Picture this: It’s Monday morning. You’re in your office, sipping your morning cup of coffee.
You sit down in your chair and turn your computer on.
As you think about the latest marketing campaign you’re working on, you decide to check your emails, like you always do.
Then, your heart freezes. You have 600 emails to read.
Ten minutes later, you get a notification in the right-hand corner of your computer. It’s your boss messaging you on Slack. She wants to meet with you to discuss some details about next quarter’s marketing campaign.
You haven’t even started working, and you already feel overwhelmed.
“I can’t keep up like this,” you say to yourself.
How can you keep your sanity when you have so many things to do? How can you keep your priorities straight and get everything done?
With the endless stream of distractions, keeping your productivity up has become one of the hardest tasks for any marketer.
Today, we’ll share 5 productivity hacks you can use to become a better, more efficient marketer.
Wake up early
People who work from 9 to 5 tend to wake up one or two hours earlier than their work time. These people usually spend their morning time having breakfast, reading the news, and checking their social media accounts and other tasks.
Ryan Robinson, an entrepreneur, writer, and freelance content marketer, suggests waking up much earlier:
My biggest productivity hack is waking up at 4:30 am. I don’t do it every morning, but my goal is three times per week. What I do with those early hours of my day is extremely important—I treat them like a precious resource where I’m only allowed to write, whether for my blog or a column. I don’t check my social media feeds, don’t look at email, text, or make phone calls. What I gain mentally from spending 3-4 focused hours doing something that I love, just for myself at the start of my day, makes me feel like I’ve already accomplished something meaningful.
Because Ryan works on multiple projects, including his personal blog, his online courses, and on client work, it can be easy for him to lose his sight on what matters most. Waking up early becomes a way for Ryan to get things done and boost his productivity right at the beginning of the day.
Instead of waiting until you return from work, exhausted as most people are, you can use your free morning time to work on your side projects.
I love waking up early and reading the latest blogs and articles. Living on the West Coast means I’m three hours behind so it allows me to catch up on the latest trends and happenings in marketing. This routine allows me to slowly wake up by drinking my morning coffee, reading the news, and coming in fresh to the office.
I wake up and get into the office early because that’s when my brain is at its best. It also helps the office is quiet early in the day, so it’s easier to get tasks done without office chatter or unscheduled meetings.
As you can see, neither JD Prater nor Twila Liggitt recommends a specific time to wake up. What matters isn’t whether you wake up at 4:30 am, or 6 am; it’s all about getting the focus necessary to get more done before you step in your office.
Focus on the right things
It’s easy for a marketer to get distracted by a multitude of stimuli. Email, social media, meetings, calls, and news are just a few of the many distractions you can encounter on any given day.
Dave Nevogt, co-founder of Hubstaff, stresses the importance of dedicating time where it counts:
Part of the battle of running a successful business is spending your valuable, limited time on the right things. We use the Theory of Constraints to align all tasks towards goals, eventually compounding to successfully achieve a major goal.
That’s why it’s key to find the time to focus on the things that have the highest impact on your business. For example, if you have been thinking about creating a new email automation campaign but don’t seem to have the time to create it, you must set some time apart in your calendar to do it. It won’t happen on its own.
To prioritize the right things, you should follow JD Prater’s advice and set up your calendar for success:
My best “productivity hack” is guarding my calendar and setting a time aside for actual work. I make sure to not schedule any meetings during the morning, so I go heads-down and get sh*t done.
The key is to develop discipline into your work schedule. No one forces you to open that new tab and check your Facebook feed for the 10th time of the day. When it comes to distractions, you are your own enemy. To overcome this problem, you need to be strict on the way you structure your day, just like Ryan Robinson does:
I’ve had to get very disciplined with how I structure my schedule each day now—which means protecting the first half of my day for writing and more creative work, while grouping sales calls and outreach emails into blocks of time during my afternoons.
Whatever you do, remember you only have a limited amount of productive hours a day. Focus the most important work for those hours and leave the non-important tasks later in the day.
Block your distractions
Back in the day, you could sit down in your office and focus your time to work. Nowadays, we have a ton of real-time chat tools and ever-growing email boxes and of course, smartphones. In short, it’s easy to get distracted.
JD Prater mentioned this same problem when he said:
The main challenge I face is the constant distractions which hinder my ability to get into a flow. As marketers, we’re constantly bombarded with emails, slack messages, meetings, tweets, text messages, etc. We live in this always-on world where people expect to receive an immediate response. These interruptions make it difficult to get into a rhythm and focus on long-term strategy because they force you to live in the moment.
