Why I’m Unsubscribing from Your Productivity Newsletter

Stop alienating your email marketing audience during a global pandemic.

Elizabeth Marchetti
5 min readNov 8, 2020
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Today I received an email with the subject line: “6 Things The Most Productive People Do Every Day”.

Ugh. Really? The nerve!

I recoiled.

I won’t name names. Let’s call the culprit “a best-selling author who is promoting his next book launch”, given that it’s not important. This piece is calling out all those email marketers who fit into the self-promotion category.

This subject line shows a lack of tact and emotional intelligence

Now, I understand that this man is a productivity expert.

But I found the title of this email incredibly alienating — both as a digital marketing expert and as a reader.

It’s wildly out of touch with the general landscape.

I’d go as far as saying that it’s tone-deaf, irresponsible and lacking in empathy.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic.

At the time of writing, Germany is in lockdown and Covid-19 cases are unprecedentedly high. All around the world, people are ill, dying, and losing business and jobs.

Everything seems more uncertain than ever before.

The mood of this lockdown is different than the first one we had back in the spring — personally, it feels heavier. It’s winter, the days are shorter. And the threat of the virus feels more dangerous and more real. The vaccine is still underway and at this point, most of us have met someone who has caught the virus or has been deeply affected by it.

Most of us expected that by the end of 2020, Coronavirus would have been dealt with and we’d be back to some sort of normality. We are fed up. As we approach the end of this year, we are tired.

From speaking with loved ones and online interactions, it seems that the majority of us are feeling the underlying fear and anxiety.

If we are struggling, feeling anxious and overwhelmed on most days — it’s perfectly normal.

The thing we seem to need most right now are self-care, personal relationships and feeling part of a community. Learning to accept this “new normal” and to believe that things will get better.

So right now, I don’t need to hear about how to be the most productive version of myself.

Because it’s unrealistic, toxic and dangerous to promote an outdated qualitative concept.

I don’t care how much of a hard worker, or how good at your job you are.

Success cannot be measured in the same way it used to be before we entered a global health and economic crisis.

Right now, our physical health, safety, wellbeing and mental health should be our top priority.

Hear me out.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t aim to get things done well. It’s normal that we care about our work and want to perform well, myself included.

But in the context of the global situation, it feels unhealthy and unfair to put this kind of pressure on people.

Just as we are adapting our email communication and should think twice before sending “I hope you’re well”, we should also reconsider before shaming someone into thinking they are not performing, because they are not doing these top six things.

Let’s ease up on the guilt, shall we?

I understand that this marketing campaign was prepared ahead of time and it’s to promote the writer’s book launch, which is about productivity — but it feels outdated and irrelevant.

As I continued scrolling, I found other nuggets of wisdom, such as:

“Motivation Is Mood Management: When you’re happy, things are easy. So instead of trying to make hard things easy, make yourself happy.”

Um, what? This sounds like a form of toxic positivity to me.

Being happy right now would be amazing, but it’s not realistic.

No one should be forcing us to be happy and convince us that it’s a standard to uphold right now.

Hearing these words is not inspiring — it’s triggering.

Only at the very end of this very long email, we finally get a mention of Covid-19 — and the writer’s message when acknowledging the pandemic is “I feel guilty for being unproductive” and “we need to focus on change.”

“Productivity now is harder for all of us. I have done fewer posts this year than in any of the eleven years I have been writing this blog. Yeah, I have other projects cooking but still, this pains me. I feel I have let myself down and that I’ve let you down….

But I’m too hard on myself. This is some summer-movie-level disaster stuff we’re living through. And it’s not even over yet…

But for the vast majority of us, the pandemic will not be the end. Our lives will go on. And we can change. We can improve. And the things we do now will determine how much better our post-pandemic lives will be.

The Solution

Now, I am not advising him to quit his day job.

This is his livelihood.

As a marketer myself, I understand that this person needs to keep growing his audience and he needs to continue putting out valuable content to do so.

It just so happens that productivity is his field of expertise — and he should thread carefully about such a topic during a pandemic.

Personally, I would have appreciated if he would have adapted the subject line and content of the email to fit the current situation.

For example, he could have opened the email with a short disclaimer, like a paragraph about how Covid-19 is affecting productivity.

He could have also changed the email title to “Productivity Tips During a Pandemic” or something similar.

But he didn’t.

As a result, he lost a follower and potential customer.

I didn’t think twice about unsubscribing from his mailing list. I will not be purchasing his book.


Firstly, it became clear that myself and this writer don’t share the same values. He doesn’t seem to understand that the capitalistic way of looking at work is now outdated and toxic. So we don’t see eye-to-eye and I will not be purchasing his products.

Secondly, I find it incredibly important right now to protect my mental health.

We shouldn’t be following people online and on social media, as well as consuming content that makes us feel bad worse about ourselves — whether via guilt, spiritual bypassing and toxic positivity.

I politely decline.

To conclude:

Please, dear email marketers, take note — think about your audience and think twice before pressing the “send” button during this pandemic.

Keep your end reader front-of-mind, instead of focusing solely on marketing your product.

Remember that your followers are watching and listening more closely than ever before.

Factor in the current global situation and tailor your communication accordingly, to avoid alienating your readers.

You don’t know the situation of the person who is reading your email. Do not assume everyone reading the email is healthy or in the same privileged position as you.

The time of thinking yourself solely as a business is over. Be human.

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Elizabeth Marchetti

Writer/Aspiring polymath/DJ | Growth, healing & consciousness | Poetry | Newsletter: elizabethmarchetti.substack.com | Portfolio: www.elizabethmarchetti.com