Updated: Oct 17, 2018
It seems like it’s become the norm these days: super-talented professional marketers working on small teams, with limited resources, under huge expectations. Sound familiar?
In today’s fast-paced and results-driven digital economy, you’re tasked with increasing brand awareness, driving leads, and maintaining that just-right public image… and it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day.
While you may not get more manpower or a bigger budget anytime soon, and the length of one day is (unfortunately) a universal constant, there ARE things you can do to ease the pressure. As boring as it may sound, they all hinge on one thing: a total mastery of your time management and personal productivity.
To this end, we’ve compiled 5 productivity tips, gleaned from years of trial and error (lots of error), and tailored specifically for digital marketers on small teams. Let’s dive in…
1. Focus on completing only a few important tasks per day.
You have a lot on your plate, and if you pick at everything, you’re never going to finish the meal.
Remember: 2 or 3 tasks completed 100% is better than partial progress on ten. You want to be crossing things off your list as the day goes on. This actually has multiple benefits:
it results in measurable, at-a-glance progress for your marketing director or supervisor, who’s also no doubt very busy;
you’ll likely move through your workload at a faster pace, because you’ll minimize the “transition time” inherent to multitasking;
the psychological reward of finishing something, however small (and even if there’s mountains of work left to do), will help keep you motivated throughout the day.
To maximize this tip, be sure that your chosen tasks for each day are substantial and move your marketing projects forward in a meaningful way. For example, if you’re working on a social media campaign, your tasks should be directly tied to the broad workflow — concept, content, approvals, scheduling. Answering emails doesn’t count! (More on this below.)
Always write out your to-do list one day ahead. (Make it your last task of the day before.) That way, when you sit down at your desk in the morning, you’re ready to hit the ground running.
2. Keep a strict personal calendar (and “chunk” or segment your day)
We all use shared calendars to keep track of meetings, out-of-office periods, and deliverable due dates. But your calendar becomes a much more powerful tool when you start using it to schedule your own time — even if no one else sees it.
A great way to reliably get through your to-do list, crossing things off as 100% complete, is to dedicate chunks of uninterrupted time to one task and one task alone. In our personal experience, blocks of 1 to 2 hours work best.
Don’t just say to yourself, “Okay, I’m going to focus on drafting this blog for the next hour.” Put it on your calendar! It will create a little psychological push that will keep you focused on the task.
Of course, if you’re constantly being approached by coworkers for assistance, or for last-minute meetings, or just for small talk, it may help to make this calendar public. Regardless of whether you choose to share it or not, once you’ve scheduled a block of time for yourself, treat it as seriously as you would a meeting with your boss.
3. Batch-check your emails and phone calls
This tip is going to sound a bit extreme, but it’s been a game-changer for us at GSMM.
So many people keep their email open at all times, using it almost like a chat box — responding immediately to all correspondence. On the one hand, this can feel like you’re being maximally helpful, impressively on-call. But this can absolutely kill your productivity.
Instead, in accordance with tip #2 above, we suggest scheduling time to check your email and return phone calls. But here’s the crucial part: when you’re working on something else, close your email client or browser window. And consider actually turning your phone off completely.
Some of you may not need to take such an extreme measure. For some, silencing notifications may be enough. Some of you may need to silence notifications AND put your phone in a pocket or drawer, so you don’t ever see the screen flicker on. Maybe you can put your phone into airplane mode, and resist the temptation to pick it up again. But a dead phone in your pocket while you’re working on something important (which, on a small marketing team, is everything) helps to minimize that temptation.
Total peace. Total focus. For that chunk of the calendar, it’s like you’re working in an older, simpler time.
Oh, and one more thing: don’t schedule time to check your email first thing in the morning. If you do, you’re starting the day on someone else’s terms, not your own. I recommend dedicating the first “chunk” of your morning toward your most crucial task or project — this will create a momentum that will make your whole day more productive.
4. Delegate (and be creative about it)
When you look at your to-do list, it’s easy to fall into a trap of wanting to do it all yourself. After all, you have good ideas about how each job should be approached — even the smallest tasks, and especially if they involve some creative thinking. However, the reality is that doing everything yourself probably isn’t the most efficient use of your time.
Depending on your position within your marketing team, the real strength of your creativity might occasionally lie in your willingness to trust others, and to delegate effectively in ways other people may not consider.
Of course, if you’re on a small marketing team, everyone is probably as busy as you are — but look beyond your dedicated team. Depending on their backgrounds and ambitions, interns, digital assistants, or office managers can be excellent resources to help you complete certain tasks.
Just think: in the early days of your career, how grateful would you have been to work on developing a small piece of writing content, or conducting social media research, or helping produce a marketing video?
If you see a chance to give someone a small opportunity, and lighten your own workload in the process, take it!
5. Don’t burn yourself out
Finally, recognize that you, like everybody else, have limits — both physical and mental.
If you sit at a desk most of the day, be sure to move, get up and walk around, get your blood flowing. Stay hydrated — keep a water bottle handy, especially if you’re a big coffee drinker. And when you inevitably get stuck on a certain task, don’t hesitate to take a short break.
The alternative is pushing yourself too hard, which will make you sick more often, will hurt your motivation, and will hinder your creativity. That isn’t good for anybody.
So be generous to yourself, schedule the breaks you need, and your whole team will benefit.
Here’s your final tip — don’t just close this browser tab and go on with your day! Pick one tip from the list above that seems like it could be especially helpful to you, write it down and give it a shot TODAY (okay, maybe tomorrow). Change requires action, and now is the time.
Then, post a comment below or write to us on LinkedIn (or other social media) and let us know how it went! And if there are any other productivity tips you’ve picked up during your time in the trenches of digital marketing, please go ahead and share them in the comments as well.
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