It is my unashamedly biased opinion that marketers are involved in the largest number and widest variety of projects of all business functions. The nature of many roles within the marketing team can mean they touch almost all departments including sales, finance, operations, legal, IT and more. The reality of all this is that we’re a busy bunch, often managing multiple highly complex projects at any one time. Exciting as it is to be in this position, it can lead to us being a time-stretched, overwhelmed resource. In this post we share three very different but highly effective steps to improve productivity.
1.Adopt a lean philosophy and appreciate process
A ‘lean’ method normally refers to an improvement in any process through the elimination of waste, based on the ideas of Continuous Improvement (also known as Kaizen). Anything that’s done more than once or done once, but by a significant number of people, can be deemed worthy of investment in process. From developing and publishing content to lead scoring and the passing of leads on to sales, marketing is littered with processes and so it is immediately clear that a lean philosophy can provide a tremendous opportunity to work smarter. Importantly, process in this instance isn’t just focused on efficiency, it is also designed to make work easier and improve the quality and consistency of that work.
The learning point here is that to appreciate the value of process, we must look for ways to improve, and stick to that process while continuously looking for opportunities to make things better. For some there will be a number of quick wins to be had here to improve work efficiency, while virtually everybody benefit in the longer term by applying this approach to their work.
2.Turn to the Eisenhower matrix
The latest project management software is designed to make our lives easier and certainly helps us to work smarter and more collaboratively, but what it doesn’t do so well is help to prioritise an overwhelming workload. Prior to becoming the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower served as a general in the US army where he developed a system to prioritise tough decisions about which of the many tasks he should focus. Many readers will be aware of the Eisenhower matrix, while some may benefit from a refresher and others may not have heard of this tool which prioritises tasks based on urgency and importance.
If a task is considered important, but not urgent then it can stay on the list but be scheduled for another time. If the task is both important and urgent it needs to feature at the top of the list. If it is not important, but definitely urgent then it should be carried out swiftly, but perhaps delegated to a team member. If you find that a task is neither urgent or important then you can cut it from your list all together. This simple tool which orders tasks, can identify opportunities for delegation and even remove non-essential tasks completely, could well be the ultimate productivity hack for any marketer!
3.Avoid ‘cognitive load’ with these top tips
Our working memory has a limited capacity, which is why if we try to memorise a list, most of us will only ever remember a maximum of 7 things! As a result of this, not everything we experience can be processed and passed through to our long-term memory. Cognitive load, which refers to the total amount of mental activity imposed on working memory in any one instant, is a big deal here as we’re becoming increasingly vulnerable to overload. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that we’re now busier than ever with more complex projects to manage, while at the same time we face a phenomenal variety of distractions.
With this in mind, it’s important to work smart to limit the volume of inbound information our memory has to cope with. A few simple tips to help achieve this include:
- Turning off your phone off, closing down email or other inbound alerts which may cause distraction when working on a complex task
- Scheduling activity so that complicated tasks are carried out at an optimum time of day depending on when we’re most effective (some of us are morning people while others may be better at managing difficult tasks later in the afternoon)
- Mix activities up throughout the day so that you’re brain isn’t focussing on back-to-back complex activities to the point that it becomes ineffective
- Avoid multitasking as the reality is you will probably achieve those activities in a less time efficient way than if you just did them separately in the first place (and you’ll do them to a poorer quality)
The three productivity hacks in this post each approach efficiency from a distinctly different angle, but they all have the potential to have a significant impact on time management and work quality. Why not try them out, see what works for you and enjoy your new-found productivity!