As an inbound marketer, chances there isn't one day that is like the last. Constantly juggling multiple projects and working towards strict deadlines can be overwhelming at any given moment. Not to mention regularly participating and managing a myriad of marketing strategies.
Inbound marketers are effective data-driven workers but can quickly become spread too thin falling into a devestating context-switching paralysis.
When you are constantly switching your attention from one project/task to another you are expontentially growing the amount of time you're loosing. On average, everytime you switch your attention, or become distracted, it'll take oyu 23 minutes to get yourself back on track. Swtich your attention 3 times and you've lost an hour.
To become more productive in your day there are really 5 areas that you should focus on:
- Consistency is king
- Have a morning routine
- Take regular breaks
- Prioritize your day
- Wind down
Since we know that distractions can take away from a productive work day and multi-tasking is not the answer we are looking for, try being more consistent, have a morning routine, take regular breaks, prioritize your day and wind-down the same way each night.
1. Consistency Is King
"You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine." — John C. Maxwell
The power of inbound marketing is in it's compounding nature. Just like interest compounds over the life of your retirement account, pageviews and downloads of inbound content compounds overtime. Once you publish a blog post or a new landing page, you can optimize it for life, continually gaining exposure from the past.
Since people use Google and, as we've seen in HubSpot's 2016 SOI report, social media to search for information to solve a probelm or adress an opportunity.
Here is a simple example to illustrate this practice in real-life. There are two software companies and they both are entering the website optimization market with new innovative solutions to solve some of the biggest frustrations among web-developers.
They both begin to publish blog articles to drive traffic to their websites. Company A publishes 1 post a week while company B published 1 post a day. By the end o the month company A has piblished 4 articles and company B has published 20 articles.
From an SEO perspective, company B has a better opportunity for being found across a wider range of keywords/search queiries.
As you publish more content your website traffic will grow and your conversions will grow as well.
2. Have a Morning Routine
There is a lot of content(and research frankly) floating around about starting your morning with exercise and healthy breakfast.
But when it comes to work there seems to be a big disparity between one effective morning routine and another.
For example, Mark Twain has a famous quote about eating the biggest frog first. In other words, get the most difficult task out of the way in the morning and then move on to less strenious work.
There is actual research to back this up too. Throughout the day, your brain, just like a tank of gas, runs out of will-power. That's one of the reasons why exercise in the morning is so effective because it's more likely to skip the gym at the end of the day.
The longer you procrastinate on your most dreaded task for the day the harder it's going to be to start later.
But there is also research and experts that say you're more productive when you begin with the most enjoyable / easiest task first. This gets you into the right mindset and provides something to look forward to first thing.
What works for you is probably going to be different from what works for soemone else, the point I want to make is the pressence of a morning routine is more important than what the morning routine actually entails.
If the best way for you to start your day is with a bowl of fruit loops and your favorite blog/rss reader (I love Feedly and Reeder) then do it, and do it every single day!
3. Take Regular Breaks
Throughout the day it is a good idea to take regular breaks. Over the past decade more nap pods and ping-pong tables have been poping up inside companies, coffee bars and fully stocked kitchens are the norm and micro-management is becoming scarce.
When people have a full tank they are more productive. As we learned above, 3 simple distractions can cost you an entire hour because of how you switch your attention. And since heavy multi-tasking can temporarily lower your IQ we want to avoid that as a viable soultion.
Don't feel bad about taking breaks. The most productive people around take 17 minutes for every 52 minutes of work.
Instead focus on uninterrupted work for short bursts and quick breaks (that are planned) so you can refocus yourselve. The problem comes when you get distracted and all of the sudden you forget that important change you were about to make or the formatting idea that popped into your head. This results in spending time thinking about it and getting back into the groove.
4. Prioritize your day
Each day you're going to have a few things that you know have to get done and a handful of interruptions that you keep you from checking them all off. Inbound marketers are always trying to find those extra hours in the day that don't exist.
The average worker is interrupted every 3 minutes and more often than not the solution is to multi-task. Of course this isn't a good idea becuase multitasking can decrease productivity by 40%. So what is a inbound marketer to do?
Benjamin Franklin was known for his productivity. He would review what went well the day before and use that knowledge to prioritize the following day.
Whether you do this at night or in the morning doesn't make a difference, it's what works for you.
Start by defining your top 3 most important tasks or MIT's. Ask yourself, "what three things can I get done today, and if nothing else gets done, everything will be OK".
There are numerous tactics to experiement with here and no shortage of software or specialized notebooks to help you out. The key here is to have a process in place and ask the right questions about your work.
As Bob Pozen points out in his productivity series in the Harvard Business Review, you have to know your comparitive advantage. Just becuase you can do something, and may be able to do it better than anyone else doesn't mean it's the right activity to focus on.
Instead think about the things that only you can do and if they aren't done who they effect. Who has to wait or who are you waiting on. These are some of the key distractions that prevent people from being more productive.
But don't make the mistake of using one of these as a crutch.
It's just as important to conclude your day the same way as it is to have a morning routine. Getting a good nights sleep is a key part to being productive.
Build a regular "wind-down" routine for yourself to follow that prepares you for sleep. Watching your favorite show then jumping in bed and reading twitter is exactly what you don't want to do.
You should power-down your devices, even turning them off so they can't interrupt you in the middle of the night, a little before getting into bed.
Take a bath or shower. An evening shower is a great way to signal to yourself that it's almost bed-time. At night your core body tempurature drops letting your brain know it is time to sleep. A warm shower followed by a quick cool down once you get out will only provide a stronger bedtime signal to yourself.
It's no wonder productivity is such a hot topic among inbound marketers. With so much up in the air at any given moment there is no shortage of things to keep busy but drawing the line between checking things off your to-do list and doing the most productive thing next becomes blurred but more important.
Productivity is as much a mindset as it is a skill and they feed off of each other. Mastering your productivity first starts with consistentcy. Being consistent helps you to find ways to tweak your day, create more of an impact and notice distractions. Be consistent with a strong morning routine and wind-down the same way everday. Take regular breaks (plan your distractions) and prioritize your day each morning.
This quick list has helped me to work smarter and see where time was wasted. Like tracking time, you can't change how you spend your time until you know how you spend your time.