This post was originally published in June 2017 and was updated and rewritten for freshness in February 2021.
It’s a new day.
You brush your hair, scrub your teeth, and put on a pair of pants. Then, drive to the office and sit down at your desk, soaking in the morning sunshine.
Well, that was then. Now you might roll out of your bed into your desk chair with bedhead and pajama pants. It all depends on whether or not you “need” to get dressed to be productive.
As you log on, you notice that your coworker wants to get started on next Thursday’s blog post.
You begin brainstorming blog ideas, reading articles on closely related topics. As you start to jot one down, you get a ping from your coworker asking you if you could share today’s blog post. You schedule one Twitter post before another coworker has an urgent request for copy.
Before you know it, your day is more than half over. All those extra projects you wanted to start have been left by the wayside as you scramble from one task to another, trying fruitlessly to keep track of what you are doing.
This is the reality for many marketers, who increasingly wear a diverse set of different hats. The key to getting it all done lies in using the tried and true time management strategies.
This post is designed to help you create processes to get more done.
Morning Task List/Freewriting/Updates
The first thing I do when I sit down in the morning is update and start my lists for the day. If I skip this step, I have a much less productive day.
In the past, this list has often been in a legal pad or notebook. Recently, I determined that I needed to be able to see my lists individually without having to flip through a book. These also are something I prefer to keep on paper primarily.
There, I write out a list of all the things I need to accomplish that day. I have particular lists for all the particular “subjects” in my life. I have lists for:
- HIPB2B – I have several lists including daily, weekly, and more general lists
- Freelance Jobs
- Performance Arts – Business/Communications
- Performance Arts – Actual Projects
That’s just a few. I use these lists to start to shape what needs to be done.
I keep these lists updated much better than in a notebook because I can put them side-by-side and look at several lists while I also use my screen for actually doing the tasks.
I like to make my lists super granular, meaning that each task is broken down into the tiniest steps. In fact, I try to think about the smallest first step I could take on something. That usually means starting by closing out the prior task and open the documents and programs needed for the next task.
Another great idea to implement is checking your lists from the previous day and rolling over tasks. To keep your list from getting too long or overwhelming, consider if the task is worth migrating over to the next day or if you didn’t accomplish it because it wasn’t crucial.
Set Flexible Deadlines for Subtasks
Making the entire final draft due without acknowledging the smaller, simpler tasks is a fast track for missed publish dates.
Set dates and times for all pieces of your content creation process, from proposal to publish. This includes the multiple edit points, the graphic being created, and all the pieces being put together.
Having deadlines for each step of the process will keep you and your team organized while also allowing room for a busy day or few.
Create a Procrastination Log
A friend of mine recommended the book “The Now Habit” in which the reader is taught gentle self-awareness into the reasons they’re procrastinating. That looks like recording the reasons you’re putting something off. Just being able to see the why of your procrastination helps you ease into overcoming it. One of the first steps is creating a Procrastination Log. That looks like this.
|Date and Time||Activity and Priority||Thoughts and Feelings||Justification||Attempted Solution||Resultant Thoughts|
We aren’t going to go into it in that much detail in this post. But recording this for a while starts to build awareness for those unconscious procrastination patterns. Here’s my personal template.
Then I ask, “What is the smallest first step I can take?” Then write it down and get started.
Being granular with this kind of stuff makes it easier to get more done. You feel like you are accomplishing more, which in turn makes you want to accomplish more because it feels so good.
Set Hourly Deadlines
One November morning in 2016, I was having a very difficult time focusing on my job because of a current world event. I was distracted, and that’s before I knew what 2020 had in store for us.
I wrote the reason down, then wrote down my hourly priorities so I could not get swept away checking the news. I set my timer and did those things.
This hyper-structured methodology is as effective as the amount of effort you put in. It’s easier to benchmark your day and ensure that you are working at the proper pace.
Following these tips, when you turn off your work computer for the day, you’ll feel relaxed and content with the amount you’ve gotten done.
Use a Timer
I’ve experimented with a lot of different methods for timing my work. There’s a method called the Pomodoro Timer, which is basically interval training for your focus.
There are countless apps for it, but after years of experimenting, I like my timer to be physical, not on a screen.
I need to be able to see the timer no matter how many tabs I have open. I also prefer to use an analog timer so I can see time passing visually. This is the timer I use.
For me, the easiest module is to have one hour “on” and 5 minutes “off” but I suggest you play with that arrangement. Sometimes it can be easier to start with a shorter block of “on” time or treat yourself with a longer “off” time.
These four tips are a great start to creating a better workflow and a better-organized workday. In marketing, time is money, so it is important to not waste either. These tips will help you keep focused and ensure that your best content comes out at just the right time.
- What is your morning process like?
- How do you record new ideas?
- Do you have any favorite time management techniques you might have missed?