Twila Liggit also thinks distractions are the biggest productivity challenge:
The primary productivity challenge I face is endless distractions: constant emails/slack notifications pop up all the time and break my creative flow when writing or editing a body of work. (Three have popped up just in the time that I’ve been writing my answer to this question!)
Having a constant stream of distractions causes marketers to spread themselves thin until they end up doing too many things at the same time.
My biggest productivity challenge is multitasking. It’s my single biggest productivity killer that I am trying to fight practicing mindfulness and brutal prioritization to combat the fear of missing out.
Ryan Robinson also mentioned multitasking as his biggest challenges he faces:
My biggest barrier to staying productive as a content marketing consultant is task-switching. In many ways, I’m still caught between working “in” and working “on” my business, since I still dedicate some of my personal time to writing some of my client work.
With so many distractions, your only hope to change the situation is to block as many distractions as possible. This tactic doesn’t imply turning off your phone and closing your door with a lock; such extreme solutions can bring more problems than relief to your workload.
Start with the basics. Muting your phone, closing distracting apps on your computer (Spotify, Slack, etc.), and deciding to ignore any desktop notification are simple ways to give you a head start. As Twila Liggit says:
Turning off notifications or not responding immediately to anything non-urgent will help me focus and do my best work.
You can get better results with the help of an app like Cold Turkey, which blocks a set of pre-defined websites for a specific amount of time (5 minutes to 8 hours), forcing you to avoid websites that drain your productivity.
You can also emulate Tomas Lau and focus on yourself; meditation leads to higher awareness of one’s stream of thoughts, helping you see whenever you are doing too many things at once.
At the end of the day, it’s not you against your distractions; it’s you against yourself.
Have a morning routine
We’ve seen how waking up early can help you set up the day for success. But waking up early doesn’t guarantee a successful morning unless you set a specific process to help you gain focus and make progress. Having a morning routine can be that process.
Morning routines have been used for ages by successful people all around history. In the book Daily Rituals, Mason Currey shows the different routines people such as Nikola Tesla, Voltaire, and Pablo Picasso, among others. In many cases, these successful people had strict morning routines which they used to get ahead from early in the day.
Benjamin Franklin’s famous daily schedule, including his morning routine
Tomas Lau said having a morning routine has been his main productivity driver:
The one thing that makes me a more productive marketer is my morning routine. For the last two years, I have been experimenting with my morning routine and optimized it to make me healthier, mindful, knowledgeable and creative. Here it is:
1. Wake up at 5 am
2. Drink a glass of water
3. Stretch for 5 minutes
4. Meditate for 10 minutes
5. Drink a cup of coffee
6. Read for 1 hour
7. Write for 1 hour
8. Journal for 5 minutes
9. Work on my to-do list for the day
10. Exercise for 1 hour
We’ve previously seen how Ryan Robinson and JD Prater used the morning time to focus on their work and get things done. The key isn’t just to set up time in the morning to work but define a process you can consistently keep throughout time.
As Tomas Lau said, you need to test what works best for you until you hit a develop a habit. Instead of working against your instincts, you will ingrain success in your daily life. As Aristotle used to say:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Get out and exercise
Digital marketers tend to spend most of their daily hours in front of their computers with terrible posture. This problem not only is detrimental to their health; it can wear them out and decrease their productivity.
An effective solution can be to stop and get out for a few minutes every few hours, or at least once a day to catch some natural light and fresh air.
There are studies that show how our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical regimen. Adding exercise to our daily routines can help us:
- Learn faster
- Improve our concentration
- Prolong our mental stamina
- Get sharper memory
The benefits of exercising can lead to lower stress and better job performance.
Twila Liggit agreed when she said exercising was her main productivity hack:
Taking an afternoon walk around the neighborhood helps get the blood flowing, reconnects me with the world, and boosts my brain power to finish out the day strong.
We’ve also seen how Tomas Lau exercises for an hour after finishing his daily to-dos.
You don’t need to exercise for an hour; you can reap the benefits of exercising with no more than 20 minutes. As Garrett Dunham, the author of Brutally Productive explains in his book, the key is to increase your heart rate without expending all your cellular energy, which would tank your blood sugar.
As long as you keep yourself out of the computer for a while and get your blood flow going, you will be able to increase your productivity.
Finding your productivity sweet spot is a long-term process that will take you months and a deep focus on what works best for you.
Today we showed you what four successful marketers use to increase their productivity.
Take some of the ideas shown above and implement them in your workflow. Test them and see how they work.
If you start to feel like you are more productive, you’re on the right track. You got this!