The internet is pretty great: It's allowed the human race to be infinitely more productive as marketers (and as humans on the whole). Still, it can slow us down dramatically unless we manage to avoid time sucks and other distractions. Here are my 10 biggest tips on how to be more productive online, and become a more organized and happy brand ambassador.
Avoid time assassins
The internet, in all of its glory, can occasionally be distracting, and one of the prime ways to end the amusing cycle of cat-videos and games (such as Google Pacman Doodle) is to use a tool that literally makes you get back to your community management responsibilities.
A great example for Chrome users is Stayfocused. This Chrome extension is an easy way to stop unproductive behaviors in their tracks. The overall aim of Stayfocused is to kill the time assassins plaguing the elusive work ethic by giving you time limits on predetermined websites. For example, you can use Stayfocused to block or limit the time you spend on the websites you maintain a love-hate cycle with. (Facebook anyone?) This can increase the amount of time you allot to more productive uses of time, such as syncing with your product team to learn about upcoming exciting announcements, fielding a support question on Twitter, or networking with influencers in your space.
Take a break
One key way to increase your creativity and ability to think with clarity is to give your brain a break. Finding inspiration in the midst of a blank page and frustration can be difficult, so try taking off a couple of minutes away from your work to do something totally relaxing. Donothingfor2minutes.com is a website that makes you do just that -- take a couple of minutes to look and listen to waves crashing. If you get antsy and move your mouse, you have to start over. So give into your need to relax for a hot minute.
Focus on the goal ahead
More often than not, it is easy to stop thinking about the purpose of your work, and the overarching goal guiding the task at hand. Instead of beginning repetitive thinking on how difficult or long it will be, try some positive thinking. It is important to step aside from such negative thinking and instead try to focus why you're doing it: Try to see the work as a way of accomplishing something, instead of some kind of draconian punishment that should be delayed for as long as possible. For example, you might get frustrated answering what seems to be a common question such as "How do I get started with your company" but if you maintain perspective, you will realize that you are signing up new customers!
Turn off your laptop and get some sleep!
One thing which cannot be articulated enough is the importance of sleep. Lack of sleep has been heavily correlated with a multitude of issues, ranging from learning and memory to obesity and heart disease. Furthermore, bright lights coming from electronic devices such as computers, cellphones, and televisions may interfere with the body's natural circadian rhythms, preventing the easy onset of sleep. This means more time spent getting coffee and less time focusing on writing, re-writing, and re-writing your response to someone on a forum. Don't over think, go with your gut, and your helpfulness and positivity will shine through.
Clear off your desk(top)
A clean desk (and desktop!) equals a clear mind. People can be highly affected by their surrounding and environment, and an easy way to control your own environment is by organizing your desk. Cables, random piles of paper, and trash can all create visual clutter, which can cause one to feel more stressed than necessary. By clearing off your desk, you can create more workable space, be able to find vital pieces of information with ease, and feel more free to work with management teams without a sense of stress. Toss anything you don't need or use, organize your files so that they're easy to find, and try to find home for the things you use the most that is closer to you. The less stress you associate with your space will have a positive impact on your focus on work.
Stop frustrating yourself with lost passwords
It seems as if every time you open a new account, whether it be for social media, financial management, or even buying a new pair of socks, you are forced open an account with that particular site. To add to this, many websites are forcing new accounts to have passwords that are more difficult to hack by using symbols, capitalizations and numbers. No one likes being locked out of their email account because they've forgotten what seemingly insignificant minor change they made to keep up with password requirements. Use a tool like LastPass, free computer software that remembers all of your passwords in a secure place free of malware, fraudulant scams, and sheer idiocy.
Leave things the way you want to find them
Work is sometimes interrupted, but you are committing a productivity cardinal sin if you leave it in a way that is hard to jump in. When restarting a project, there is often much time lost to trying to figure out where to pick up where you left off. If you make any project, such as an email, working on a social media network database, or even the dishes, easy to start again you will be much more invested in finishing it!
Minimize and focus
One of the key ways to improve focus is by limiting options. This is especially important at the strategic level, where it is really easy for those of us who are overly ambitious, to lay out dozens of goals. Make sure you can identify the most important goals for the quarter, week and day and go after those, rather than spreading yourself too thin.
Similarly, within each project, it's easy to get overwhelmed. For example, working with several company stakeholders at once takes effort and coordination, but only having a few tabs open at a time can be hugely beneficial in focusing.
Manage your own work flow
It's incredibly easy to let other people dictate your work day. Between emails, calls, and other social media outlets, losing sight of what you want to accomplish is all too easy. Don't lose sight of your big picture goals and be aware of your time sucks. If it helps, write out the reasons you are doing what you are doing, so you don't lose sight of what you are looking to accomplish and don't let the day slip away.
To keep you on task, especially within the context of blog posts and other writing assignments, it's important to come up with a formula that you can stick to. Having a specific list of bulleted, fill-in-the-blank outlines for posts, or even everyday tasks, can be enormously helpful in keeping you steered in the right direction. If you find yourself overly bogged down by certain things, set specific time restrictions and times of day when you can use them. For example, check email twice a day for one hour. Keep a calendar and spreadsheets to help manage your outbound posts.
Seriously: When you are happy, you are more productive and more creative. When you are more creative and productive, you are happier. See what's going on here? It's a reinforcing cycle that you should definitely hop into. If you are wondering how to be happy if you are stuck in a sour mood, try showing gratitude for what you've got. It's as simple as writing down three things a day that you appreciate about your life or work environment.
Martin Seligman, a professor from the University of Pennsylvania who focuses on "positive psychology" recommends "taking time each day to write down a trio of things that went well and why." Seligman found that people who do this are "happier three months later and six months later." So here are my three for the day: Great day at the office -- love my co-workers; I wrote an article that will hopefully appear on iMedia (whoop!); I realized how much love my job -- working in marketing and technology at Skimlinks. Keeping perspective about what we have is a pretty powerful tool.
As online marketers (and humans), we have so much power at our fingertips. We can rapidly learn new skills, connect with new people, communicate via the press and social media, create ad campaigns in days as opposed to weeks, and quickly gauge our success in these ventures. However, we can just as easily get distracted and lose sight of what we are hoping to accomplish.
Lock in and fulfill your potential to help build your company's brand and reputation!
Aaron Weissman is director of marketing at Skimlinks.
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