2×4 With Gini Dietrich

2×4: One series that examines two topics, creativity and productivity, by asking those who make things on the web the same four questions on both subjects.

I am an unabashed Gini Dietrich fan. I would go as far as to call myself a fanatic (I may even have a little crush on her). She’s brilliant, generous, hard-working and even though she doesn’t realize it, she is one of the most creative thinkers I’ve come across on the web. I feel fortunate to call her a friend and even more fortunate that I was able to twist her arm into being the first victim for this brand-new series. She’s been extremely helpful as I’ve started with my own writing, even going as far as letting me soil her always-excellent Spin Sucks blog1. Without further ado, I give you an inside look into one of my favorite people:

Creativity 

1) Have you always considered yourself to be a creative person?

Um, no. My mom is super creative and I’ve always been really envious I didn’t get that part of her. I’m creative in a logical and linear way. But if you want an over-the-top idea, I’m not your gal.

2) What mediums and inspirations do you gravitate towards to realize your creative goals?

One of the most creative people I know is Danny Brown. I love to see what he comes up with and then emulate (OK, steal from) him. I also really love fashion magazines and get a ton of inspiration from them. In fact, I’m changing up my #FollowFriday Spin Sucks blog post because of something that caught my eye in InStyle last month.

3) If you had to point to one thing, what specific posts or creations are you most proud of and why?

Spin Sucks, for sure. When I started blogging consistently nearly three years ago, I had NO idea it would become what it has. I remember a friend said to me, “You can get this to 100,000 readers if you work at it” and I thought, “You are off your rocker.” Turns out, he was right. It’s not overly creative, but it’s definitely a creation I’m very proud to run.

4) Any suggestions for those who feel they may not be creative enough to unlock their inner artist?

Yes! Look to other industries for inspiration. The music industry is full of creative ideas. I spend some time reading the Lefsetz Letters. I love how he compares the decades of music because it so closely relates to what’s happening in the world of technology. If you open your mind, you can find things outside of your normal walls that inspire you.

Productivity 

1) Can you describe your current personal and professional responsibilities?

I can, but it sounds like a lot of work! Professionally I run two businesses and also keep a blog (which is a part-time job). Personally, I just have a husband and dog to worry about so my responsibilities aren’t as overwhelming as they are at the office.

2) How do you go about balancing the personal, professional and digital?

Not very well! It really depends. If I’m not traveling, I do a really good job of it because I can stay on top of things. But when I have weeks where I’m traveling or spending a lot of face time with clients, things get behind and the balance goes out the window.

3) What tools and techniques do you find yourself counting on to get through your workload?

I’ve tried everything: Evernote, tasks in Outlook, post-in notes, to-do lists in a notebook. The thing that works best for me is a piece of paper that has the numbers 1-10 written on it. Every morning I put a task beside each number and I get to work. I always get through everything on my daily list if I do it that way. Where I get into trouble is when I don’t take the time to create a list.

4) What is the best starting point for the unproductive amongst us, who are looking to get more organized?

Write down everything you need to accomplish in a day. Include reading and responding to email, reading and commenting on blogs, entering your time, returning phone calls, everything. It’s important to list the stuff that you do every day without a to-do list. That way you can see what you really need to accomplish and prioritize.

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  1. With the marked exception of when she foolishly lets me guest post. []
  • http://www.expatlifecoach.com/blog John Falchetto

    Great series Michael, thanks for inviting @ginidietrich and putting the bar way high for the rest of us mere mortals.   

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Yeah, yeah, with the humility… don’t think your request to participate isn’t right around the corner :) Couldn’t agree more though, to aim for Gini-eque results is setting the bar pretty darn high :)

      • http://www.expatlifecoach.com/blog John Falchetto

        Ya exactly my point, thanks for putting it up there for the other victims of your 2×4 hit job.

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      Um, John? I’m watching the Tour and I still haven’t seen you!

  • http://nextcommunications.blogspot.com/ Vedo

    This looks like a pretty great idea for a series. First time for me to stop by. I recognize Gini’s point about getting “into trouble when I don’t take the time to create a list,” same for me.

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Thanks for checking it out! Gini was an awesome first subject and I could not agree more on the important of lists. Like Gini, I require a tangible reminder of what has to get done. Sadly, most of the time, if it isn’t on the list, it doesn’t happen.

    • http://www.312digital.com Sean McGinnis

      Agreed. Great idea for a series. Looking forward to many more!

      • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

        Thanks Sean! I’m starting it out as a monthly thing, but I’d love to get to the point where I can get more and more of these out there! Next up is Yuvi Zalkow! Covers some very different stuff from Gini!

