I see quite a lot of posts here about productivity and how marketing people can better manage their time. I really wanted to write on this topic, as I am one of those people who learned about the importance of productivity and time management the hard way.
I learned (and I’m still learning) time management and productivity after losing a handful of clients and making some really difficult decisions, but I’m glad that even after losing a lot of money and clients, I am finally getting how to actually do more in less time without compromising quality.
I am writing this piece so that other people can save time and money and learn from the mistakes I have made in my career.
Clearly Define What Productivity Means To YOU:
Out of several definitions I found online, I personally think this one make the most sense: the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.
In order to be productive, you need to combine efforts either for your website (in-house) or for your clients (agency), so that you can deliver quality work on-time. Later in the post, I am going to discuss a few ideas that will help you improve your productivity and accomplish more with less effort.
The To-Do List
One habit I have managed to adopt is creating a to-do list first thing in the morning. If you are working on multiple projects or if you have several different tasks at hand, it’s best to create a to-do list for the day and set priorities accordingly.
For the rest of the day, instead of focusing on several different things, just focus on finishing your to-do list. I don’t always finish everything on my list every day, but I do manage to accomplish a lot more this way.
Only Check Your Email Twice Per Day
If you are a link builder or an account manager for a busy agency, you will receive emails throughout the day. Some emails will be important, while others will be junk, or at least less important.
Emails can easily distract you from the work you are trying to finish, so it’s best to schedule times throughout the day to check and respond to them. In the meantime, just don’t look at your inbox!
I check my email twice a day. Once at the start of the day and once after lunchtime! This helps me save a lot of time and focus more on my work.
Turn Your Mobile Wi-Fi Off
I didn’t realize how important this was until I actually started doing it. Most of us have our email, our social media accounts and other apps linked to our smartphones. When your phone rings or your screen starts to blink, sometimes it’s hard to avoid checking it.
You should turn off your Wi-Fi in order to avoid any unwanted updates. You can still keep up with personal issues via phone and SMS and save time on work accordingly.
I am social media savvy and you might see me on Facebook and Twitter all the time. But I wait until I check my email to check my social media feeds, apps and other stuff.
Learn And Enforce The "Headphones Rule"
“If both ears are covered, do not interrupt. If only one ear is covered, it’s OK to interrupt to talk about work.” - Barry Adams
I learned this trick from my favorite SEO brain in the industry Barry Adams. Just print this graphic and put it on the wall.
This will save you a lot of time. If your coworker needs to interrupt you, it won’t take as long because they’ll already know you’re busy with other stuff.
This trick really helps me, as I am currently working remotely for Workplace Depot, and I usually spend my time at a desk that I rent in a shared office space with many other like-minded people who sometimes want my opinion on different things.
Outsource Time-Intensive Jobs
Writing descriptions for 100 new products for your catalog, editing the blog post you’ve just written—these kinds of jobs are really important, but they will eat up a lot of your time. Why not outsource these jobs to smart people using websites like UPwork or Express Writers.
This will help you save time and finish your work more quickly; you will also build connections with other smart people in the industry. Plus, if you find a really skilled person, you can hire them full-time and strengthen your team accordingly.
These days, I devote a lot of my time to writing quality pieces for different blogs, so I prefer using Express Writers for editing.
Get Plenty Of Sleep
You might find it difficult, but try to make a habit of sleeping at least seven to eight hours a day. This will not only help you physically but will also lead to greater work productivity, especially if your work involves lot of writing and creativity.
Sleeping six to seven hours a day will keep your mind alert, lead to more creativity and allow you to keep a fresh perspective on your work.
I am not saying I am very good at it, but I try my best to sleep at least five hours at night and wake up early in the morning, which helps me work faster and more efficiently.
Above are a few ideas I have adopted in the last two years, but it takes more than forming new habits to be successful-- you need some tools to help you with that. In the next section of this post, I will discuss some tools that I use to help me stay focused and produce more work in less time.
Most of my tools are focused on SEO and marketing, as Inbound is my bread and butter.
Project management tools allow people to coordinate and commune with clients and other team members. In my agency life, I always preferred using Basecamp and Trello for internal communication with my team.
Basecamp is great as compare to emails. On emails it’s difficult to cope up with everything whereas with basecamp allow you and your client will talk under one threat so chance of miscommunication will be next to none.
The reason I use Trello for internal communication is because it’s quick and easily. You don’t really have to think about updating statuses all the time. You can just drag and drop to get the job done. The best part about Trello is that it tracks time automatically.
