With a neverending to-do list and multiple projects on the go, it is easy to constantly feel overwhelmed and close to burnout. Especially right now, when your work and home life have likely been mashed together, your business is quickly adapting to the times, and you have a lot of unanswered life-questions running through your mind.

Know that you’re not alone — 80% of marketers feel overloaded with work. The global pandemic hasn’t helped things either. If you’re now working from home, be aware that burnout is the number one problem for remote employees, as we toggle between worrying we are not doing enough to overworking (often as a way to prove our value). So to help avoid burnout, we’re providing tips and tools to help increase your productivity and relieve built-up tension and stress.

graph showing how marketers are feeling during covid-19

Source: Marketing Week

1. The Eisenhower Matrix

“What’s important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” – Dwight Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States of America.

Eisenhower was an extremely successful man. His list of accomplishments include being a five-star general in the United States Army, serving as President of Columbia University as well as the 34th president of the United States of America. During his presidency, he launched numerous programs including NASA.

He was able to achieve so much thanks to his numerous productivity strategies, his most famous being the Eisenhower Matrix. By deciding where tasks fall within the matrix, you’re able to suss out which to prioritize and how to manage your time.

Eisenhower Matrix

When assessing which quadrant tasks fall into, you need to understand what’s considered important and what’s considered urgent.

Important tasks:

These contribute to long-term goals (e.g. developing a new content strategy).

Urgent tasks: 

You feel these tasks need to be dealt with immediately (e.g. returning a phone call).

We have a bad tendency to prioritize all urgent tasks over important ones because they’re quicker to deal with or because important ones may not have looming deadlines (or an end date at all). You have to dedicate time to the important tasks, however, as they’re the ones that bring the most value.

Test it out by downloading and printing your own matrix template.

POWER UP YOUR PRODUCTIVITY

2. Time management techniques

Good time management helps you achieve more in less time. By being conscious of what you’re spending your time doing, you can eliminate time-wasting activities, work more efficiently and help ensure you allocate time to important tasks.

With many useful time management techniques available, it’s important to find the one that fits you and your work environment best.

Two popular methods we’re fans of are the Pomodoro technique and ‘Eat That Frog’. When you test them out, try each one for at least two weeks to determine whether or not they work for you.

Pomodoro technique

Developed by Francesco Cirillo, this technique involves you spending 25 minutes on a task, completely uninterrupted. When the time is up, you then take a short 5-minute break. Once you’ve repeated this routine four times,  you merit a longer break time that’s around 20 to 30 minutes long. This gives your brain downtime before the next round of tasks you’re about to knock out of the park.

Pomodoro food timer

As you practice this method you’ll get better at assessing how long a task is likely to take. It also helps prevent interruptions and lets you realize that others can wait 25 minutes before hearing back from you. This then allows you to worry less about not responding straight away. Once you learn to respect your time, others will too.

To help you practice the Pomodoro technique, use an app like Tomato Timers.

Eat that frog

The book Eat That Frog by self-help guru Brian Tracy revolves around the idea that you should tackle the most important or difficult task at the start of your day. This is to resolve our tendency to procrastinate large and/or important tasks. Starting the day by tackling the small, low-value tasks first to quickly tick them off of your to-do list will do you no favors. 

To do this, you need to assess and prioritize each outstanding item on your to-do list. The Eisenhower Matrix can be of help here. When you have chosen the frog (a.k.a. the one big important task you want to tick off the list), spend the morning working on it and leave the smaller tasks for the afternoon.

By the way, if you’re wondering where the phrase came from, Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

3. 1 to-do list to rule them all

We’ve referred to your do-to list a few times but how many do you currently have? Do you have a main one but unknowingly have a few more scattered around in different formats? If you have tasks saved in an app, on post-it notes, in your calendar, written in your notebook, or typed on your computer — it’s time to consolidate them.

Having tasks listed in more than one place should be immediately avoided. Multiple lists mean you risk losing lists, conflicting priorities, out-of-sight-out-of-mind to-dos, and wasting time jumping between them. This hinders your productivity and can make you become disorganized. The worst case is that you completely miss a deadline you forgot about and no one wants to experience (or relive) that.

To Do list says Own Today

So, pick your favorite and most-used method, add all your to-dos to it and delete or throw out all the others. This will give you a better idea of everything that’s on your plate and will let you prioritize your tasks correctly. Although this consolidated list may appear overwhelming, you can always use subheadings to help organize it.

Once you have done this, improve the quality of your to-do list by detailing exactly what you need to do. Don’t simply write “Call Jim”. Call Jim about what? Write “Call Jim to discuss where we are with the competitor analysis report”. This will save you time and mental energy trying to remember what the task is about.

4. Make your workday visible

If you or some of your team are working from home, you can’t turn to a colleague for a chat, or quickly see what everyone is doing. They also can’t see what you’re doing. This sometimes creates lags, miscommunication, or micro-management and trust issues which can add more stress.

To avoid this, make sure you keep your work calendar up-to-date. You may want to add more details than usual to provide others with more context. Plus, add in your lunch break so you can mentally relax when you take it.

If you use Slack, you can integrate it with your Google calendar so that it automatically displays when you’re in a meeting.

5. Have a designated workspace

If you’re working from home, it’s important to create a physical distinction between your workspace and the rest of your house which should only be associated with downtime. Although it’s tempting to hop on the sofa or work from bed — don’t. The challenge is that we are context-based creatures, so working on your couch means that your couch stays cognitively associated with work (and all the associated emotions). You’ve conditioned yourself to make this neural link, and there is no mental ‘stop button.’ On the other hand, the lure of the TV works in the same way. 

Having a ‘designated’ space changes this. Create a nice workspace in a spare room or in a corner. If you have to work at the kitchen table or living room, sit in the same seat and then make sure you put away all of your work things at the end of the day so that you’re not constantly reminded of work throughout the evening.

Another reason to avoid the sofa or bed is that it’s important to use a good chair and have your screen set to eye level. Not only will the right setup be easier on your body – it will also help you get things done more efficiently. The state of the mind is quickly influenced by the posture of the body. An alert body equals an alert brain.