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      And yet there are days, when I’m overly tired, that I just stumble through the web and really accomplish nothing.

  • http://mitchellsfriedman.blogspot.com Mitchell Friedman, Ed.D.

    Great list! What’s critical for me, and it’s implicit in Gini’s post, is to take time every morning to review thr day and identify what has to be done. The key here (as Gini states) is EVERYTHING that has to be done. I also spend this time free writing and reading to get my mind (and spirit) set for the day ahead. This “morning practice” is absolutely indispensible in my life, seven days a week.

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      That was hands down one of the biggest takeaways from Gini’s answers. The need to document everything. I was laying out the big tasks, but ignoring the every day stuff. As for my morning routine, it used to only be consumption, but like you I’m finding myself writing more and more in the early hours. Great way to start your day!

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      How much time do you spend writing vs. reading every day?

      • http://mitchellsfriedman.blogspot.com Mitchell Friedman, Ed.D.

        Gini, it varies from day to day depending on what I’m working on. In general, though, things seem to tip more towards reading over writing; that said, if I’m intently working on a longer article I can spend many hours per day on it. I tend to read quickly, then work feverishly to get out a first draft, then reread, edit, reread, edit. I want to write more and seemingly am best able to do so early in the morning although writing regular blog posts is something I haven’t quite figured out how to do :)

        • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

          While I’m sure Gini’s answer will be far more useful, here is what’s been working for me (and dear god was I the most inconsistent blog writer for the LONGEST time). I created a lose structure for my posts. I knew I wanted to hit five days a week and decided to break it out as follows:

          1 How-to post (Mondays) 2 Contextual posts that steer you to interesting content (Tuesdays and Thursdays) 1 Why-to post (Wednesdays) 1 Quotes wrap up from my SmaterThanIAm.com project (Fridays) 2 Consumption and Creation days (Saturdays and Sundays)

          I found it to be a perfect balance of my 4 c’s of blogging Consumption, Curation, Contextualization and Creation. And while it was a challenge it was still doable. That’s been key for me, making it just a little more than I wanted it to be. If it was all fun, I’d eventually start slacking. It had to be hard from the get go.

          Putting up that scaffolding has made it a lot easier to know what I want to accomplish. Leaving things vague and saying I want to write more (my default for about a year) just never seems to pan out even if you really want to write more…

          I also had to really figure out the tools and the workflows (but I think that is just my geek speaking).

  • http://twitter.com/lisat2 Lisa Thorell

    Great stuff, Michael! I think your series concept is fab, especially centering on creativity and productivity. I’ll be back for more!

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Thanks Lisa, I need to do a bit of queuing up as I only have enough for about one a month right now, but I’m excited about the idea and hope to rev it up so I can get a lot more of these out there.

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      It’s cool, isn’t it? I like the creativity part because so many of us are out there creating.

  • Anonymous

    I really like this and the concept and starting with Gini is a given, huh? She gives the appearance of Superwoman and she does achieve more in a day than we do in a week, just hope she’s keeping that tank full which I’m sure she is.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      I think it’s more than just an appearance… I think she is Wonder Woman… Sadly I’m trying to keep a day to month ratio with her. Impressed you are going day to week :)

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      Pete the Tapeworm makes sure I keep it full. He’s VERY ornery.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501456842 Ken Mueller

    Great idea, but to start with Gini? It’s all downhill from here!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501456842 Ken Mueller

    Great idea, but to start with Gini? It’s all downhill from here!

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      I like to make things difficult for myself! I already lined up the second participant and while Gini is impossible to follow, it is going to be a good one!

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      Smooches curmudgeon!

  • http://twitter.com/adamtoporek Adam Toporek

    Michael, this is really a great idea for a series. Of course, you did set the bar extremely high with Mrs. Gini. The amount she accomplishes in the social sphere (added on to real businesses) is beyond impressive.

    Congrats on a great start!

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      Her output genuinely frightens me :) Glad she was the first, hopefully I can keep finding the good eggs and share their secrets!

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      Ah Adam! You’re one of my favorites, too! Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    Imagine working with her every. day! It is a lot to live up to. It’s funny, whenever I read something from Gini, I learn something new about her, and here I thought we’d win the Newlywed Game hands down.  I LOVE the fashion magazine, and getting ideas from other industries. Does it work for US and People also? Great questions. :)

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      I can imagine it is a lot to live up to, but that it also sets the tone for the work everyone does. That kind of dedication is contagious! Totally loved how something like Instyle could impact a blog series as well!

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      HAHAHA! Remember the Lucky Magazine clip I pulled the other day?! 

      • Anonymous

        um oops. why yes I do.