Ten Tips To Be A Productive, Sane and Happy Marketing Professional

We all experience the ridiculously rapid pace of business today where we multi-task, juggle and struggle along from the break of dawn until the wee small hours of the night.

Our Outlook calendar beeps that we have a meeting coming up in 15 minutes, our kids are texting us, the bing of another email pops in as our cell phone rings while we are on our direct phone line.  We need to respond to several tweets and your day is just beginning. You have 231 new emails to peruse and your boss wants you to join him on a three hour conference call. It can feel like you are walking into a hurricane. Naked. 

Everything feels urgent. Expectations are high. It is as if the marketing world has been downing espressos and you are driving in the high-speed lane. At most companies, there is less planning and pro-activity from this sprint. 

Marketing is often in reaction mode. Who has time to think? 

Finding balance is difficult but I think there are some important tactics to help triage the incoming to make sure you are focused on the critically important. For marketers, it’s especially important because so much of what we do today has become even more time sensitive through social media. 

These are ten things I do each day to help me juggle the lightning fast pace in my marketing world.  I’m not suggesting these ideas will work for you but after 30 plus years in marketing, I have picked up a few tactics that help me stay productive, sane and happy.

SITTING QUIETLY FOR 15 MINUTES: Every morning after dressing for work and before I open up any emails on my phone or laptop, I meditate for 15 minutes. By meditation, I mean sit at home in a comfortable chair in silence. I breathe and allow thoughts and ideas and concerns to flow through my head – but I let them go. I listen to the still quiet hum of household appliances and noises while I may hear the subtle purr of my almost 20 year old Persian cat Shambala who wants to be fed. The stillness is the most important way I prepare for each day. It keeps me from starting the day in overdrive.

NOURISHMENT:  I always eat breakfast and work hard not to gobble down this morning meal. I enjoy listening to the politics du jour on Morning Joe and carve out this little bit of time for me before the work day flood begins. After eating, I glance at my emails from overnight and rarely respond. I’m aware of a few more topics, issues and opportunities but I don’t immediately react.

COMMUTE AND PRIORITIZE:  I’m fortunate to have a short 25 minute commute by car. The benefit to me is that it allows me to quietly think and see what 2 -3 pressing topics rise to the top of my concern. What projects or activity do I need an update on or provide an update to others about before the day ends.  What must I move forward? I limit it to three very important actions because I know that I will have some detour once I get into the office that was unplanned. However, by just focusing on three things, I have room to be intentional and proactive while allowing time to react too.

I WRITE DOWN THOSE THREE THINGS: Those three things are written on a small piece of paper in front of me on my desk.  If possible, nothing else is on the desk. I can’t miss it and it stays there for that day with the goal of crossing off each item. The simplicity of just three is important. If you are familiar with Dr. Covey’s work and his rocks in a jar metaphor, you’ll get it.  Covey shows that if you have a jar (your day) and you put the big rocks (top priorities) in first, you can always add all the little pebbles (lower priorities) later. But do that in reverse, and the big rocks will never fit into the jar. 

I DON’T ANSWER MY PHONE:  Unless the caller ID is my wife, mom, daughters or boss – I don’t pick up the phone. I prefer a 30 second voice mail to an 8 minute distraction.  My voicemail goes to my inbox so it’s easy to listen to see if the call is urgent and important. It rarely is. I use the phone for outgoing calls. I rarely pick it up since it is a huge distraction. 

I STRIVE TO GET MY THREE THINGS DONE BY NOON:  I try hard to check the box and get my most important activities completed.  I go to fewer meetings because so many don’t have agendas sent in advance and often aren’t worth my time. I’d rather read the minutes of a one-hour meeting than attend. This works in more situations if you push back and ask, is it really necessary for me to attend? Remember a meeting request is just that - a request. You can say no. 

THINKING TIME:  I give myself the benefit of scheduled thinking time each day. I block out on my calendar at least one hour that allows me to be more thoughtful about all of the other projects, activities, emails and stuff that is waiting to get done. I try to sort them into categories like delete or ask someone else to manage. If it doesn’t fit into one of those two buckets, I may need to think about it some more. Thinking sometimes involves getting more information from others, or bouncing ideas around with colleagues. It doesn’t mean acting on stuff but it forces me to evaluate the big question. Will this activity, project or work really be an important point of leverage moving our business forward? It has to be a “hell yes” kind of answer or once again, I’m just going to say no. My delete key on my computer is very worn out.

WRITING:  As I think about the most important marketing activities we should focus on,  I like to write an email to explain why one idea is a great idea. I write that email to myself but I read it the next day as if it came from a colleague. If it is truly of merit, I will take it to another level. I think of this part of the day as trying to convince myself that a certain marketing activity is worthwhile and going to have true impact on our business. Writing forces me to be more strategic and thoughtful. I typically have room in my day for just one of these bigger marketing ideas. 

ACKNOWLEDGING MY LIMITS:  I am not one to stay in the office beyond 8 hours.  The law of diminishing returns creeps in and by late in the day, I’m less focused and know that I should head home. I may be physically leaving work, but in driving home, I am still thinking about the work. Since I am often the head chef, the hour spent cooking at home is also a time to relax and listen to music.  Some of the best ideas come while ideas marinate and simmer. Cooking dinner for my wife and I is more thinking time and quiet time.

POST DINNER:  Often one topic or issue emerges between work and dinner that has me curious. What if we could do this or that so my post dinner work is often some online searching for information to help me think through this topic.  I will also read a chapter or two from the marketing or other books that stirs up my thinking even more. 

These 10 tips illustrate how I approach my typical work day. They help me manage the incoming barrage of stuff flying at me and the importance of finding time to think clearly, without distraction and with greater intention. 

The process isn’t perfect. It works for me and I hope provides you with at least one idea to make your day a bit more sane, productive and happy. I find that like with music, I need some silence and pauses to help hear the right notes.

How do you balance your fast-paced marketing world?


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