sharing that, Steve.

I agree. There are few things that can make you feel terrific than a heartfelt thank you. Although you had fun and got paid, what you remembered is the thank you.


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