It seems that marketers under more strain than ever before. A report by Workfront not so long ago revealed that 80% of marketers consider themselves overloaded and understaffed, with 25% claiming to be ‘highly stressed’. Sound familiar?

Marketing tends to be involved in a huge variety of projects across the business, with staff often managing or coordinating cross-functional teams on complex tasks. Combine this with the fact there is an ever-closer eye on campaign KPIs, along with today’s ‘always on’ culture and it’s clear we have very little breathing space…everything B2B marketers do has to count!

Acknowledging the problem may be the first step towards a solution, but what are the subsequent steps that will make a practical difference? Some challenges we face will not be disappearing any time soon, but there are a number of action-points that may improve our ability to work more efficiently and effectively and therefore reduce the strain.

Be clear on your goals

The single most important thing we can do to improve productivity is to be absolutely clear on our goals. It’s very easy to be busy, but if you lose sight of your goal then there’s a good chance you’re being busy doing stuff which will not take you to where you need to be. Most of us are aware of our goals, but that doesn’t stop us losing focus occasionally. Of course, if you really haven’t been set clear goals then addressing that is the first place to start.

In a recent B2B Marketing seminar session, Pete Jakob, MD and founder of Purple Salix, suggested that once you have your goals nailed, there are four steps to follow that will lead to improved productivity.

We can generally remember no more than 4 to 7 things on a mental list and so inevitably some things will fall way off our radar.

Capture what needs doing

Everybody loves a list, and it turns out there’s a very good reason for the process of physically writing them down. We can generally remember no more than 4 to 7 things on a mental list and so inevitably some things will fall way off our radar. Aside from the fact it will prevent us from forgetting important activities, the writing of lists also forces the goal-setter to examine the tasks with a holistic view. By seeing the tasks in bite-sized chunks, many will feel like things are simply more achievable.

Clarify how important it is

The next step is to break all tasks into three categories depending on the focus, energy and time it takes to do them. The theory here is that it will help you prioritise activity. If it is a critical client project it’s fair to assume it may require a more urgent focus than basic administrative activity. Secondly, we should categorise tasks in terms of the time and energy required to complete them – perhaps it requires a long and intense effort or maybe a shorter, less strenuous period of attention is all that’s needed?

Then do the ‘do’

Now that you have your to-do list and you’ve identified the priorities based on key criteria, it’s time to get your head down.There are a host of different techniques to help establish and maintain focus, and, while Pete recommended some of those below in his session, the best advice is to explore a selection of them and find out what works for you.

Here are just three techniques you may want to consider:

  1. The ‘1, 3, 5’ technique essentially assumes you can only achieve 1 big thing, 3 medium things and 5 small things each day and attempts to make your to-do list realistic.
  2. The Pomodoro technique (based on the old cooking timer) which is all about working in short intense bursts to get things done then taking frequent breaks.
  3. The Eisenhower matrix which helps to prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or not do at all.

While these techniques can be highly effective, they don’t account for external distractions. For example, 50% of us check our mobile phones more than 50 times a day! The best productivity ‘hack’ here is to simply stop looking at mobile devices or even to put them well out of reach.

Then there’s the time we spend checking email. While most of us can’t just put our computers away in a draw (next to your mobile!) it may be a good idea to schedule time where you don’t check or reply to emails at all. When you do access email another top productivity tip is to make sure you process it effectively by either replying, deleting, archiving or deferring as appropriate – the empty in-box may seem like the holy grail, but it is achievable! Another distraction to overcome can be office meetings. Considerations to boost productivity here include reducing the number of them where possible, ensuring an agenda is set in advance, only attending when actually relevant to you, keeping them concise and agreeing next actions.

Take the time to reflect

The final step proposed by Pete was to take the time to look back on your level of productivity success. B2B marketers know better than anybody how important it is to measure campaign results, and in a way this is no different. Be sure to reflect at the end of the week on your tasks to understand what you’ve achieved and what still needs doing.