It’s officially the end of January, and those New Year’s resolutions might already be starting to feel a bit stale.
For example, I swore on December 31 that I would be vegan for the month of January.
Instead, I ended up eating meat twice.
Far more worrying, however, was that I became way too dependent on Original Pringles and Oreos, both “accidentally” vegan, for sustenance.
And that’s probably my fault. Instead of making the blanket goal to “be vegan,” a better approach might have been a commitment to prioritize fruits and veggies in my diet, with daily goals that included meal planning. Oops.
It’s no different at work. Many times, huge, ambitious goals fall by the wayside as we focus on putting out small fires rather than the big picture.
Now that we’ve come to the end of the first month of the year, it’s time to reevaluate what we’re doing to make progress on those big-picture results.
Perhaps you’ve heard about the 80/20 rule, otherwise known as the Pareto Principle.
If not, according to Forbes, the rule states that “80% of results come from just 20% of action.”
That rule applies to a lot of things in our day-to-day lives.
For example, think about all the spices you have in your spice rack. How many do you actually, frequently use? Case in point: 80/20.
So how does this apply to marketers?
Think about all the goals, big and small, long-term and short-term, that you’ve got floating around in your head.
If you try to focus on all of them at once, nothing is going to get done.
Warren Buffett famously once had his personal pilot write down a list of 25 goals, circle the five most important, and then put the remaining 20 on an “avoid at all costs” list.
Doing so allowed the pilot to focus on the 20% without being bogged down by the 80%.
Take time every morning to make not only a list of goals, but a prioritized list of goals.
The 80% can always wait in favor of the most important 20%.
And the most important 20% will make your day move productive overall.
Are you married to your email? Probably.
According to Forbes, the average employee spends about 23% of their workday on email and checks their email account 36 times per hour.
All that email checking and consequently induced anxiety?
Quite counterproductive to actually getting any work done.
Of course, no one should blow off email entirely. (At least for now.) But checking it at strategic times could help overwhelmed marketers stay focused on those top five goals.
More than a quarter of white-collar workers check their email while they’re still in bed in the morning, while 74% check it before arriving at the office.
It’s impossible to prioritize tasks if you’ve already been sidetracked by a million little problems that need addressing.
Don’t check that email until after you’ve decided what tasks you’ll be prioritizing today.
Most marketers already constantly monitor their own campaigns’ successes.
Just as important, however, is to see what’s working (and not working) for your competitors.
Knowing what’s working not only for you — but for the industry in general — could keep your goals from becoming out of step with your team’s actual needs.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, smart marketers not only take inventory of their competitor’s content, but also evaluate that content quality and quantity. They even analyze its performance.
Plus, they’re keeping track of those findings:
“You’ll end up with a master spreadsheet of your competitors’ content marketing strategies deconstructed,” Ellie Mirman writes. “Now dive into the fun process of analyzing trends. Looking at a combination of the quantity and quality of content coverage by topic will highlight topics to stay away from and gaps you can fill.”
As important as it is to know what your competitors are doing, it’s most important to know what your own team is working on.
What are their top five goals?
What steps are they taking to meet those goals?
Unfortunately, though, meeting culture has become completely out of control.
A study out of the University of North Carolina found that 65% of senior managers from a variety of industries said that meetings were actually keeping them from completing their work. And 71% said meetings were unproductive and inefficient.
To stay checked in without wasting time, keep those check-ins short and to the point.
Many companies have adopted walking meetings or standing check-in’s.
Jason Fried, founder of 37signals (Basecamp) gave a viral TED talk in 2010 called, “Why work doesn’t happen at work.”
In it, he says:
“And the last suggestion I have is that, if you do have a meeting coming up, if you have the power, just cancel it. Just cancel that next meeting.
I don’t mean move it; I mean just erase it from memory, it’s gone.
And you’ll find out that everything will be just fine.
All these discussions and decisions you thought you had to make at this one time at 9 a.m. on Monday, just forget about them, and things will be fine.
People will have a more open morning, they can actually think. You’ll find out all these things you thought you had to do, you don’t actually have to do.”
And obviously this isn’t true for all meetings, some are quite necessary and productive.
The point is, we want to maximize the effectiveness of our meetings and keep them from becoming a drain. Make sure the daily check-in stays limited to a few key points, remains goal-oriented, and leaves off-topic issues for later.
After a morning of listing those 20% goals and a day spent staying on track, it might seem like overkill to start making a to-do list for tomorrow before leaving the office.
However, thinking today about tomorrow actually frees you to be able to go home and recharge.
Take a few minutes before heading out the door to review the morning’s goals.
Note the progress you’ve made.
Think about what you need to do tomorrow.
Leave a few notes to look over in the morning.
Set yourself up for a successful next day.
And then, when you go home, you can actually breathe — without feeling the need to refresh your inbox over and over.
When it comes to work/life balance, the U.S. has a pretty dismal record.
According to Entrepreneur, the U.S. ranks 30th out of 38 countries for work/life balance. And 66% of employees believe that they do not have work/life balance.
But one of the most important things any of us can do to perform better at work is to walk away at the end of the day.
When I was younger, I had aspirations of being an artist.
And when I was working on a painting, you what a crucial piece of my creative process was?
Taking a break.
Getting a fresh perspective was just as important to the creation process as planning and actually painting.
The same strategy absolutely applies at the office. Take time to recharge.
That way, you’ll be able to not only identify your day’s most important priorities, but tackle them with a fresh perspective.
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