We all complain about not having enough time. I found myself just the other day cursing sleep as "the biggest time-suck of them all." And yet there are so many areas where marketers are constantly wasting or unnecessarily doubling (or worse) their efforts. If you eliminate even some of these time wasters from your regular routines, you'll find you have a lot more resources to direct at the activities that actually make a difference for your brand or clients.
Is your job plagued by inefficiency? Let's take a look at the areas where you can reclaim some productivity.
Meeting with your team regularly can be valuable. And if those meetings are always productive, keep them on your schedule. But if they regularly start with the question, "Does anyone have anything to talk about this week?" and that question is followed by silence, you're wasting your time. Instead, establish a simple process for aggregating minor, not-time-sensitive issues to discuss and then calling a meeting when you have more than zero bullet points on your agenda.
A helpful way to do this is Facebook. Nobody has to learn anything new. We all know how to use Facebook. Right? If not, you should probably learn Facebook (tips from the pros here, folks). Create a private Facebook group for your project and have your discussions there. You might eventually outgrow Facebook, which is good. Then you can move along to a more sophisticated private social network like Yammer.
Documents that no one reads
In my experience, people don't like to read. Sorry hippies, it's true. So if you just wrote the most amazing 16-page project brief ever written, nobody will ever know. Because nobody is going to read that thing except for you.
Adapt your documentation process to fit the expectations of the audience. Or break up documents when you send them out so each person reads the section relevant to them, rather than having to pick through a massive document looking for the issues of concern to them.
Or better yet, keep it to a single page. Obviously, this doesn't work for HR manuals or sales pitches. But for project descriptions, statements of work, creative briefs -- any document that requires the full attention of everybody on the team -- keep it short. If people are going to refer back to this document often, make it easy to read.
If someone doesn't already get it, you're probably not going to convince the person that digital marketing (ooooo, that internet thing?) is important. This applies to a broad spectrum of people: potential clients, traditionally minded colleagues, your mother, and (heaven forbid) your CMO.
Maybe they'll figure it out on their own eventually. Maybe not. But it will always be an uphill battle and time waste for you. There are still companies out there spending absurd percentages of their small budgets on Yellow Pages ads. (The Yellow Pages is that heavy paper rectangle that shows up on your steps that you throw directly into the recycle bin.) Focus on the people and companies that understand the value of digital marketing. We've been in this game too long now to have to justify our existence.
Digital marketers telecommute so frequently because they are awesome at it. (Sorry, Marissa Mayer, it's true.) For most of us, a normal work day consists of replying to a bunch of emails, sending a bunch more emails, hopping on a few phone calls, some grunt work, and maybe some creative or design work if we're lucky. All of that can be done from just about anywhere. Even video editing and high-end design can be pulled off with a decent laptop.
Face-to-face conversations are incredibly important, especially for creative projects. Even HD video chat isn't a replacement for being there. Non-verbal communication is huge. But overdoing in-person meetings is a waste of time. It's hard enough to find a time, day, and location that work for a group of busy people. And then one cancellation kills the meeting for everybody. Use a free conference call solution instead. Or take to a private Facebook group. Or email.
Optimize in-person meetings by reducing the number of attendees and limiting face time to only those conversations that benefit from it. And never allow a project to stall because a meeting time couldn't be agreed upon.
Times are changing. If you had asked me my opinion on phone calls this time two years ago, I would have given you a different answer. And while I'm still a proponent of picking up the phone in certain situations, I now think that they are pretty useless.
Calling somebody out of the blue is rude. It didn't used to be, but it is now. How often to do you see one of your colleagues look at an incoming call from a client and say something like, "Why the hell would Tim from Rockemsox be calling me right now?" Most issues can be easily resolved by email, IM, or texting. Those that can't require a phone call, so an unscheduled incoming call looks to many people like an emergency. So make sure that call is important.
When I was a younger person, I considered myself to be a perfectionist. I would even describe myself that way in job interviews because I was proud of the trait. The wisdom of a few years has taught me that perfectionism in digital marketing is actually a liability. Don't waste time on perfection. Instead, learn to recognize "good enough" and then exceed it.
A word of caution: I'm not advocating sloppiness or laziness here. I'm advocating efficiency. Don't lose sight of the bigger picture of an entire campaign just because you're uncertain that the kearning on the text of a single banner ad is exactly right. I realize that little things like this can drive people crazy. But for the love of Pete, choose your battles and know when you're the only person in the room fretting over something. Quite often, an extra round of minor revisions isn't worth the time wasted that could be spent actually executing on a campaign.
I'm not talking about a rusty hoe. (New insult? Coined it.) I'm talking about that old social monitoring software that you signed up for two years ago. The data isn't perfect, but your clients like pie charts so you keep it around. Or maybe your organization is still sharing MSOffice documents with one another via email and a central file server? Get with the times, Grandpa!
Do your research. Once every few months, just do a quick Google (or Bing, why the hell not?) search for "social monitoring tools" or "email marketing software" or whatever it is that you use. Because chances are, there is another player out there offering a competing or better service for less money. And if your current solution can't match or beat the new guy, then you have a compelling reason to make the switch. And doing some research every now and then is an important part of keeping your edge as a marketer.
"Individual businessperson trying to perform" image via Shutterstock.