Tags: time

Pomodoro and Trello: Time Management Tools to Make You a Better Marketer

Pomodoro and Trello: Time Management Tools to Make You a Better Marketer

Beyond • October 25, 2015

I would say the single biggest challenge in marketing is time management. We’re tasked with projects that vary in their complexity and have different moving parts, and we’re expected to also juggle everything that gets thrown at us in between. It’s an impossible task but it’s doable with the right time management skills. In my experience, this is what’s worked and where even the best of tasks fall short. The Pomodoro Technique I only recently learned about this one when I was struggling with how to juggle between tasks. The Pomodoro technique breaks up your tasks in to 25 minute increments. It’s a lot like the idea of 30/60/90, where you break up your day into segmented tasks that take either 30, 60, or 90 minutes. However, in this case (where you have a pile of projects to go through), you make a commitment to dedicate just 25 minute to the task. This way, everything on your task list gets attention without going overboard on one at the expense of another. Created by an entrepreneur, Pomodoro gets you to work in short sprints that help break down larger projects: “When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called \"Pomodoros\") that are spaced out by short breaks. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines or constantly-refilling inboxes.” Trello The Pomodoro technique is really useful when paired with a project management tool like Trello. A project management tool (a much more simplified version of any of the more complicated tools like Wrike or Asana), Trello is great for beginners who just need to have their to do list sorted somewhere digitally. Trello lets you create boards under various categories that you designate as needed. Within each board, you can do the same as with any other project management system and create check lists, have a description, set a due date, attach items, etc. The plus side is that if great for start up environments and doesn’t require a master project manager. The downside is that it’s not scalable and if you have multiple people on your team, then each person has their own Trello board – and while you can see the other boards, it’s lack of integration into a master schedule (as you’d have with Wrike) makes it difficult to assess where you and your projects fit into the grand scheme of things. When paired together, Pomodoro and Trello are a fierce combination that help you get the job done. In my experience, going from Wrike to Trello, it can be really disruptive to go from a finely tuned project management machine like Wrike to a system category or card based PM system like Trello. Where do you start? What do you actually work on? Pomodoro helped solve those questions by helping me tackle the card category for “Doing This Week” into bite-size tasks of 25 minutes. Even in a hectic marketing environment, it’s possible to find 25 minutes. In fact, if I went back to Wrike, I’d still use Pomodoro to help with the longer projects in Wrike that carry on over days if not weeks. Although Wrike is a far more superior system for big picture planning with attention to details, Wrike has an upfront cost of $600 (with no monthly payment plan), which makes it flat out unaffordable if you’re testing out systems or would like something more inexpensive to start with. Conversely, Trello will cost you less than $10 a month.


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The 2 Laws of Time Management: Time Blocking

The 2 Laws of Time Management: Time Blocking

Beyond • April 3, 2015

In my last post, I discussed the Action Priority Matrix as a solution to discovering which of your tasks had value and which didn’t. The Action Priority Matrix also considered the level of effort required per each value item, so that moving forward you can filter future tasks into each quadrant. Getting into this habit at the start of each day, or at the onset of a project request, can really help you determine which efforts are worth your time – and which are time wasters. “Chunking” Your Schedule On the subject of time wasters, the second law of time management is known as “time blocking.” Time blocking involves dividing your day into chunks so that each chunk of time accounts for a high priority task that needs your attention, with some lesser frame of time remaining for smaller, lower priority tasks. The chunks of time also account for interruptions and phones calls, along with any meals that would be taken. It’s also recommended to have a small window of time that has room for flexibility. If someone asks for help, drops in, if you’re asked to take on another task or if you’re called to make time for a meeting – then there should be a dedicate small window of time everyday where you can make these accommodations while still respecting your prime working time. The Myth of Multi-Tasking Another reason time blocking works is that it counters the myth of multi-tasking. As more and more experts are finding out, multi-tasking doesn’t work. It doesn’t allow you to focus the level of attention you need to perform well; it triggers an increase in errors; and it adds to the stress of the individual. Your best work is done when you’re allowed to focus on something fully. When you’re allowed to focus your time and energy on a singular task at hand, you’re also able to get into the rhythm of the project – or the flow as many have called it. What We Can Learn From Children at Play Think of children at play, drawing or building as they always do. You don’t see children multitasking – switching between building an epic Lego fort or drawing from inspiration. They focus on the task at hand with complete concentration. The result is something that has the best of them put in; it is a reflection of their complete focus and the highest quality work they can do. Your work should be the same. Why One Rule Doesn’t Fit Them All Time-blocking takes discipline and time to master, but try to start practicing it today. Think of what tasks need your attention the most and where they fall into the Action Priority Matrix. Time management is also a very personal thing. Some of the heralded techniques you’ve heard won’t necessarily fit everyone. That said, these two laws of time management are universal. Once you’re set up to think in terms of the AP Matrix and you’re able to create blocks of time in your schedule for specific needs, you should then prioritize your day based on those two factors. You may also find that you can modify these laws to suit your needs, for example, by setting 4 hours in your day for major projects, and one hour each for the other three quadrants and then one hour for lunch or interruptions. What I Realized When I Applied These Laws to My Own Schedule In reflecting on these laws, I’ve realized that my mistake was allowing a lot of “fill ins” into my workload, and making the mistake of giving those fill-ins a higher priority on the task list because I was mistaking them as “quick wins.” That said, I also realized that this pattern of behavior kept taking time away from major projects, and that even though I had scheduled chunks of time for them, the lesser fill-in work or thankless tasks took priority – because again, I mistook them for high-priority quick wins.


