We often talk about stretching budgets to maximize their effectiveness, but there is another scarce resource that is just as important: Time. A study conducted by LinkedIn found that over half of surveyed marketing professionals considered lack of time one of their top five challenges.
Time management is all about turning activities that are neutral or negative to your bottom line into ones that are ROI positive. It refers to developing a plan and scrupulously enforcing it to make sure that every hour of work is a productive one.
Here are six tips to make you a time management guru:
1. Set Your Priorities
Perhaps the most important part of any time management scheme is figuring out which activities are most important and which are most time sensitive. President Dwight Eisenhower has a time management system named after him that stems from a famous quote: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
Importance refers to the impact the activity will have; urgency refers to how quickly it needs to be addressed. The Eisenhower system says that problems that are important and urgent should be done immediately and personally. Problems that are important but not urgent should also be handled personally, but only need to have an end date decided right away.
Issues that are unimportant but urgent (e.g. interruptions, meetings, etc.) can be delegated, and issues that are neither important nor urgent can be dropped entirely. It’s a framework for understanding that every tasks needs to be handled according to its priority.
2. Make a Plan and To-do Lists
Once you’ve figured out what tasks are worth accomplishing, put them down on paper. For the sake of efficiency, don’t get crazy with the details and don’t include routine tasks. To-do lists are fundamental to many time management systems because they help you unburden your memory and increase the likelihood that you will follow through.
Also consider breaking your list into sublists such as a general to-do-list, a daily to-do list, and specialized lists for short-term projects.
3. Work in Priority Order
Steel magnate Charles M. Schwab once said that the single most profitable advice he ever received was consultant Ivy Lee’s recommendation to create a daily list of things to do, numbered by order of importance, and done in that order one at a time.
4. Break Big Tasks Into Little Ones
Productivity consultant David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system argues that some tasks are so big and daunting that merely considering them risks sending you into analysis paralysis, a state where you spend so much time thinking about that problem that you don’t actually do anything. He recommends chunking, breaking big jobs into smaller subtasks that are more manageable mentally and practically.
5. Get Organized
Emails, paperwork, schedules and the like can quickly overwhelm even the most proficient multitasker if left unmanaged. Thankfully, there have probably never been more tools for time management and organization than there are today, such as team management software like Asana, Slack, Trello, and Workplace by Facebook.
For those who work extensively on social media, tools like Hootsuite and Buffer let you manage multiple accounts and schedule regular posts. Hubspot, Salesforce, and other cloud services are tailored to marketers seeking greater automation and process-based marketing.
6. Create the Right Environment for Work
All the tools, systems, and lists in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t actually have the right environment for getting work done. That means closing out distractions and saying no to tasks of lesser importance. Sometimes the easiest way to make room for work is to actually block out time on your own public calendar. That way people know not to schedule for meetings or other events during critical moments.