Dropbox and Google Drive
These are file sharing tools that allow people to save their documents and files in the cloud. They can be great time-saving tools for marketers who have to deliver work under tight deadlines. You can just save your files and work on the go.
I work on content-based strategies mostly, so I prefer Google Docs because it allows me to share my pieces with other team members, and get their opinions much more easily and quickly.
If social media is your main concern, or if it’s important for you to stay active on social medial platforms, then this Hootsuite or Tweet deck should be your ultimate choice as these software allow you to schedule tweets and statuses for the future. Just schedule your content to post at the right time automatically.
Startups usually have small teams and have to work harder to compete with longstanding companies. If you are a marketer for a startup, you no doubt have more responsibilities than simply checking the health of your company’s website.
When you are busy, Moz.com will crawl your website, point out important factors, and tell you what you need to fix on your website, link building, internal linking and more.
Speaking of processes, as a marketer, there are lots of things you have to do again and again--repetitive tasks!
Sweet Process allows you to document all those repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time and create a beautifully designed PDF and link that you can share with the rest of your team.
There must be others tools I could think of, but naming too many can be confusing, so I am sticking with the ones that can do most of your job automatically that give you extra time to focus on other areas.
Tips from the Experts:
I know some amazing people who have a great name when it comes to digital marketing and SEO, so I thought I would ask them what tricks they use to save time and improve productivity at work.
Being productive is all about prioritizing and making sure you don’t get distracted. There are some incredible tools that can help with prioritization--I love Trello and use tools like Buzzstream every single day to manage relationship building and outreach. Try to plan your week as best you can. For example, every Monday morning, I plan and schedule my tweets for the whole week. I will still monitor and tweet during the week, but 90 percent of my Twitter workload is already complete (Feedly is a great tool for collating content from your favorite websites and authors). Unplanned issues do sometimes arise, but if you are organized, you can easily manage them.
So, we’re in the middle of conducting Internet marketing or SEO strategic “brain surgery” and we think, “My head’s about to explode. I need a break. I’ll just quickly check my email,” and BOOM, we lose focus. A half hour later, we’re looking up at the clock wondering where the last half hour went.
Or we’re working away, head down and breathing fire when we’re asked a question by someone in the office who needs an answer yesterday.
If you’re like me, it can take 15-20 minutes (or more) to get back into the zone if you succumb to emails or people who need attention.
So what can we do? Here’s a few tips that I hope will help you as much as they’ve helped me:
- Check your email once in the morning, preferably first thing, and take care of anything “urgent.” Then don’t look at your inbox until later in the afternoon.
Here’s how my day usually goesMy timings for this are:
- Before 9:30 a.m. - check / reply / write emails
- 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. - brain surgery (work!)
- 5:00 – 5:30 p.m. - check / reply / write emails
This way, your work won’t suffer. The key is to stay within these time frames and avoid temptation.
- To avoid interruptions, move to Mars! (Hint: you’ll never avoid them; it’s how you manage them that counts.)
Repeat after me: “My time is important. I do love the human race, but I will focus on being productive and help them when I’m finished.” Wasn’t too hard was it?
Don’t get me wrong, helping others is what makes us human (we love it, right?); and if someone needs our help, of course we should happily give it. But another person’s “now” doesn’t have to become your “now” now, does it?
So, we need to get a little better at saying “I’d love to help, but I’m tied up / busy / conducting brain surgery right now, so can we discuss this later when I can focus more on your question?”
(Just between us, no one wants an unfocused answer, so they’ll either need to wait till you’re finished (or free), or ask someone else). Don’t feel guilty! You’re just following through with a promise you’ve already made to another person - and keeping your word counts for everything. Just make sure when you’re finished that you give that other person a focused answer.
The best advice I can give for being as productive as possible is to go all out on one thing at a time. If I'm working on an article, I might devote an hour to it one day then I'll spend the next hour organizing the billing or doing outreach. I've found that an hour is about the right amount of time for me to tackle a big task.
My best advice for being productive is to choose the correct software for communication. We use Slack for team communication, which cuts down on our email clutter immensely. We use Basecamp for detailing and assigning tasks (which works very well for monitoring also). We hold meetings only when there's no other way around it.
I personally avoid Twitter, G+, personal email, etc., for most of the day (with a few planned exceptions). I try very hard to stick to the work at hand and avoid distractions. I am very distractible unfortunately.
In order to stay up-to-date in the world of marketing you need to be productive and above I shared some of the productivity hacks that I have learned over the years which help me produce more in less time. I also shared tips from some of the experts within the digital marketing industry and how they stay product in their regular day.