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The 2 Laws of Time Management: Action Priority Matrix

The 2 Laws of Time Management: Action Priority Matrix

Beyond • April 2, 2015

I’ve read just about every time management article I can get my hands on. However, by far the best two pieces of advice came from an internal meeting that I had the opportunity to sit in on. Despite what you may have otherwise heard about time management, or have tried yourself, the two most important ways to understand time is through (1) the Action Priority matrix and (2) time blocking. Arguably stemming from Eisenhower’s “Urgent/Important” principle, the Action-Priority Matrix (AP Matrix) forces us to evaluate the task at hand. Eisenhower had said, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” The AP Matrix takes it a step further by guiding you on how to respond to tasks based on a quadrant system. (I) The top left quadrant is for “quick wins”; (II) the top right is or “major projects”; (III) the bottom left is for “fill ins”; (IV) and the bottom right is for “thankless tasks.” Vertically, the quadrant moves up toward increased impact, starting at the bottom from “low” and moving up to “high.” Horizontally, the quadrant moves across from left to right, starting at the bottom left from “low” and moving across to the right to “high.” The AP Matrix is designed to guide you on decision-making as tasks and requests from clients or co-workers trickle in. “Quick wins”, for example, are things you can quickly act on to achieve a “win” from a client. The client recognizes it immediately and is pleased with it. “Major projects” are like marathons – a lot of work but worth it with a long-game in mind. “Fill ins” are something that really just anyone can do and it just needs to get done, and “thankless tasks” are tasks that need doing but which really aren’t going to be rewarded or even recognized in some cases. A simpler way to view the Action Priority Matrix is to consider each quadrant simply in terms of impact and effort: Quadrant I: “Quick Wins” - High Impact, Low Effort Quadrant II: “Major Projects” - High Impact, High Effort Quadrant III: “Fill Ins” - Low Impact, Low Effort Quadrant IV” Thankless Tasks” - Low Impact, High Effort When you can see the level of impact vs effort involved, you get a better idea of the value of each quadrant versus the investment required of you. So the next time a tasks comes in, a client requests a project, or a co-worker drops something on your lap, think of each one and decide where in this quadrant that request falls. If it’s a quick win, then work to knock it out quickly. You always want a win since it’s something that has a high value with little investment or effort required. If it’s a major project, then schedule that project and create milestones to help you reach your goal. Major projects can become tricky; it takes a lot of your investment and clients don’t see the value until the end. Having a wait a long time to see a win can be challenging for many clients, and make them reconsider your value or decide to throw something else on your workload because they feel they’re not getting results – or at least they’re not seeing them yet. To prevent any hesitation on the part of the client, and to keep control of your workload, try sharing milestones for larger projects. This way the client has an idea of what to expect throughout the process and can see you making incremental wins toward the larger goal. As far as “fill ins” go, it’s a waste of your time to do it yourself unless you absolutely have to. It’s best to give this task to someone else. Delegate it to an intern or outsource it if you can. Finally you have the “thankless tasks.” These tasks need to be done, they’re often time consuming, and they’re thankless. The trick to dealing with quadrant IV is to avoid these tasks all together or to find a way to move it out of this quadrant so it has value.


