Is This Helpful?

If you’ve received an email from me since 2008, you’ve likely seen those 3 words concluding my message.

I initially added them to my email as a soft way to confirm my message was, well, helpful. I envisioned them as a tiny step towards measuring the value of email in a new, qualitative, way. I didn’t envision how they’d change my writing.

With “Is this helpful?” as part of my default email signature, they are the first 3 words I see when I start a reply to you. Over the past 6 years these 3 words have challenged me to: re-read your original message, think through your question a little bit more, book the meeting on my calendar, double check my work, and be more constructive. They have continually challenged me to level up.

“Is this helpful?” is now a question I ask myself throughout the day. Not just in email, but in all my interactions with the world. It has become a touchstone for how I spend my time and where I direct my attention online and off.

“Is this helpful?” implies a goal and measurable forward progress towards achieving it. As a nemonic for larger goals these 3 words have a powerful ability to keep me from getting tangled up in The Daily Outrage. They also continually remind me that I don’t know everything – and measurable progress is the best way to uncover the unknown unknowns.

In short, these 3 words have become the qualitative value metric I originally envisioned.