With a neverending to-do list and multiple projects on the go, it is easy to constantly feel overwhelmed and close to a burnout. Especially right now, when you’re firing on all cylinders to make sure this year’s holiday campaigns are a success.
However, you need to know that you’re not alone. In fact, 80% of marketers feel overloaded with work. So to help avoid burnout, we’re providing tips and tools to help increase your productivity and relieve built-up tension and stress.
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 includes being a five-star general in the United States Army, served as President of Columbia University, was the 34th president of the United States of America and 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 tasks to prioritize and how to manage your time.
When assessing which quadrant tasks fall into, you need to understand what’s considered important and what’s considered urgent.
These contribute to long-term goals (e.g. developing a new content strategy).
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). However, we have to dedicate time to the important tasks as they’re the ones that bring the most value.
Test it out by downloading and printing your own matrix template.
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.
Here are two popular methods we’re fans of. Test them out by trying each one for two weeks and see which one you prefer.
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 a nice break before the next round of tasks you’re about to knock out of the park.
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 or start the day by tackling all the small, low-value tasks first so we can quickly tick them off of our to-do list.
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 all.
Having tasks listed in more than one place should be immediately avoided. Multiple lists mean you risk: losing lists, having conflicting priorities, having out-of-sight-out-of-mind to-dos, and wasting time jumping between them and organizing them all. 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.
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. Marketing automation
Marketing automation software has become so sophisticated in recent years that it is a fantastic and powerful tool for marketers. Its ability to automate a wide variety of repetitive and time-consuming tasks means it improves productivity and frees up marketers’ time which can allow them to shift their focus towards strategy. Therefore, it’s great in helping marketers avoid burnout. Venture Harbour reports that the biggest benefit of automation is saving time. Additionally, organizations that have automated lead management sees a 10% or more increase in revenue within the year.
Reduce your workload and make more time for important value-adding tasks by leveraging marketing automation. Tasks that can be automated include but not limited to:
- Social media postings
- Email marketing
- Communication workflows
- Analytics and reporting
- Data population and management
- Lead scoring
- Lead nurturing
- Sales and task alerts
If you are already using marketing automation software like HubSpot, make sure you’re using it to the full and staying up to date with new features. Use sequences to help maintain your data quality and integrate the likes of HubSpot with Slack so that your sales team is notified every time they have an outstanding to do or there is a new lead.
5. Quieten all message notifications
It’s hard to stay focused when you’re subjected to constant notifications about new texts, emails, and instant messages. Even when you glance at the notification but “ignore it”, it has still been a distraction and weakens your ability to focus back on the task at hand. Research shows that when we’re distracted by something like a notification, it can take us around 15 minutes to get back to a good level of concentration on the interrupted task. In fact, switching from one task to another can cause a 40% loss in productivity.
So when you’re about to focus on a task or starting the 25-minute Pomodoro stint, do the following:
Put your mobile phone on silent and then put it out of sight. If you also get non-important phone calls on your desk phone, use the do-not-disturb (DND) setting which sends it straight to voicemail.
Turn off email notifications. If you really struggle with this then only allow notifications from certain VIPs.
If your organization is using platforms like Slack, there are a number of ways you can manage your notifications:
- Remove yourself from channels you no longer need to be in.
- Mute channels that you want to remain apart of but don’t need notifications from.
- Use the “snooze notifications” setting or the do-not-disturb status to let others know you won’t be responding right away.
You can catch up on your messages and reply during allocated times or within the Pomodoro breaks.
6. Take a break from screen time
How many times have you been working on your computer only to realize that several hours have drifted by? Sitting at your desk and staring at the screen for too long negatively affects both your body and your mind. So taking regular breaks to move around and to stay hydrated is important.
Try the Healthy Browsing Chrome extension. This sends you notifications that remind you to blink, drink water, stretch and check your posture. You can even customize how often the alerts happen for each reminder.
7. Take a step back and breathe
Never underestimate the power of taking a deep breath. If you are a yoga enthusiast or enjoy meditating, you’re probably aware of the calming and composing effect it has on our mind and body. Taking beep, slow breaths have been proven to reduce tension, relieve stress and relax us. It draws our attention away from our worries and focuses it instead on our bodies.
So the next time you feel overwhelmed, on the verge of a burnout, or about to start a large and complex task – take a deep breathe and feel yourself relax. Inhale slowly through the nose and exhale slowly through the mouth. Then when you are feeling calm, assess your situation from a fresh and positive perspective.
We find this so powerful, it’s embedded in our philosophy. By taking a step back (or more like a 50,000-foot view) and spending time looking at things holistically, we’re able to develop the right strategy so our clients can find clarity in chaos.
In our series of posts that looked into the future of marketing, one message was particularly clear. The marketing landscape continues to change at an accelerated rate and in order to survive, it’s crucial marketers keep up with it. Read our tips on how to adapt and prepare for the future now and keep your stress levels low.