Around this time every year my husband and I do a deep clean of our apartment and clear out all the junk that’s been accumulating in our garage. It always feels good to start fresh, and it got me thinking about how we, as marketers, should be applying this annual practice of “spring cleaning” to our everyday jobs.
I mean, we multitask like it’s nobody’s business. We write, analyze data, network, and create. We manage people, projects, and expectations on the daily. And as a result, sometimes our inboxes, files, desks etc. can get a little out of hand. For this blog post, we polled 10 marketing influencers for inspiration on how they keep focused, organized, and productive. Hopefully you can incorporate some of these tips into your daily routine.
Stephanie Tilton: B2B Content Marketing Consultant
Opt for a desk that fits just your must-haves: with only a laptop, phone, and pad of paper in sight, you stay focused. Set aside an hour each month to trash sent and deleted email messages. Create email and file folders for each client, and sub-folders for each project. Be disciplined about transferring messages and files the minute they come in so you don’t waste time trying to pair files with projects down the road.
Matt Heinz: President, Heinz Marketing
I have two rules that I try to follow on a daily basis in order to stay productive and focused. The “two-minute rule” means that if it’s in your inbox and takes two minutes or less to complete, do it right now. If it’s not worth doing, get rid of it. If you don’t have two minutes right now, you probably shouldn’t be checking your email anyway! “The five-minute rule” means that I always give myself exactly five minutes to start something that’s hard. After five minutes, it’s typically not nearly as intimidating, plus I have a better sense of how long it’s actually going to take to complete. And oftentimes, I just get it done right there and then.
Jason Miller: Group Manager, Content Marketing and Social Media at LinkedIn
I’m constantly coming up with ideas for content pieces and blog posts, and I keep them all organized in One Note. It works great when I’m on the go as I can snap photos of inspiration and quickly jot down titles and topic ideas that come to me throughout the day. Any good writer or content marketer knows that you can never have too many good ideas, but it’s very easy to overlook the best ones when you keep adding but fail to execute. At the end of each quarter, I go through and do some “spring cleaning” of the ideas and titles that are no longer relevant, while prioritizing the top 10 ideas and assign due dates to them for the following quarter. The important thing is that no great idea gets left behind.
For the second Spring in a row, to make sure we are all as focused as possible, we use Objectives and Key Results (OKR) as our process for setting, aligning, and communicating goals. April 1st happens to be our fiscal new year so, serendipitously, it’s in the Spring that we build out our annual OKRs for the company. It’s a pretty big deal deciding what everyone’s priorities will be for the entire year! To make sure we’re on track, all the teams prep quarterly OKRs (and, yes, measure their last quarter’s performance) and make them available for everyone in our internal wiki and posted on walls around the office. Is it perfect? Not a chance. But it’s definitely helped us to focus and align efforts despite headcount increasing by over 50% last year.
Another one of our favorite things to do as a way of changing gears is moving everyone’s desks around. It’s amazing what a boost such a simple change can have on morale.
I start every day with three priorities. The list of to-dos can grow, but your priorities should never grow. They could change based on what’s going on, but I limit it to three and when I finish them off, I cross off my Slack box, which makes me feel accomplished. The reality is that the list of things to do is never-ending and hence, it’s super important to have your priorities clear, every day. I think this makes me happy even with chaos all around me.
Shari Johnston: SVP of Marketing at Radius
A great deal of time is spent repeating marketing program and event details around the organization. Often resending similar information repeatedly….”Do you have that deck you presented last month again?” or “Are we attending this event in New York?” Sound familiar? While I always aim to run a marketing team that is helpful and accessible, I also believe in transparency and “training” your organization on how to engage with us efficiently. My solution? Setting up an intranet page or a “Marketing Center” where my team posts a centralized calendar of upcoming programs and events, marketing content and results all in a one-stop shop access. Continually point to your Marketing Center to find marketing details and everyone wins. The organization feels enabled, and we streamline our inboxes.
Laura Ruszkowski: Manager, Demand Gen & Marketing Ops at Kenshoo
To keep up with this fast-paced company and stay on top of my workload, I need to be organized and efficient. My preferred method of tracking projects and tasks is the old-fashioned pen and paper “To-Do” list. Having a thought out list of things I need to accomplish within the week provides me with guidance and allows me to hone in on my priorities. As an added plus, I feel proud and accomplished when I get to physically cross something off of my list and see the progress I’m able to make within the workweek.
Not only is it important to organize my tasks and project, but I also find it beneficial to pick up and clean my desk! Think about it — we eat, drink, work, and breathe at our desks 40+ hours a week, which means a lot accumulates. I find it helpful to clean my workspace regularly and be sure that my desk isn’t too cluttered so that I feel comfortable and am able to be as productive as possible.
Brian Honigman: Content Marketing Consultant and Adjunct Professor at NYU School of Professional Studies
To remain focused and outline priorities every day, I use Google Inbox and Google Keep to keep everything work-wise organized. Email is obviously an important communication tool, but what I love about Google Inbox is it allows me to ‘snooze’ emails, which removes them from my inbox to return at a later date when I have time to respond, especially if the email isn’t necessary to respond to right away. This feature helps me think more critically about each email I receive and when and if it needs a response. In tandem with email, I use Google Keep to create a daily to-do list of everything that needs to get done as well as some items that could get done if time allows for it. I make a list every day of the top five things that need to get done that day in order to stay focused and productive. Completing anything else outside of those five things must come after or can wait until a later date to be addressed. This helps me prioritize but also manages my guilt around finishing certain tasks over others.
Dave Rigotti: Head of Marketing at Bizible
We’re a full-on agile marketing team with weekly scrum meetings. We keep track of everything in Trello and sometimes it can just get a little stale, mostly projects/priorities changing or being stopped altogether. About once a month, it’s important for me to go through all the open cards and do a full review of what’s open/closed. Often times I see something that has constantly been pushed down because it was lower priority and have a spark of inspiration, so it actually isn’t just a cleanse, but a reinvigoration too.
Kyle Christensen: VP of Marketing at Invoca
The challenge isn’t to figure out how to multi-task to get more and more things done. Yes, there are many great tools that help you do more stuff, but it’s a trap. You’ll never run out of stuff you could do. True productivity comes from identifying the top three or five things that really matter to your business, and to ruthlessly focus on those items, ignoring everything else. At Invoca, our team keeps a simple Google Doc with everyone’s “Top 5” initiatives. It’s public, any of us can see the one another’s priorities, and it’s a great, very simple tool for driving alignment on the most strategic things. If it’s not on that list, it ain’t getting done.
Do you have any “spring cleaning” tips of your own? Share them in the comments below!