Business Communication Basics: Time Management

Time Management

Having worked in the advertising business for over 7 years, I’ve learned a thing or two about time management. I’m talking deadlines, schedules, and expectation setting.

I’m a big list person. From groceries, to long term goals, and to-do items, I make a list for just about everything. So, naturally I’ve put together a list of my top 8 time management tips!

1. Make a prioritized “To Do” list every evening before you go home.

As you wrap up your day, it’s good to get a head start for tomorrow and examine what needs to be done. This only takes about 10 or 15 minutes and will save you tons of headache the next day.

Whether you use pen and paper or software like OneNote, the important thing to remember is that it must work for you.

In order to be most effective, your list needs to include actionable tasks that are prioritized. Let me show you what I mean:

Prioritized To Do List

You see how I’ve put the urgent AND important items at the top? I’ve also broken larger initiatives down into actionable tasks like “write creative brief” and “finalize budget.”

Make sure your list isn’t too long, so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

2. Manage your inbox

After years of struggling with an email inbox the size of the Library of Congress, I learned this handy trick from a co-worker.

Treat your inbox as a place for action items. So, the only emails in your inbox should be ones that require action FROM YOU. Everything else gets immediately filed into a separate folder (organized by project or initiative). Ideally, you should have less than 20 or so emails in your inbox at any given time.

3. Maximize lift, minimize drain

A few months ago, I sat in on a workshop about writing killer creative briefs. One of my many learnings from that day was to take a fresh look at which activities “lift” or “drain” you.

To do this, spend a few days and keep a diary and note which tasks make you feel good vs those that bring you down. From there, try to reduce the activities that drain you and maximize the activities that lift you.

4. Schedule “work time” for yourself

Whether you need to write a creative brief or do research, be sure to treat your own time just like anything else and put it on your calendar. This will help you stay on track and finish tasks on schedule.

Usually when I do this, I try to get away from my desk, as you’ll see in #5…

5. Find a place to escape

I used to get constant drive-by requests from internal teams and peers at my desk. As much as I wanted to be available and ready to help, I also needed time away to just think.

Whether it’s in a conference room or in the coffee shop around the corner, pick a place that provides the kind of peace and quiet that you need and hunker down to get some work done. This is great for things like writing long and complex emails.

6. Work on “heavy” tasks early in the day

Studies show that most people are more productive in the first half of the day. But, I know it’s tempting to respond to all of those unread emails as soon as you walk in the door. But, try and resist. So, if you have a big presentation or proposal, get it started first thing in the morning. You’ll be surprised at how much you get done.

Conversely, if you work better in the afternoons, do the heavy work then! The point is…be conscious of when you do your best, most focused work and schedule your tasks accordingly.

7. Turn off email for one hour every day

It sounds crazy and a bit naughty, I know! But, giving yourself one hour of email-free time will be a life saver.

Incorporate this into your hour of “work time” that you already have on your calendar to create an ultra-focused, productive chunk of your day.

8. Schedule time to work on long term initiatives

Many of us simply put off those proactive and longer term projects until the very last minute. I know I do.

Put some time on your calendar once a month to sit down and think about those more long term initiatives, like audience research and industry trends. Try to fit this in during periods when your workload will be lighter (if you can forecast that). You will feel better knowing that you are ahead of the game.

 

Go ahead and try out some of these ideas to see what works best for you. Everyone is different!

Have a question about time management or looking for someone to help with an upcoming marketing project? I’m available for all sorts of projects ranging from copywriting to blogging and marketing consulting. Reach out to me to find out more!

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