As a marketer, you need to be alert and focused every single day. You’ve got campaigns to plan, analytics to review and content to create. With good time management, you can face each project and every meeting (and all those distractions) like you were born with a marketing spoon in your mouth. The foundation of good time management starts with organization, but not everyone is naturally fluent in this art form.
Lucky for you, organization and time management can both be learned. And they come from making small, simple changes to how you go about your day. We’ve got 18 different steps you can take to become more productive so you’ll never have to work late or lose sleep over content marketing again!
Show your calendar who’s boss.
1. Write down your tasks for the entire week. If you’re not already doing this in some form, you should start. Drafting up a to-do list at the beginning of the week gets you into the work mindset after a weekend away from the office. When you have a clear picture of what needs to be done before Friday afternoon, it’s easier to see what needs to be prioritized.
2. Block off time for work in your calendar. Meetings and calls aren’t the only things you can schedule. When you set time aside to work on your long-term and recurring projects, you are guaranteed a window free from meetings, phone calls and other interruptions.
3. Be specific when naming tasks in your calendar. “Prep” might have made perfect sense when you scheduled it on Monday, but now it’s Thursday and you can’t remember what you’re supposed to be preparing for. An added advantage of detailing your plans, if your calendar isn’t private, is that your coworkers can see what you’re doing and where you are in case anything urgent arises.
4. Leave “dead space” in your schedule. If you plan every second of the day, you won’t consistently get all your work done, and you’ll wind up getting stressed or working late. You can’t prevent a co-worker coming by to gossip any more than you can work through a fire drill. Try to always leave more dead space toward the end of the week so you can catch up on anything that didn’t get done on schedule.
5. Don’t book meetings at the beginning or end of the day. Not everyone is a morning person, or still working efficiently when five o’clock is around the corner. If you know you’re consistently productive during those times, follow tip No. 4 and use that time to get your own work done. You’re a lot less likely to be interrupted too.
Don’t let email run your life.
6. Check your emails at regular intervals only. Constantly jumping away from projects to see if you missed an email might seem like you’re being proactive, but it’s only hurting you. Set a reminder to take a break from your work and catch up on emails once every hour or two. This way, you’ll be able to remain focused on your other tasks without always worrying that something is waiting for you to answer. It can be the hardest habit to change, but will be one of the most beneficial once you lock it down.
7. Mark important emails as ‘Unread.’ This tip really only works if you’re the type who keeps your inbox free of clutter. When emails require you to take action, but are not immediate, mark them as “Unread” so they’ll stand out in your inbox when you’re ready to tackle them. It’s harder to forget to take care of something when it stands out in bold, and then you can return to your project, making your email breaks from tip No. 6 more efficient. Just be sure to check previous responses if the email turns into a chain.
8. Only use emails as a last resort. If you need to connect with a coworker, get up and walk to their desk or pick up the phone. Don’t bother sending a note to ask if they’re free first. If they’re not available, they won’t answer. It’s often far easier and faster to explain a problem or ask a question verbally than to type it out in an email, especially if there are followup questions. Plus, getting up and taking a walk is good for your health!
Prioritize your workflow
9. Accept that you will not always achieve perfection. Sometimes getting something done can be more important than doing it perfectly. If a coworker needs feedback quickly, sending them the information in the body of an email will be much faster than prepping formal documentation. This approach requires a high level of scrutiny – if perfection is expected, deliver.
10. Color-code your calendar. Use different colors to designate different tasks, so you’ll know at a glance what you’ve got coming up. Being able to mentally prepare for what’s next will make it easier to switch gears between tasks. Designate different colors for different types of work. A meeting could be red, where the prep time leading up to it is highlighted in orange. Put your “dead space” in a color that stands out from the rest so you know where you have wiggle room to accommodate any last-minute tasks or meetings.
11. Follow a consistent organization structure. You’ve got dozens upon dozens files on your computer, in the cloud and probably tucked away in email attachments. Having to dig through the mess is a pain, and not at all necessary. Develop a hierarchy of organization for each campaign you run. Nesting folders into groups by time or project type will let you quickly pull up documents. To make this even more successful, follow the same structure for each campaign and across each platform (Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, Cubby, your hard drive or whatever else you’re using).
12. Use automation to your advantage. Rather than trying to remember to log in to your Analytics platform and check the reports regularly, get Google to do the work for you. Automatic reporting not only takes one task off your hands, but allows you to set up custom campaigns to share with your colleagues as well.
Work smarter with your colleagues
13. Collaborate efficiently with Google Docs. Not only are they easy to share between users and access from anywhere, but the “Editing” feature lets everyone make changes that can be tracked easily by all of you, so there’s no question of who contributed what.
14. Send time-sensitive comments in Google Docs through email. You can bring a key task or question to a coworker’s attention by adding their email to a comment within Google Docs. It will automatically send an alert to their inbox, even if they’re not already shared on the doc, so nothing goes unnoticed.
15. Take notes during calls and meetings. Note-taking can actually increase your focus on the topic at hand, and you won’t risk forgetting key information. Get as much down as possible – you can clean your notes up after the meeting. For information that requires follow-up, avoid handwriting your notes if you have the option – papers can easily be misplaced or lost. Using an app like Evernote lets you highlight and bold key information, and you can save and organize your meeting notes by date and importance, making them easier to refer back to later. Handwritten notes are much more effective for retaining information in training and brainstorming sessions.
When you really, REALLY need to focus.
16. Let people know you’re busy. If you use Gchat (or any chat client) at work, set your status to “busy” or “DND” when you need some uninterrupted time. People can still get in touch with you, but this will let them know you’re not going to respond right away.
17. Unplug from everything. Sometimes you need to remove every single distraction to focus. If you have an office, shut your door – obviously. If not, find an empty meeting room to hole up in. Turn off your phone and your Wi-Fi connection (or at least close your email client). Noise-cancelling headphones can help drown out any background noise if you don’t have a private place to go.
18. Avoid multi-tasking. Just like you shouldn’t check your email continuously while you’re working, put it and any other work aside when you’re in a meeting or on a call. Give each task your full attention, or your work will be below your standards on everything you’re trying to juggle.