You know you need to make time to focus on long-term priorities. But one thing no one has figured out (yet) is how to create more time. Do you feel like day-to-day tasks overwhelm your team? Not sure where to begin in strategic planning?
Based on time management discussions I’ve had with agency consultant Karl Sakas at Sakas & Company and my own experiences, I’ve learned that if you don’t manage your time, no one else will. I talk about this often with my own team. You might have the luxury of leaving the details to someone else, but no matter what your role, you have to be responsible for your own time. Here are three time management techniques I’ve used to meet my goals that can help you better manage your time.
#1: Know your goals
The first step in managing your time more effectively is to decide what you want to accomplish with that time. Start with the big-picture goals that will realistically take you years to achieve, then work your way down to the day-to-day.
Set longer term, say one, two or five year goals. For example, if your marketing team desires to become more strategic in their planning and execution efforts, your one-year goal could be to increase the number of strategic marketing initiatives that are launched internally. Using the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, focus on what gives you 80% of the results with 20% of the effort. For example, steps to meet this one-year goal may include:
- Assess where time executing marketing initiatives is currently spent
- Identify top strategic efforts that will directly support your business goals
- Commit to a target on strategic initiatives launched (i.e., number of marketing strategies executed per month)
- Include strategic priorities in monthly goal-setting (see below)
- Make monthly adjustments based on issues encountered
Set monthly goals (including pre-goals to help meet these monthly goals). For example, a monthly goal could be to review your team’s task list and mark tasks that fall into the category of strategic efforts. If you don’t already have these tasks outlined in a project management system, your pre-goal would be to schedule time to gather the task list.
An additional monthly goal could be to categorize strategic efforts and the pre-goal would be to meet with your team and determine what additional marketing strategies should be added to the priority list.
Once you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, it’s time to figure out how to turn that vision into reality by bubbling the priorities up to the top of the to-do list.
Rationalize your team’s tasks by evaluating whether to Drop, Delegate, Delay, or Do, a productivity strategy introduced by time-management expert, Dr. John Lee. Continuing with our example to increase your marketing team’s strategic efforts, you need to determine where to focus time and effort. That is, what can your team Drop, Delegate, or Delay? The remaining tasks are the Do.
It’s back to the task list to see what clutter can be cleared away. What tasks are no longer needed? What should you delegate either internally or by bringing in outside assistance? What is still important but can be delayed so your team can focus on meeting this month’s strategic goal?
Finally, work with your team to block out heads-down time to help them focus on those strategic tasks that always tend to fall to the bottom of the pile.
#3: Make it a habit
The final step is to turn this new, streamlined approach into a repeatable process so that you stay focused and on track day after day.
Create a repeating daily or weekly task for yourself and your team to find items that have snuck onto your task lists or changed priority that you can now Drop, Delegate, or Delay. One of the tools Karl shares with his agency clients is a “Top 5 Daily Checklist”. It helps you outline today’s top five tasks to work on, in priority order, along with some smaller items that are easier to complete and may be unrelated to the priority task. After completing one of the top fives, you can take a break and then turn to a smaller task or two to give you a sense of accomplishment.
For example, if one marketing strategy you would like to implement is to build out a customer nurture, then one of the top five daily tasks could be to pull a list of current content available to support a customer nurture. Once that’s completed, you might grab a coffee and then make a few calls or answer an email or two. Then, you can move on to task number two and repeat the process.
Breaking up the bigger, more challenging tasks with little breaks and smaller tasks is a great way to stay focused and motivated throughout the day.
As you have probably noticed, this is not a one and done process. It’s a continuous approach to building in time to work on long-term priorities. When you first implement these steps, you may find it hard not to slip back into daily firefighting mode. If that’s your current habit, after a couple of weeks …(or months), you’ll find that you’ve started chipping away at the bigger goals.
Our team is using the task management system, Asana, to support these techniques. We use projects to track our quarterly goals, create lists for weekly agendas, and enable each person to manage their daily tasks. It’s helping us stay on track with our daily work as well as provide a structure to meet our long-term goals.
If you need guidance in meeting your strategic marketing goals we’d love to talk with you. Our focus is on providing the right tools and expertise to support your marketing and revenue goals.
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