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The Creativity-Productivity Paradox: Play and Time

The Creativity-Productivity Paradox: Play and Time

Beyond • February 21, 2014

Finally we come back to time, the number one reason why people feel they cannot be productive. People mislead themselves in thinking they need extra time to be creative. On the contrary, the ideal time to think up your best ideas isn’t when you’re in the office; it’s when you’re off doing something completely unrelated. The subconscious needs time to saturate in thought, to sort through ideas, and play with concepts. It can’t do this at crunch time in a hectic environment where you’re expected to perform at peak capacity. It can however do this when you’re off enjoying a leisurely walk, taking a shower, or are ‘unplugged’ in some other way. Managing your creative time begins by training your brain to step out of the 9-5 trap. The 9-5 trap is what I call the ‘zombification’ of the modern worker, when at 5pm hordes of bright motivated people switch off their cerebral cortex to sit in hour long traffic so they can go home eat, watch meaningless TV, and go to bed – when really this is the time your brain is ready to escape in a whole different way. When you’ve clocked out, you shouldn’t be checking out. You should be using this time as a creative play, intermingling necessary tasks like driving home and making dinner with exploratory play that entertains meandering thoughts and connected dots. Here you’re not trying to arrive at a moment of inspired genius. Rather, you’re just toying with ideas without any expectation. The practice mirrors a player’s interaction with a Rubik’s cube, where each turn is often little more than an experimental move until you get closer to the final form – at which point each move forward is increasingly strategic, yet still made without fear of error even though often times we’ve just made a mess of it. In fact, this is how children learn and it’s a method we can learn from. Play is important theme in how children learn. The idea of embracing the ‘messy’ (or error-filled, as often encountered with a Rubik’s cube) develops a conceptual frame of mind that entertains non-linear thought. A Developmental Science study featured in a NY Times blog post by Dr. Perri Klass furthers the dialogue by adding that this concept of “messy” isn’t really about making a mess; it’s about digging into problem and exploring your environment with a sleeves-rolled-up attitude. In a business setting we can use this thinking to help steer away from “right answers” and “explore real world challenges that include ambiguity and doubt.” We’re already seeing this sort of attitude more widely adopted in start-ups and new media-based companies where traditional business culture has become a relic. These groups think playfully, create playful environments, and as a result have experienced record-breaking success. What used to take 20 years to achieve is now being secured in just handful of years simply through exploratory business models that require playful thought. The ability to play is something both small and large-scale businesses have difficulty adopting. The reason isn’t money or rigid organizational structures. The reason involves lacking a willingness to play. Yet being creatively productive is within reach for both groups. Entrepreneurs can encourage creative play in the workplace through strategic exposure to a field of ideas, people, and experiences that can act as a bridge from banal to creative. Take yourself, or your employees, for example. You may not have the time to indulge in creative thought (what I earlier referred to as Einstein’s theory of combinatory play) outside of the workplace, but you can carve out a time at the office. Take for instance something as simple as lunch. Instead of treating lunch as a mandatory task that has to be checked off, why not treat lunch as an experience? So tomorrow, ditch the usual lunch-time hot spot in favor of a new bistro or coffee shop. The idea is to look forward to the experience, to enjoy that change in environment that forces your neuron’s to “wake up”, and start giving your brain a little more material to work with later when it’s “unplugged.” Meanwhile, productivity has lapsed or been compromised through our subtle way to infuse creativity. Productivity 1: Creativity 1.


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Holiday Email Marketing Strategy Made Easy

Beyond • November 16, 2009

The time has come for you to start working on your holiday strategy! Most successfulholiday marketing takes place in advance of the holiday season. Usually holiday marketing begins gently towards the end of July and gathers momentum by the start of October. November and December see the maximum volume of holiday marketing. When it comes to the strategy behind holiday email marketing, remember that the foundation of this strategy is based on relevancy and frequency. You need to ensure that you provide your customers with relevant offers that interest them on an often enough basis. Target your customers effectively. Analyze the previous purchasing behavior of your customers and inform them of related offers and schemes. So plan your holiday email marketing now and take a look at some simple steps to get your strategy in place! 1. Identify products The first step for your strategy would be to identify and decide upon the products that you want to promote this year. Then decide on the months that they will be promoted on. 2. Define offers and time frames Your promotional offers need to be defined, following which the time frames for them need to be fixed. Get your best offers out in the open way in advance of the holiday season. This allows customers to avail of these offers before they have spent their budgets. 3. Segment your list Use list segmentation as frequently as you can. Track your preference center, read and click rates and analyze past purchases to effectively target your audience. 4. Plot your calendar Your deployment calendar must be planned in a smart way. Study the best and worst performers of your previous campaigns and adapt your strategy accordingly. Follow what worked best the last time and stick to the dates scheduled in your calendar. 5. Effectively design your creative Your creative should be designed in a way that generates the best performance possible. Place your CTA above the fold as well as in the pre-header. This successfully informs people about the content in your email. These five simple steps are sure to get you on the right track with regards to your holiday email marketing strategy. Need a branding facelift? Check out our new holiday email templates.


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