There are certain times of the year that we designate for planning our marketing, and the rest is meant for doing. The problem with that style of scheduling is that it leaves some significant gaps where plans can go off track or simply become irrelevant. We need regular intervals of review and planning to align. Even if your role is more in the implementation side of things, you can still bring observations and improvements to your work and your team.
Signs You’re Not Carving Out Enough Time to Think and Reflect
1. Too Caught Up in Immediate Deadlines
Everything’s on fire all the time!
First of all, that’s just exhausting. Yes, let’s be in the moment, and let’s give plenty of focus to what we’re working on. But, there are some major issues happening behind the scenes if you’re constantly in crisis.
Are you getting the chance to line up resources for future work? Are you getting the chance to think about how your current project is going to connect to the next one in your customers’ or audience’s minds? There’s a level of continuity and storytelling required in your messaging if you’re going to have a chance of breaking through the noise.
One of the constant refrains we’re trying to communicate right now as a company is “taming the chaos.” It turns out there’s a lot involved with reducing the chaotic pace of marketing organizations, so we’ll keep talking about it for a while more.
What message can you focus on at the center of your marketing and communications (besides “buy my product”)?
2. Delays to Tasks that Will Help Create More Efficiency
You know those tasks that are there for when you have time? “After I get through this next big email campaign, I’ll be sure to get back to it.” And then, you find you never do?
The first step here is to probably look at those tasks and see how many are actually important to complete. After that, are you still struggling to find time to get back to these tasks that can help reduce frustration and make other work more efficient?
3. Not Paying Attention to Results
This is the one that bugs me the most because I get so caught up in it. I can get too focused on getting the task done in exactly a specific way and losing sight of the big picture, but that’s not what we’re after. We’re trying to spend time where it matters most.
Reviewing the results of your efforts is critical, and I’ve seen a lot of people glaze over when it comes time to talk reports. This is something I’d like to talk about in a future article, but for the meantime, cut ALL the fat in your reports. What’s the one thing someone should know after reading your report or listening to your results? Focus eighty percent of your time on that one thing.
What to Do about It
I’m using the phrase “carve out time to think” in this article, and I want to stop and focus on that concept of carving for just a second.
There’s whittling, which you do while you’re bored. But carving… this is more intricate work. And I’m not talking about carving a pumpkin or even a turkey. I’m talking about woodwork kind of carving.
It takes special tools. It generally requires its own space. It doesn’t happen by accident.
This is the kind of intent you need to bring into carving out time to think.
1. Carve Out Small Blocks Initially
Resist the temptation to set aside a full day for reflection on how you can make everything smoother at your job. That will be too much of a shock to the system.
In his book A World without Email, Cal Newport talks about the difficulties people run into when trying to make such drastic changes. These kinds of shifts invite management to step in to prevent disruptions to productivity, even if the shift could help your effectiveness in the long run.
For now, block out 30 minutes. Maybe 1 hour.
Just get started.
2. Review the Work Dynamic in Your Department
Productivity hacks are fun, but there are definitely limits. No matter how many ways you slice up your day, you still have a maximum output. Your focus can only cover so many topics.
If your work environment does not create room for reflection, then you’re going to be fighting the tide.
This is where I found Newport’s book especially informative. (Full disclosure, I’m still not finished with it yet… this is a good reminder for me to stop delaying.)
It’s not just about what the individual can do to become more effective, but entire workplace systems may need review. You could end up taking drastic steps like mostly or entirely abstaining from using email as a communication tool to help reduce the ping-ping-ping of notifications we all receive. (And yes, example companies in the book also stopped using tools like Slack or Teams to make this effective).
That said, a good first step towards a workplace review is to chat with a manager. Can you create intentional time? Can you have a conversation about what prevents this sort of meaningful pause in the work week?
3. Schedule Time to Talk Results and Possible Improvements
I mentioned that it can become an issue if we’re not paying attention to results, and that’s true of the larger team, as well. With regular review of your stats, you demonstrate to the team what’s important.
If you say that generating a certain quality (not just quantity) of leads is important, then review those leads on a regular basis to show what a fantastic lead looks like. Show what an unqualified lead looks like.
You get the idea.
It’s About Focus, Not Hacks
Again, we’re not trying to be the most productive humans to ever grace this Earth. We’re trying to stay aligned with what is most important.
This post is coming out during the holiday season, so there are things that matter more than work in this particular moment.
When work is back in full swing, may you be focused and productive on what matters in the new year.
Michael spends a great deal of time with the healthcare industry both professionally and personally, which gives him the perspective of what stakeholders on either side of the care equation need.
He began coding in 2008 and subsequently shifted his attention entirely to online marketing. Michael completed his MBA in 2018, focusing on the intersection of healthcare and marketing.